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Cablegate: Development in Nuristan: Pouring the Foundation

VZCZCXRO3448
RR RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #4128/01 3511225
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171225Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1912
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 4315
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KABUL 004128

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/FO DAS GASTRIGHT, SCA/A
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/DCHA/DG
NSC FOR WOOD
OSD FOR SHIVERS
CENTCOM FOR CG CSTC-A, CG CJTF-82 POLAD

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: ECON AF
SUBJECT: DEVELOPMENT IN NURISTAN: POURING THE FOUNDATION

1. Summary: Development has progressed significantly in Nuristan
over the past year. Road projects have begun and small electricity
generation projects have already transformed life in population
centers. For the first time ever, local pipe projects have brought
water directly to some towns. The provincial administrative center,
Parun, has grown from practically nothing to a genuine town in just
the past year. There is a long way to go. There are no plans to
link Nuristan to the national power grid. For that reason, Nuristan
needs to develop its own small-level power generation capacity.
Without the near-term prospect of an industrial power generation
capacity, economic development cannot proceed. End Summary.

The Road to Progress
--------------------

2. Governor Tamim Nuristani declared 2007 to be "the year of the
road" in Nuristan. In a province in which there are still no
asphalt roads, the beginning of work on major paved roads through
the province's three main valleys is significant. The USG is
financing all these projects. By the summer of 2008, the three
valleys, accessible only by foot until now, will have road links for
the first time in history.

3. Roads are significant as facilitators of political development,
economic growth and security. Politically, Governor Tamim wants to
make it eventually possible for people from throughout Nuristan to
drive to Parun without leaving the province. While these roads will
not accomplish this goal, they will bring its realization much
closer. In addition, they will cut both transport time and its
attendant costs significantly. This will provide a major boost to
the development of Nuristan's primary cash enterprises: gem mining,
timber exploitation, and the sale of specialty agricultural
products, such as dried fruit and pine nuts. Unfortunately, they may
also facilitate deforestation and smuggling as well. The roads will
also extend the reach of government security forces. They will not
be of corresponding benefit to insurgents, because the insurgents
tend to move by foot cross-country to avoid detection.

Power to the People
-------------------

4. If 2007 is the year of the road in Nuristan, 2008 will be the
year of power generation. There are currently no factories at all
in Nuristan, and Governor Tamim wants to change that situation.
However, the only power generation capacity in Nuristan now comes
from micro-hydroelectric plants and diesel generators. These are
insufficient to supply industrial needs. What is more, there are no
plans whatsoever to link Nuristan to the national power grid.

5. If Nuristanis want power, they are going to have to supply it
themselves. Fortunately, the province has the blessings of
significant water resources. Its three main rivers are not large,
but they run strong all year, and can probably support at least mini
(100 kilowatt to one megawatt) or small (one to ten megawatt)
hydroelectric plants. The PRT has funded feasibility studies for
hydroelectric plants in Kala Gush (on the Alingar River, in western
Nuristan), Parun, and Kamdesh. These locations are potential nodes
of economic activity, and would serve a majority of the province's
population. Without the near-term prospect of an industrial power
generation capacity, however, economic development cannot proceed.

Thinking Small
--------------

6. Small development projects have had an impact in locations
throughout the province. Local pipe scheme projects have brought
water into some towns for the first time in history.
Micro-hydroelectric plants (usually with a capacity of under ten
kilowatts) have changed life by bringing clean light and heat into
homes. On a commercial basis, cellular telephone towers have
appeared across the province. Internet connections remain few and
far between, but even a single terminal in Parun has served to link
the provincial government with the outside world.

Downtown
--------

7. The provincial administrative center, Parun, has grown into a

KABUL 00004128 002 OF 002


genuine town in just the past year. Governor Tamim has a "city
plan," as he calls it, which would triple the town's size in another
year. This will have a tremendous impact on the province's
development in many ways. First, Parun is developing into an
economic center in its own right. The half-dozen market stalls of a
year ago have already doubled, and many stores are now in a
brick-and-mortar building. The construction activity has drawn a
sizeable population into the area. The beginning of construction on
a paved road from Parun south to the Pech Valley will attract even
more people. Another impact comes from new governmental capacity
that the town's development brings. With offices, housing, and
services, Parun will support a real provincial government. Parun
will never be more than a small town, but reaching "small town"
status will allow it to function as a provincial center.

A Long Row to Hoe
-----------------

8. The level of development activity is still very low in Nuristan.
Non-Governmental Organizations are almost non-existent because of
the security situation. The lack of government capacity makes it
difficult for the international community, including the PRT, to
engage in more than a few projects at once. However, the low level
of development means that a small injection of funds can go a long
way. With road projects underway, the next most basic need to meet
is electrical power. When that is in place, even in a small way,
the province will be able to move to the next level of economic
activity.

WOOD

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