Aug 1, 2010
„Qa mong chere uba na larai no mong ba mra shevii wai. If we didn’t have water, we would die,“ tells us Haji Qaman Gul in Chinarey village, where the Czechs are going to reconstruct kareez, an underground tunnel bringing water into the village from the foot of the mountains. His words are simple, but accurate - water means here just everything.
Everybody has to drink, people, animals and soil - soil, above all, because it is water that changes local grey dust in fertile soil. Nine people in ten in Logar province subsist on agriculture – therefore the functional irrigation systems are quite fundamental for local people.
Thirty years of war made a hard impact on the karez systems, used for irrigation by Afghan farmers for centuries. According to statistics of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), more than 40% of irrigation systems were destroyed during the war conflicts in Afghanistan.
Water management is one of the priorities of the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team. Restoration of kareez is, beside weir constructions, irrigation canal repairs and flood-protection walls constructions, another from the series of projects to help people in Logar.
Qanat romani, khettara, falaj, galeria, foggara. Different words in different languages, but the principle of karez is everywhere the same. Underground tunnel leads water from places where there is enough of it, into places where there is a lack of it.
“Kareez is in its principle perfect water structure, therefore it makes no sense to implement any modern water transport systems here. It is a system proved by centuries, and used to get water from inaccessible places to people and by its simplicity and utility suits perfectly local conditions,” explains Radovan Chládek, civil engineer of the Czech PRT.
Mujahideens were hiding in ducts
You recognize it at first sight from helicopter, kareez looks like a long line of marble pits. Sometimes, there is a green eye of small water reservoir at the end, sometimes only cracked earth, with dust rising up from it. This is almost half of the kareez, destroyed by conflicts raging in Afghanistan – men, who took care of them, died in war or kareez were destroyed by Russian soldiers, because mujahideens were hiding in ducts leading into the tunnel.
“Unstable digged ducts will be reinforced by steel concrete staves, the kareez tunnel will be restored and cleaned up and watter retention tank will be reconstructed,” Chladek describes the principle of kareez reparation.
In the Suleman Khel village in Khoshi District, only a few kilometres away from Chinarey, a similar reconstruction has just ended.
Bearded men in turbans, children in torn and dirty clothes, young men with embroidered caps, and there at the back even a couple of women is shyly looking, veiled with coloured headscarfs and half hidden behind the wall. The whole village met at the stone reservoir for water from kareez to check, together with us, the construction before handover.
We are walking with them a few hundred metres behind their clay houses, known as kaláts, towards the mountains that rise above Suleman Khelem. We are passing one, two, three, four control ducts through which kareez can be accessed and the tunnel cleaned up.
“More water means that we can grow more fruits, vegetable, and more grain. What we grew on the field by now, was hardly enough for the family. But bigger harvest can be sold and we can earn money,” explains Naqibullah Mudaqir, one of the farmers. “Now we can cultivate more soil,” tells us and points to the bright green field that contrasts with relentlessly grey infertile landscape just thanks to water sufficiency.
Kristyna Greplova - Civilian Part of PRT
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