28 Oct. 2008
PR# 2008-566

Village elders see progress with problematic creek

Village elders see progress with problematic creek
(High resolution photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan - Conspiracy theories surrounding military bases are not just limited to the sci-fi community.

The rural villages surrounding Bagram Air Field, a former Soviet air base in eastern Afghanistan, now being used for the headquarters for Regional Command-East, have been upset about a local enigma surrounding an important creek for some time.

Coyote Creek, as it is known on the airfield, enters the base on the west side then flows through to the east side. Or at least it used to.

Six years of dirt and silt have built up on the west end of the creek, causing severe flooding to the western villages, and droughts to the villages on the east side. Many of the citizens thought this was done purposely by ISAF to choke off their main water source.

So on 25 October, ISAF’s Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team and the Mine Action Centre invited village elders onto the airfield for an inspection of the creek and see what progress has already been made to amend the problem.

“Today we took the village elders and showed them so they could see with their own eyes what the problem was,” said Australian Major David Bergman, MAC’s officer in charge. “It has silted up ... because of a long term blockage to the drain that goes under the runway. Today we saw approximately five feet of dirt that is blocking the creek head. And what that means is no water can actually enter in the creek and flow through.”

Not only is this a concern of the local residents, Bergman said, but a problem for the base. When the west village floods, so does that part of the base.

To eliminate the problem, the MAC burned away the dense plant growth around the creek within the base so the area can be cleared of hidden mines left from the former Soviet occupation.

“Then we are going to use our demining excavators, which are up-armoured, to actually go along the creek line and take out as much silt as we can to allow the water to flow from the western side of the creek through the tunnel under the runway,” Bergman said.

While at the base, the village elders could see various places along the creek where the silt and debris had severely narrowed the creek bed or blocked its path. Now with all the vegetation burned away, the mess was clearly visible.

The elders showed a lot of excitement during the visit. There seemed to be no end to the handshakes, smiles and hugs from the most senior of the elders. The reason for their excitement? After six years, they can see with their own eyes that something is being done to fix their main water supply.

“From their standpoint, I feel that [the visit] helped them understand and know that we are here to help in whatever capacity we can,” said U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Jayson Blunck, MAC’s operations non-commissioned officer.

“We are truly concerned with the problem of the village not receiving water,” Blunck said, “and bringing them on base helped them understand. Like the saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’”

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/