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Cablegate: Ministry of Urban Development Presents Ambitious Plan For

VZCZCXRO8098
RR RUEHBW RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #1137 1290454
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 080454Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3816
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS KABUL 001137

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO DAS CAMP, SCA/A
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR JWOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-101 POLAD

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAID EFIN EAGR AF
SUBJECT: MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT PRESENTS AMBITIOUS PLAN FOR
QALAT CITY

1. SUMMARY: Governor Delbar Jan Arman was the star of the show at an
April 29 conference in Kabul organized by the Ministry of Urban
Development (MoUD) and USAID's Capacity Development Program (CDP).
Minister of Urban Development Yousuf Pashtoon and a team of seven
MoUD engineers presented a strategic plan, fleshed out by seven
infrastructure projects, that aims to transform Qalat City into what
the Minister described as an "Afghan model for urban development."
Governor Arman gave interviews to RTA, Ariana, and Tolo television
journalists and appeared on the national news, expressing his
backing of the plan and his appreciation for the Ministry's choice
of Qalat as its pilot city for urban renewal in Afghanistan.

2. Minister Pashtoon led off the conference by explaining his choice
of Qalat as MoUD's pilot city for urban development outside Kabul.
He noted Qalat's strategic location on Highway 1 between Kabul and
Kandahar, and linked urban development to both security and
governance. The Minister also praised the "good governance, strong
leadership, and effective PRT" in Qalat. Governor Arman and others
spoke to approximately 50 representatives from Ministries, NGOs,
IOs, and the press about Zabul Province's need for a center of
governance and commerce which would attract NGOs and private
businesses to Qalat in order to take advantage of Zabul's potential
to become an agricultural powerhouse. (Zabul, though traditionally
poor, has good water resources and produces top-quality agricultural
produce.)

3. Working within an existing strategic plan, MoUD engineers
presented plans for seven infrastructure projects. The projects
include 25 km of road improvements, a drainage system, a sewer
system, a sewage processing plant, extension of electrification to
outlying neighborhoods and villages, new wells, and a clean water
distribution system. Although the population of Qalat City is
currently only 20,000, a strong trend toward urbanization in Zabul
has expanded the city into outlying areas, which will likely promote
further growth.

4. The presentations demonstrated that MoUD has the capacity to
develop realistic project plans for urban infrastructure. Following
the presentations, conference participants discussed the plans. A
representative from the Independent Directorate for Local Governance
(IDLG) pointed out that his agency should become more involved, as
IDLG will ultimately have fiscal responsibility for the
municipality. He also stated that the ambitious urban development
plan would require a new legal framework for land registration.
Several participants questioned the capacity, or willingness, of
contractors to execute the projects in Qalat using mostly unskilled
local labor. Minister Pashtoon emphasized that his Ministry did not
have the capacity to execute or to fund the projects, saying that
implementation depended upon the political leadership's ability to
attract donors and field the required labor. Governor Arman
responded by saying that he and the people of Zabul were up to the
challenges ahead and would work vigorously to see the urban
development of Qalat become a reality.

5. Qalat City is dusty, shabby and impoverished, but there are clear
signs of economic growth, fueled by produce and animal products
coming from outlying areas and constant commercial traffic along
Highway 1. The price tag for the MoUD/CDP plan - over 20 million
USD for the seven core infrastructure projects - will likely seem
unrealistic to potential donors who are accustomed to thinking of
Qalat as a provincial backwater. The challenge will be to convince
potential donors that Zabul is sufficiently secure, and that there
is real potential for wealth creation to make the ambitious plan
cost-effective and sustainable. The Governor and PRT intend to host
several Ministers from Kabul for visits to Qalat to gain their
support, as well as to engage UNAMA as a "lobbyist" for the Qalat
urban development plan among NGOs and IOs. If the plan to make
Qalat the "model of Afghan urban development" becomes reality the
GIRoA will have a tremendous success story: "If it can be done in
Zabul, it can be done anywhere."

WOOD

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