Residents in the western province of Herat on Saturday danced and cheered in celebration after the inauguration of the long-awaited Salma Dam on Saturday – a dam that will not only provide electricity to thousands of homes and businesses but one that will also irrigate land in the province.
Welcoming the move, residents gathered on the streets in Herat city and in Chesth-e-Sharif district, where the dam is, and excitedly shared the news of the inauguration, which was officially carried out by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Herat residents hailed it as a key economic project which they said will transform the economic development in the area and boost agriculture.
Built with the help of India, Salma Dam is expected to generate 43 megawatts of electricity for 40,000 families and will irrigate 80,000 hectares of farmland, belonging to 50,000 families.
Herat residents said the construction of the dam has brought them new hope.
They said the inauguration of the dam was a historic moment and an example of true friendship between the Indian and Afghan nations.
"This is a positive step for electricity generation and agriculture sector, people waited for years for the project to be completed," senator Amina Afzali said.
Meanwhile, former minister of water and energy said the dam was testimony to the real friendship between Afghanistan and India.
He paid tribute to the efforts of Afghan security forces for providing security for the key project.
"It is the biggest project which has been established in the country in 40 years. I congratulate the residents of Herat for the construction of this dam. The dam will bring changes for the residents living in Herat, because it generates electricity and also provides water for agriculture," the former minister of interior Mohammad Ismail said.
In addition, a number of industrialists in the province have said that the dam will help boost factories – many of which stopped operations due to electricity shortages in Herat's Industrial Township.
"With the production of electricity from Salma Dam in Herat, dozens of investors who stopped their machines due to power shortages will be able to restart their activities. This will also attract investors from foreign countries to come to Herat and invest," a Herat factory owner Mohammad Hamkar said.
Elaborating on the economic significance of Salma Dam, meanwhile, a number of residents have said that government must step up efforts to establish the same types of dams in other regions of the country including the renovation of Kajaki Dam, in Helmand.
"Afghanistan has a lot of capacity. It is hoped that the government of Afghanistan does not rely on this dam, our expectation is that the government will also focus on the renovation of Kajaki Dam in order to bring similar happiness to residents of Helmand and Kandahar provinces," a civil society activist Suraya Pakzad said.
It is said that Kajaki Dam has more potential than Salma Dam. However security threats have left the dam unfinished, an issue that has kept Helmand and Kandahar provinces in darkness.
Salma Dam is 20 km in length and three kilometers in width, and has a water storage capacity of 640 million cubic meters. This will be utilized to generate 43 megawatts of electricity for 40,000 families and will irrigate 80,000 hectares of farmland, belonging to 50,000 families.