Afghanistan: Wall Protects Farms and Homes from Floods in Kabul Province

from World Bank
Published on 17 Apr 2019 View Original

Story Highlights:

  • Residents of four villages in Kabul province faced a hopeless situation several times year when heavy rains brought flooding, destroying crops and access to essential services.

  • A recently completed river bank protection flood wall, built with support from the Irrigation Restoration and Development Project, now protects farms and homes against the floods, giving stability to livelihoods and unimpeded access to services.

  • The project is supported by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and International Development Association, in partnership with the government.

FARZA DISTRICT, Kabul province – In Nimat Khail village, about 40 km north of Kabul city, five small boys run and hide amid the trees that line a newly completed river bank protection flood wall. Laughing and sweating, the boys take brief refuge from the intense sun at the base of the wall when one in the group spots a camera. They excitedly call for their picture and the photographer obliges, snapping a few photos as the boys climb on top of the wall.

Today the 1.5-meter high white flood wall seems like a multipurpose structure: keeping the river water at bay, offering some much-needed shade from the sun, and providing a backdrop for an impromptu photoshoot.

But farmer Sardar Khan, 63, from Sarwar Khail village describes the wall’s main purpose. “Before the construction of the flood wall,” he says, “when the river swelled too much, the water destroyed parts of our homes and gardens, and sometimes we had to leave our houses.”

The construction of the 507-meter long flood wall began in December 2017 and was completed in July 2018, with funding and technical support from the Irrigation Restoration and Development Project (IRDP). The flood wall protects four villages—Hassan Khail, Mosali, Nimat Khail, and Sarwar Khail—from flooding, benefiting 655 families.

The flooding happened several times a year and sometimes the flood waters reached levels that left residents stranded in their homes for several days. “Because there was no road when the river was flooded, we had to walk through people’s gardens to go anywhere, which took longer and annoyed the neighbors,” recounts farmer Zalmai Jan, 65. “When there was a really bad flood that affected the houses, we could not even do this.”

With the flood wall, these problems will be resolved, Zalmai says. People will be able to go anywhere easily and children will be able to go to school without any problem, he says.

"Before the construction of the flood wall, when the river swelled too much, the water destroyed parts of our homes and gardens, and sometimes we had to leave our houses." Sardar Khan Farmer, Sarwar Khail village, Kabul province

Cultivate More Land

The flood wall has protected the surrounding farmlands and will allow farmers to cultivate more land without fear of losing their crops to flooding, increasing the stability of their livelihoods. Engineer Fahima Azim, 57, IRDP Kabul Provincial Manager, says, “In total, 72 hectares of land and crops and a school have been saved from flooding because of the wall.”

IRDP is implemented by the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) and aims to improve water resource management in targeted areas through irrigation projects as well as fortification projects, like the river bank protection flood walls. IRDP has 65 river bank protection subprojects in the pipeline, which will protect more than 20,000 hectares of arable land. It operates in six regional offices: Kabul, Kandahar, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad, and Mazar-e-Sharif.

The project, in partnership with the Government of Afghanistan, is supported by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors, and the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

Unimpeded Access to Services

With the flood wall protecting their resources, the affected villagers in Farza district no longer live in fear of losing their livelihoods to the floods. Farmer Mohammad Ghaws recounts the sense of hopelessness after a flood destroyed his crops and garden for the third time. “My family was without hope and we accepted that our land would always be a part of the river,” he says.

He says that fellow Nimat Khail village residents felt the same way. “Before, people were making efforts to rebuild and improve their gardens and crops, but slowly our village gave up hope thinking that another flood would always come.”

The flood wall will also improve the daily lives of the villagers by allowing them to access basic and essential services easily during the rainy season. The wall will stop the floods that covered the dirt path that took villagers to the health clinic, markets, and schools. Recognizing the immense benefits of the flood wall, two villagers in rotation voluntarily helped the construction team every evening to build sections of the wall.

Another farmer from Sarwar Khail village, Sher Zaman, 45, recalls the difficulties in the past, when flooding forced the villagers to take alternative routes that were longer, more precarious, and inconvenient. His two sons “had to zig-zag between neighbors’ land and crops, which caused them to be late to school. The normal 20-minute journey would take up to an hour if the boys had to find an alternative route and their difficult travel made their clothes and shoes dirty and torn.”

Farmer Zalmai says he and his fellow villagers are very satisfied with the construction work and with the government’s efforts to help people like him improve their living conditions.