SEATTLE — Conflict in the form of war and natural disasters causes difficulties in maintaining and operating infrastructure in Afghanistan. Running water for drinking, cooking and cleaning is scarce in some villages. Undeveloped roads make trade more challenging to reach domestic and foreign markets. Isolated communities lack the protection of police and military. Access to education and healthcare is a problem due to a shortage of supplies and buildings.
With the partnership of the Afghanistan government, USAID is working to maintain and operate the current infrastructure in Afghanistan, expanding electricity to a wider range of residents and stimulating the economy as an international investment.
USAID assists with a variety of areas to promote rebuilding and maintaining infrastructure in Afghanistan, but the main drive is centered on electricity. With affordable, reliable electricity comes prosperity, stability and economic growth for Afghanistan. The Afghan government switched from state-run electric utility DABM to national, corporative electric utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) to modernize and commercialize the electricity sector.
USAID and DABS increased the energy potential of Kajaki Power Plant, increasing the spread of electricity to residents substantially. In 2002, six percent of Afghans received reliable electricity, but USAID efforts increased it to 30 percent, supplying 24-hour power to the major cities of Kabul, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar.
Roads also are vital for USAID to improve the infrastructure in Afghanistan. 2,000 kilometers of roads were completed to aid commerce. The Ring Road, connecting the cities of Herat, Kabul, Kandahar City, Jalalabad, and Mazar-e-Sharif, is a highlight of USAID’s efforts to create better travel for Afghans and increase trade abilities. Emergency repair funds are held in case of insurgencies or natural disasters to better maintain the Ring Road.
The Kabul Municipal Development Program is also working to build roads and drains. This program completed 36 different projects, helping 770,000 Afghans access safe sanitation and providing employment opportunities. There are plans for 16 other projects to build roads and drainage throughout Kabul.
Other countries and entities have also offered aid to support growth within Afghanistan. In January 2009, the Asian Development Bank and the Indian government built an electric line to Kabul from Uzbekistan. Saudi Arabia, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, Japan, the UAE and Iran gave direct grants to the government of Afghanistan, GIRoA, to build roads. Other private sector construction contracts from Turkey, China, the United States and India aided in this effort.
Other infrastructure projects in Afghanistan are concerned with railway and aviation. The railway system is more of a challenge, but there has been progress here as well, such as when the Iranian government allotted $50 million for the development of a railway from Islam Qala to Herat. Through large and small ventures, the infrastructure in Afghanistan is in the process of developing, acquiring aid and investments from other countries.
– Bronti DeRoche