Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Salma Dam: A Milestone Towards Development

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Salma Dam: A Milestone Towards Development

Afghan and Indian leaders are set to inaugurate one of the most important development projects in Afghanistan that are carried out and completed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The Salma Dam in Herat province is considered as a major economic and development achievement for Afghanistan and its inauguration is highlighted as an important milestone in the efforts to develop the country while the war is unabatedly going on. India has funded the project through providing $300 million dollars in aid to Afghanistan. The project is expected to boost economic welfare of inhabitants of Herat and surrounding provinces through providing electricity and irrigation water. It would also be a huge contribution to Afghanistan’s economy as the country is struggling to find new sources of revenues to finance its expenses.
The reconstruction of Salma Dam and the new compound of Afghanistan’s parliament, have become symbols of India’s contribution to reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. The visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Herat province to participate in the inauguration ceremony along with the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is not only indicating the importance of the project but highlighting the scale and nature of the relations between Afghanistan and India. India has been one of the biggest donor countries helping reconstruction and development of Afghanistan since 2001. The country has been supporting projects in areas of education, health, social, road constructions and security. There are several projects going on in Afghanistan and thousands of Afghan students are getting higher education in India.
The completion of the Salma Dam is coming as a huge success for Afghanistan as its construction was facing enormous security challenges since it was started under the oversight of former president Hamid Karzai’s administration. The project was a major target for the Taliban and other like minded groups and the construction works were occasionally halted due to the militants attacks. Dozens of Indian and Afghan workers of the project along with Afghan security forces assigned for security of the site has been killed in the militant attacks targeting the project. Despite the persisting threats facing the project, the Afghan government and India as the sole donor country supporting the project managed to maintain works on the project and until its completion. The Salma Dam project is one of the several major development projects in areas of energy and water which has been under construction in past years and facing sever security and funding challenges.
It is perhaps the first time in last fifteen years that Afghans are witnessing successful completion and delivery of a major  project with high economic and social pay-off. There are a number of other development and economic projects that are underway or are planned for the upcoming years. However, most of the large-scale or smaller projects have been facing severe security and economic challenges. The constructions of many of the projects have been hampered by the ongoing war and attacks from the Taliban. But the successful completion of the Salma project indicates that despite all the challenges and the ongoing insurgency of the Taliban, the development efforts can go ahead and the government can take extra measures to provide security for the important projects.
Afghanistan is hoping to develop its economy and find new sources of revenues in the upcoming decade to help it wean off from the aid money it receives from the international community to keep up its administration and security agencies. The project of Salma Dam and other major projects, some of which are just formalized and agreed with other involved countries, will help Afghanistan to develop its economy and become self-sufficient in financing its expenses if the Afghan government manages to provide security and resolve other challenges involved in their construction. The leaders of the national unity government have boasted of initiating major national and multi-nation economic projects, naming this year as the year of economic revolution in Afghanistan. Perhaps it is the Salma Dam project, CASA 1000, TAPI gas pipeline and others that symbolizes what the Afghan officials boast of about Afghanistan’s ongoing development and economic efforts.
However, there is a long way to see if the development projects will actually be successful and help development of economy. Afghanistan is going to deal continuously with the Taliban insurgency for an unforeseeable period of time that may not last soon. With no prospect in sight for the war in the country, it will undermine the efforts to carry out and complete the development and economic initiative at national or regional levels. The government of Afghanistan needs to release itself from the wishful ambitions to reach a final and comprehensive peace deal with the insurgent groups that would end the conflict in the country. Instead, it needs to redouble efforts on winning the war through a war of attrition that could take several years or even decades. It should refocus on stabilizing the country through political and economic developments. A sustainable political system in the country along with a growing economy would help weaken the insurgency and marginalize their mindset as the mainstream steadily grows stronger.
The government of Afghanistan needs to do more to work with the neighboring countries involved in the Afghan conflict in area of promoting economic cooperation and trade aimed on boosting development and welfare of Afghanistan and the whole region. This will pave the ground for a closer regional integration and cooperation among the regional and neighboring countries over the resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan. The Afghan government needs to persuade the regional and neighboring countries that peaceful and developed Afghanistan will lead to broader security and prosperity in the region.

Abdul Ahad Bahrami is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at ahad.bahrami@gmail.com

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