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Cashflow Crisis as Afghan Dam Crumbles

By Muhibullah Allahyar






The Darunta dam in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province is showing worrying signs of wear and tear, which officials say could be fixed if only they had any money coming in.

They hydroelectric dam, built in 1964 on the Kabul river, generates electricity for the region and regulates flows on Nangarhar’s waterways, above all a major arterial canal used for irrigation. The power plant’s generating capacity is estimated at a third of what it was when it was built. Work has been going on to refurbish the turbine generators, but now cracks have appeared in the dam wall itself.

Muheburrahman Mohmand, head of the provincial electricity department, says about four cracks have been observed over the last two years, caused by the sheer pressure of the water in the reservoir behind the dam.

Engineer Shaker Faroqi, a professor at Nangarhar University, says the dam has deteriorated badly and is now at serious risk of major structural damage.

Remedial work is clearly needed, but Mohmand says there is no money to pay for it. Government agencies have run up debts of 800 million afghanis in unpaid electricity bills – the equivalent of some 15 million US dollars. This would cover the repair work needed, he said.

Mohmand said a number of officials including Nangarhar provincial governor Gul Agha Sherzai had been asked to ensure that payment was made. Sherzai’s spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai denied receiving any official request, but gave an assurance that if such an application was made, the various offending government offices would be made to pay up.

Muhibullah Allahyar is an IWPR-trained radio reporter in Nangarhar, Afghanistan.

This report was produced as part of the Afghan Critical Mass Media Reporting in Uruzgan and Nangarhar project, and is also published on the Afghan Centre for Investigative Journalism website which IWPR has set up locally.   

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