Prolific Chardiwal agricultural scheme neglected in the fog of war

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GHAZNI: Chardiwal Project also known as Band Sardeh Project, the country’s major agricultural scheme in southern Ghazni province, is one of the many other infrastructural facilities affected by conflicts while most parts of the land it covered are grabbed by strongmen and local people.


The project, once producing thousands of tons of crops, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1967 during the leadership of King Mohammad Zahir Shah but ceased operating after the civil war broke out in Afghanistan during the 1990’s.


Eng. Abdullah Aliyar, in-charge of lakes protection in Ghazni, told OrbandNews that the Zahir Shah-era Chardiwal Project, which was used to be irrigated by Sardeh Band, had the capacity of storing 165 million cubic meters of water in usual capacity and 295 million cubic meters of water in maximum capacity.


Sardeh Band has two canals, one of them being 28 kilometers long and the other 32. The canals irrigated 11,100 hectares of farmland belonging to the government, as well as 4,100 kilometers of local farmers’ land in Andar and Giro districts of Ghazni.


In heyday, the Chardiwal Project had distinct importance before conflicts ruined Afghans’ tranquility. Wheat, corn, barley, potato, onion and beetroot were special crops grown in the region. Apple gardens were another part of the project, he said.


The project would produce at least 3,000 tons of wheat, and 5,000 tons of potato, onion, beetroot and barley. A huge apple garden existed in the Milani area of Giro district and another was in the Chardiwal area of Andar district, and each could produce dozens of tons of apple. The gardens still produce fruit but in very limited amounts.


Regarding residential apartments on the Chardiwal Project region, Aliyar said that the apartments were for the residence of the Soviets and Tajikistani engineers who were working in the scheme.


There were 39 residential and administrative apartments and buildings in Chardiwal Project providing accommodation to technical and agricultural engineers who were living along with their families. The project was run by around 2,000 to 3,000 technical officers.


Some of the agricultural machines consisting of various types were looted and some others turned to ruins following standing for decades under open sky and rainfalls in Chardiwal Project’s premises without any protection.


Kheyal Mohammad Kaka, a 60-year-old man, said that he also used to work in the project in 1988 in the Giro district of Ghazni. He said that he was a baker and would prepare 196 kilograms of bread for officers of the project on a daily basis.


Matin Qalandari, deputy head of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Ghazni province, said that 70 percent of Ghazni people were busy in farming.


He said that Band Sardeh Dam, Band Sultan Dam and Zanakhan Dam were major dams in the province but the lands they covered had been grabbed and business people could not invest there due to insecurity.


Qalandari said that there were also around 1,200 small size dams, if tapped on, they could help farmers to be self-sustainable in terms of economy.


Mohammad Khan, a resident of the Arzo area of Ghazni, said that after Former Afghan President Najibullah Ahmadzai resigned, Afghan Mujahideen took control of the project and cut apple trees in the Giro district. After the arrival of the Taliban, the apartments and buildings of the project were also destroyed during conflicts, he lamented.