The provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan’s Konar province is working to restore an irrigation system in the province’s Manawara district that has become a casualty of decades of war.
The ancient Karez system, comprising 12 wells and numerous aqueducts, uses river water and underground spring water to irrigate crops in the area. During the Soviet-Afghan war that began in 1978 and ended in 1989, the Soviets bombed the system to prevent Afghan fighters from transporting weapons and ammunition through its tunnels.
“The age, bombardment by the Soviets and its depth below the surface make it difficult to survey and repair the wells in Manawara district,” Navy Lt. j.g. James Dietle, an Omaha, Neb., native with the Konar PRT, said. “The team believes there is a blockage in the tunnel preventing the water from getting to the crops. We are trying to help find and fix the kink.”
Local residents have been assisting with inspections and construction, Dietle said. The project will have a direct benefit for residents, he noted, since a system rejuvenation will lead to an increase in crop yields.
Although the community normally conducts system maintenance, the PRT is providing a kick-start to get the Karez system functioning again.
“This project has quickly become one of our favorites; it’s a relatively low-cost project with a measureable impact of improving irrigation to the community,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Robert Ross, Konar PRT commander and Bonney Lake, Wash., native. “This project is a high priority for the local government and the PRT. They will see the immediate benefit of their efforts in time for the spring planting season.”