IWC alumnus leads $1 billion national priority project in Afghanistan

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a A$508.31 million grant – one of the largest grants ever awarded by the ADB – as part of a A$1 billion water resources project in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – a project being led by International WaterCentre (IWC) alumnus, Hans Woldring.

The Arghandab Integrated Water Resources Development Project is a national priority project that aims to develop water resources in the Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, to help improve the country’s agricultural productivity, water resources management, energy generation and growth outlook.

The multi-sector project represents an integrated approach to water resource development, meeting the needs of rural and urban communities downstream of the province’s ageing Dahla Dam and improving how water resources are managed and used in the Arghandab River Basin.

“The project has four main outputs,” says Mr Woldring, Principal Natural Resources and Agriculture Specialist in the Central and West Asia Department. “Increase the capacity of the Dahla Dam, increase the reliability of irrigation water supply, improve agricultural water productivity and strengthen the capacity for local government staff to manage their water resources.”

The Dahla Dam has lost almost 40% of its storage volume because of siltation after 65 years of dam operations. Under the project, the ADB will fund the raising of dam structures to increase its storage volume, and fund irrigation and agriculture development, capacity building and policy reform.

Co-financiers, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, will partially fund agricultural development activities. The hydropower generation and additional urban and industrial water supply to Kandahar City and its surroundings will be funded by the private sector and through a A$335 million grant from the World Bank respectively.

“In total, the investment will be around A$1 billion,” says Mr Woldring. “And it will bring potable water, additional power and increased agricultural output benefits to around 1.2 million people.”

International WaterCentre shapes holistic thinking

Woldring graduated from the IWC’s Master of Integrated Water Management (MIWM) program in late 2015. He completed two thirds of the program part-time remotely, while stationed in the ADB’s resident mission in Afghanistan, and the remainder when he transferred back to ADB’s Australian headquarters.

“I started working on the Arghandab Integrated Water Resources Development Project a few months after graduating from the MIWM,” Wolding says. “So, the project preparation took  more than three years – working with multiple funding sources and government agencies added to the timeline. There were 155 people in total who worked on the project – a third from government, a third from consultancies and a third from ADB.”

“It’s an enormously complex project, because of its size, because of security issues, because it’s Category A environment and has Category A resettlement. There’s complexity at multiple points.”

Mr Woldring says the training he received during the MIWM helped to shape the project and guided his holistic approach to water resource management and development in Afghanistan.

“There were many who just said raise Dahla Dam,” says Mr Woldring, “But I asked, if we do that what are we going to do with the water? How are we going to extract value from the water? So, we built in the hydropower component to the project, we built the urban water supply component, and we built the irrigation and agriculture component, and the required capacity building.”

“On any project, you get detractors along the way and you need to defend what you’re doing and why you’re doing it – but a project of this size attracts a lot of scrutiny”.

“I am immensely grateful to IWC for what I learnt during the master’s program, because it very clearly helped me to defend mentally the position I knew I had to take, which was that we needed to have an holistic approach to this [project], and that knowledge guided me to put the project together, to keep it going forward and get it approved and funded.”


Read the original news release from the Asian Development Bank: ADB Grant to Improve Water Resources, Enhance Productivity in Afghanistan.