The Afghan-India Friendship Dam completed with Indian assistance of $300 million (Photo: Shadi Khan

The Afghan-India Friendship Dam completed with Indian assistance of $300 million (Photo: Shadi Khan Saif)

Afghanistan has completed a mega power project and irrigation dam, finally – 40 years after it was first launched.

The government has described the project as the ‘start of a new era’ with at least 12 more dams to be launched across the country very soon.

Asia Calling’s Shadi Khan Saif has more.

The scenes in western Herat province were mesmerizing; with locals performing the traditional “Atan” dance at the launch of the major development project.

The dam, originally called the “Salma Dam”, was first conceived in the 1970s when Afghanistan wasn’t destroyed by the rages of war.

Decades of conflict have prevented the completion of the project until now.

The project has become a reality thanks to the Indian government’s investment of $300 million.

In response to India’s steady support for the war-torn country, the government of Afghanistan renamed the dam the “Afghan-India Friendship Dam”.

Water and power remain hotly contested entities in the South Asian region, with many countries facing acute shortages on day-to-day basis.

The storage capacity of the reservoir in the dam is 640 million cubic meters of water. The project is likely to produce 42 megawatts of electricity and irrigate around 80 hectares of agricultural land in western Afghanistan.

People in Herat province, like local farmer Abdul Kareem, are likely to benefit the most.

Abdul remembers when the project was launched all those years ago, in 1976.

“Water has been defined by God as the source of life; I cannot express our happiness upon completion of this project that was conceived by our first Prime Minister Dawood Khan such a long time ago,” recalls Kareem.

Officials in this historic Afghan city are similarly upbeat about the new dam.

Masouda Karokhi is an award-wining women’s rights activist from Herat. She also represents Herat in the Afghan parliament.

“After 40 years of war and destruction we have got a project that will not only provide light to our homes and water for irrigation but it sends across a message of hope and development as well as an omen of good ties with the countries in the region,” says Karokhi.

As per regional ties, India and Afghanistan have enjoyed a warm friendship.

Of late, New Delhi has poured as much as $2 billion in aid and support into Afghanistan.

The cooperation goes beyond reconstruction projects with India, it’s also intended to help diversify global trade routes, building a new parliament building and improve the quality of health and education for Afghans.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited Kabul twice in less than a year to launch the dam project.

Here he is at the opening.

“Today we are not just launching a project that will irrigate land and light-up homes, we are reviving a region, restoring hope, renewing life and redefining Afghans’ future, the dams is a generator of not just electricity but also of optimism and belief in the future of Afghanistan,” declared Indian Prime Minister Modi.


Days after the Afghan-India Dam project was launched, Afghan President Mohammad Asharf Ghani launched another mega dam project in the neighboring province of Farah.

Ghani has prioritized safeguarding the country’s water resources.

The country, however, remains marred by brutal insurgency that continues to pose a grim threat to Afghanistan’s ambitious development plans. 

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