Monday, November 15, 2010

Looks like the Dahla Dam's had the schnitz...

He was looking at the black napalm blasts, and the wreckage along the wall. “Looks like the Imperial City’s had the schnitz,” he said.

Michael Herr, Dispatches,1977, page 70

The repair of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system, the building and repair of schools, and the eradication of polio are all projects that will improve the lives of the Afghan people, so measuring progress against benchmarks will be important,” said the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation. “Canadians need to know where we are making advances and where the challenges remain. Publishing these results meets a key commitment of our government to report frankly and frequently to Canadians.”

Ninth Quarterly Report to Parliament, September, 2010

1. The Dahla Dam and its irrigation and canal system rehabilitated, generating jobs and fostering agriculture. *Canadian Signature Project*
Progress Indicator: Progress in the rehabilitation of the physical structures of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation components.
Baseline: Access road completed and bridge nearing completion (March 2009).
2011 Target: Completion of all planned rehabilitation activities in accordance with the project plan.
Quarterly Report: An additional 52,000 cubic metres of silt were removed from the canal, improving water flow along the system and to the district.
Progress to date: A number of planned rehabilitation activities took place over the past year, including the removal of 137,500 cubic metres of silt from the canals, improving water flow along the system.
Progress Indicator: Number of jobs created by the Dahla Dam project.
Baseline: Project plan is in development and will be finalized in the fall of 2008.
2011 Target: 10,000 seasonal jobs created by the project.
Quarterly Result: 700 jobs were created this quarter.
Progress to date: A total of 1,911 seasonal jobs have been created, mostly related to construction..
Progress Indicator: Number of hectares of land benefiting from improved irrigation and water management.
Baseline: 20,000 hectares of land currently have access to irrigation (of varying degree and quality) via the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system.
2011 Target: 30,000 hectares in total benefiting from improved irrigation and water management.
Quarterly Result: Up to 1,800 hectares of land have benefited from improved irrigation this quarter.
Progress to date: Over 5,300 hectares of land have benefited from improved irrigation..

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN—A Canadian drive to transform Kandahar’s water supply is sputtering toward disaster despite Ottawa’s assurances to the contrary, the Toronto Star has learned.

The $50-million Dahla Dam irrigation project, touted as Canada’s best chance for a lasting legacy in Afghanistan, has all but stalled as its lead contractor, a partnership involving the Canadian engineering giant SNC Lavalin, battles for control against a sometimes violent Afghan security firm widely believed to be loyal to Afghanistan’s ruling Karzai family, insiders close to the project say.

For the record, Ottawa says progress on its “signature project” is proceeding on time and budget, with shovels finally in the ground after a careful two-year planning phase involving thousands of hours of engineering and design work.

Canada’s International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda went so far last month as to wave panoramically during a helicopter press tour and proclaim the green expanse of the fertile Arghandab River valley below as the early signs of Canadian success.

But a three-week Toronto Star investigation, including interviews with more than 20 private contractors, government officials, Afghan tribal leaders and others knowledgeable about the project, shows a disaster in the making.

Foremost among the setbacks, insiders say, was a dramatic confrontation on Feb. 20, when rising tensions between Canadian security officials hired to oversee the project and members of Watan Risk Management, a group of Afghan mercenaries with close ties to the Karzai family, culminated in a “Mexican standoff” — the guns hired to protect the project actually turned on each other in a hair-trigger confrontation.

“That was the day Canada lost control. The thugs from Watan won, and the Canadian security managers involved were put on the next plane home, lucky to be alive,” a witness to the standoff told the Toronto Star on condition of anonymity.

“Ever since, the project has been basically held hostage by the Karzai mafia, who are using ‘security concerns’ to stall the work. They are able to put fear in the heart of the Canadian contractors, telling them ‘There is evil outside the gates that will eat you.’ The longer they delay, the more money the Afghan security teams make. The Canadians have good intentions but that is the reality.”

And now we're leaving. And, we can't even spell Dahla...

Ms. Oda insisted Canada will continue to fund its signature projects like the reconstruction of the Dhalla Dam, which will irrigate the Arghandab River valley that flows into arid Kandahar. But whereas about half of Canadian aid now goes to Kandahar, the much-reduced sums will now be spread across Afghanistan, government officials said.

Even the Dhalla Dam project will see more U.S. involvement, Ms. Oda suggested. The first phase of the dam’s “rehabilitation” is on track, she said. “And we have been in discussion with our international partners, because of the work we’ve started, of course, they are very anxious to build their own programming around the strong base that we’ve started in the Arghandab valley,” she said.

The removal of Canadians from the Kandahar PRT involves not just aid officials who managed things like agricultural programs but also political officials advising Afghans on rebuilding a provincial court system that has only 15 judges and corrections officers who helped rebuild Kandahar’s oft-attacked Sarpoza prison.

Whatever happened to the man from Coquitlam?