USAID funds dam repairs in Afghanistan's Shomali Plains

By Stephen Kaufman, Washington File Staff Writer
Pulimattak, Afghanistan - For the inhabitants of the Pulimattak district in the Shomali Plains, north of the Afghan capital Kabul, agriculture is the primary means of sustenance.

"Our livelihood is based on agriculture," explained the district's mukhtar (administrator) Aghajan. "Our major agricultural products are wheat and vegetables such as onions and carrots."

But the farmers must cope with regular flooding by their main water source, the Ghorband River.

"Anytime the river is overflowing, it causes a lot of trouble for the inhabitants of this village. The overflow destroys their land and people make a lot of effort to put rocks to divert water," said Aghajan.

In response, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has allocated $2.7 million as part of a quick impact project to fund irrigation and income generation in the Shomali Plains. For the benefit of Pulimattak residents, part of the $2.7 million will be used to build the Mattak water division dam that will provide a reliable water source.

The dam is under construction by the Reconstruction Agency for Afghanistan (RAFA), a local non-governmental organization, and completion is expected by July 2003.

"It is basically a flood control gate," explained Aghajan. "On top of the gate they will build a pathway so people can walk from one side of the river to the other side as well."

Two other dams are being constructed nearby through the USAID donation, allowing for the eventual irrigation of over 6,000 hectares of land, which will benefit as many as 140,000 people.

On February 21, a USAID delegation led by Deputy Administrator Frederick W. Schieck, visited the Mattak dam construction site, escorted by Parwan province's governor Ammanullah.

The delegation walked alongside the Ghorband River to view the work in progress, while being briefed on how the dam's laborers were overcoming construction challenges.

The dam construction is employing local inhabitants, including 70 people from Pulimattak. "The income generated from this project has benefited the people greatly," said Aghajan.

Because of the Ghorband River's considerable size, water seepage hampers excavation for the Mattak dam. Constant blasting to remove huge boulders is required to keep the project going. Neverthless, RAFA reports that the construction schedule is more or less on track for a July completion.

"When this project is over, the benefit of it will reach every person in this village," said Aghajan.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: