By Muhibullah Allahyar

KABUL, Afghanistan, October 8, 2012 (ENS) – 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. It is above all a major arterial canal used for irrigation of the region’s farms and once-flourishing olive groves.

Darunta dam

Darunta Dam, Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan (Photo by U.S. Army 10th Aviation Brigade)

Today, 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 Governor Gul Agha Sherzai have been asked to ensure that payment is made.

Governor Sherzai’s spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai denied receiving any official request, but gave an assurance that if such an application were to be made, the various offending government offices would be made to pay up.

{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 established by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.}

{Editor’s Note: Darunta Dam was constructed by Soviet Union companies in 1964.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is refurbishing and modernizing the Darunta hydropower plant, a US$10 million repair job that was to have been completed by mid-2012.

ANHAM, a company established by Saudi, Jordanian and U.S. principals, is contracted by USAID to rehabilitate the power plant’s main Kaplan turbines. To help perform the work and increase local economic impact, ANHAM is using local Afghan subcontractors, Afghanistan International Power and Afghan Fleet and Group Services.}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.