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India to build Shahtoot dam in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2020)

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar announced on Tuesday at the Geneva Conference 2020 that his country will build a new dam to provide Kabul residents with safe drinking water.

Addressing delegates virtually, Jaishankar said the Shahtoot dam will help supply Kabul residents with water.

“I am happy to announce today an agreement with Afghanistan for building the Shahtoot dam which will provide safe drinking water to two million Kabul residents.

He also said India will launch phase four of a high impact community development program in Afghanistan, which includes around 150 projects worth $80 million dollars.

He stated India has invested heavily in peace and development in Afghanistan but said his country calls for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire.

“We also believe that the peace process must be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.”

A feasibility study for the dam was reportedly finalized in 2012 and the estimated cost will be around $236 million.

This dam would also allow for irrigation systems to cover 4,000 hectares of land in the Charasiab and Khairabad districts of Kabul province.

Once complete, officials said the dam will hold 146 million cubic meters of potable water for two million people in Kabul and irrigation water for over 4,000 hectares of land.

India has played a major role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime and has invested over $2 billion in various reconstruction and infrastructure projects.

In 2016, Ghani and Indian Prime Minister inaugurated the Indian-funded “Friendship Dam” in Heart Province, which can also irrigate over 80,000 hectares of land and provide electricity to thousands of homes in the western Afghan province of Herat.

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Govt to purchase local products in move to boost domestic market

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

The Afghan National Procurement Authority (NPA) and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Saturday, that will compel government entities to purchase only domestic products where possible.

According to the MoU, which was signed between Ilham Omar Hotak, NPA Chief, and Shirbaz Kaminzada, Chief of the ACCI, all government departments will have to use domestic products from next year (1400 Solar Calendar).

Hotak said at the event that government will in the future have to purchase domestically produced or manufactured products, despite the estimated 25 percent price difference.

Hotak urged the ACCI to guarantee the quality of products, stating “all industrialists should standardize their products.”

“We want to use all alternatives to promote our domestic products in the year 1400 and all government bodies will be bound to use domestic products.”

The ACCI officials, meanwhile, stated they would invest more in the country if the government promised to support local products.

ACCI Chief, Shirbaz Kaminzada stated: “If domestic products are included in government deals we are ready to invest in other sectors as well.”

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SIGAR urges tighter VIP control to stop cash smuggling through airport

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(Last Updated On: January 21, 2021)

Despite efforts by the Afghan government to reduce the flow of cash out of the country’s busiest international airport, significant control weaknesses continue to exist at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported Thursday.

Cash counting machines, which were funded by the US government, are not being used for the purposes intended and the only cash counting machine confirmed to be working is in the arrival entrance, instead of the departure area where strict cash controls are most needed to help prevent cash smuggling, SIGAR reported.

In addition, the machines lack connectivity to the Internet, which in turn prevents Afghan investigative authorities from tracking currency suspected of being laundered.

“The absence of fully functional and strategically positioned cash counting machines, and declaration forms in the VIP section along with the limited screening of VIP passengers – who are most likely to have large amounts of cash – severely limits the Afghan government’s ability to fully implement its anti-money laundering laws at the airport,” John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction stated in the report.

To improve screening procedures at Hamid Karzai International Airport, SIGAR suggested the Afghan government take the following two actions:

1. Fully integrate cash counting machines with functioning Internet capability into the normal customs process both at the non-VIP and VIP terminals to better ensure that all declared and detected currency is counted, and serial numbers captured, for use by FinTRACA and its international partners.
2. Strengthen controls at the VIP terminal by requiring all VIP and VVIP passengers to fill out customs declaration forms, and have airport staff count any cash declared and send serial numbers to FinTRACA.

Sopko stated: “We provided a draft copy of this report to the [US] Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State (DOS) for comments on December 21, 2020, and the Afghan government for comments on December 22, 2020.

“DHS provided technical comments for incorporation in the report on January 8, 2021, which we
incorporated as appropriate. The Department of State informed SIGAR on January 8, 2021 that it does not have any technical comments.

“As of the publication of this report, the Afghan government did not provide any comment on the report nor on the matters for its consideration,” Sopko stated.

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Kandahar-Spin Boldak highway project nearing completion 

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(Last Updated On: January 19, 2021)
The new and improved Kandahar to Spin Boldak Road project is nearing completion and will be a welcome development for motorists using this popular route to the border crossing with Pakistan.
 
According to the ministry of public works, construction to widen the road, making it a double lane highway, cost one billion Afghanis and covers a distance of 40km. 
 
This has been a key development project for government and it will connect the southwestern provinces with the border post in Chaman area. 
 
This route plays an important role in the trade and transit sector and also connects remote areas to the key artery. 
 
The project was broken down into two phases – the first of which extends 39.6km and has already been opened. 
 
This latest development coincides with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement on Monday that he had directed authorities to set up border markets along the country’s borders with Afghanistan and Iran to boost employment opportunities and help curb smuggling.
 
The decision to establish border markets was taken in September last year with the objective to provide jobs and promote peace.
 
“The establishment of these markets is critical for the prosperity of the population living in border areas of Balochistan and merged districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Khan said.
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