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Royal Engineers prepare for vital Afghan dam upgrade

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BRITISH ARMY engineers in Afghanistan are preparing to deliver a desperately needed upgrade to the vital Kajaki Dam, the main source of power and water for Helmand province.

The dam is located in the Taliban-occupied Sangin Valley and has been transformed into a major battlefi eld as the Taliban and the multinational coalition fight to keep control of it.

The existing hydroelectric turbine will be repaired and a second one will be installed to boost the dam's electricity generating capacity. It currently generates 50% of Helmand's power.

'Better turbines allow adjustment of the flow of water through the dam. That dam collects all the water over the rainy season, which is about four months, keeps it there, then releases it on a regular basis to provide regular irrigation and keep the turbines running, ' said Major Jeremy Holman.

Built in 1955 and upgraded with a turbine in 1973, the Kajaki Dam is due a refurbishment. The three-year project is expected to begin in July when the British Army hopes to have succeeded in securing the one route through the valley.

It plans to use similar techniques to those used in the town of Gereshk where 42 Field Squadron was able to construct check points in just 16 hours.

A team of Royal Engineers, supported by the Royal Marines, will secure the main access route by constructing fortifi ations along its length out of giant Hesco sandbags.

'There's a huge amount of wrangling going on up there. It [the upgrade] will happen, but the project is in the foothills of the mountain therefore there's a lot of security work that needs to be done to enable that project to advance, ' said Holman.

American overseas development department USAID is planning to transport a 300t turbine from China through the Sangin Valley to the dam.

'It will provide more power and could effectively power the whole of Helmand, ' claimed Holman.

(see special report P18)

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