In an announcement this week, the government said the three new projects – which also include building, expanding and repairing a total of 50 schools; and expanding support for polio immunization in Kandahar with a view to eradicating the debilitating disease in Afghanistan by the end of 2009 – will ensure a measurable improvement in the lives of citizens living in the Afghan province of Kandahar between now and 2011.

‘With greater focus, increased resources in the field and initiatives that will touch the lives of the Afghan people, Canada will be making a difference,’ said the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation. ‘Improved water, education, and health are three key basic services needed for a better future in Kandahar.’

The repair of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation system is expected to help provide a secure water supply to the majority of the Kandahari population, generate 10,000 low-skilled jobs, and provide farmers with 10,000 hectares of irrigated land. The project also addresses the recommendation of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan for a major signature project that directly addresses the greatest needs of the Afghan people and is clearly identified with Canada.

Canada will invest up to $50M over the next three years – subject to adjustments in response to changes in the complex Afghan environment – to implement the following activities related to the initiative:

* Repairs to the dam, including replacing generators and repairing water valves to improve the control of water flow.

* Fixing gates to control the flow of water from the Arghandab River into the canal system.

* Repairs to the canals, including desilting.

* Support to establish the Arghandab Sub-basin Agency, which will take the lead in managing the area’s water system in consultation with local stakeholders.

* Training farmers on water management and new crop production techniques.

The Dahla Dam and irrigation system, located in the heart of Kandahar province, is the second largest dam in the country. Eighty per cent of Kandahar’s population lives along the irrigation system. Built in the 1950s, years of disrepair have left the dam and overall irrigation system functioning at a reduced capacity.

The funds for this signature project are included in the Government of Canada’s investment of up to $210M over the next three years toward helping the Afghan Government deliver basic services.