KUNDUZ -- Authorities in Takhar Province say they have completed several development projects aimed at providing residents with access to more services.
The projects include educational facilities, roads, agriculture training facilities, a mosque and a stadium, provincial Governor Abdul Haq Shafaq told reporters September 3 at an inauguration ceremony for the completed initiatives in Farkhar District.
"Fortunately, these projects have provided much-needed services for 4,500 families in addition to creating jobs, and they had a total cost of 314 million AFN ($4.1 million)," he said.
The ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Education, Hajj and Religious Affairs, and Energy and Water implemented the projects.
"The Afghan government is committed to building infrastructure, and we plan to implement numerous projects in 16 districts of Takhar Province so that residents can gain access to more services," Shafaq said.
Work on several other initiatives in Takhar has begun, said Farkhar District Governor Abdul Rashad Asfeia.
"These projects include building a 72-metre-long bridge in Khurram Aab village, a mosque in Nawabad village and a water-retention wall along the Farkhar River in Chakaran village of Farkhar District," he said.
"Implementing more of these programmes encourages even those who fight against the government to lay down their weapons and get jobs on these projects," he said.
Infrastructure programmes lauded
The government is working to accelerate the development process in Takhar Province and recently inaugurated numerous construction initiatives in the area, said Muhammad Jawad Hejri, a spokesman for the Takhar governor.
"We delivered a pipe scheme project in Chogham village of Taloqan city .... with a total cost of more than 6 million AFN ($78,000)," he said.
"The project provides drinkable water from a deep well that is pumped to a water tower using solar energy and then distributed to the houses of 370 residents."
The construction and gravelling of a road that connects 35 villages from Khanaqa bazaar to Jangalak village with the Warsaj District centre in Takhar Province -- with a total cost of 9 million AFN ($117,000) -- began on September 4, Hejri said.
The construction work on this road is scheduled to end in three months, he said.
Residents of Takhar Province have welcomed the initiatives.
Muhammad Amin Afzali, a resident of Khafdara village in Farkhar District, lauded the addition of a 3km-long road that is being gravelled in his village.
"Previously, we couldn't take our family members to health clinics [when they were sick] quickly," he said. "Our farmers couldn't transport their produce to the market on time, but now, with God's mercy, things have improved."
A 1km-long water-retention wall has been built in Shori village along the Farkhar River, which is providing protection for crops and farmland, said Sayed Omer Hakimi, a tribal elder in Farkhar District.
"The flow of water used to destroy our land every year, but now with the new retention wall project, our lands are protected from flooding," he said.
"The project has created jobs for young people in our village, while it also is protecting 4,000 hectares of farmland from destruction," he said.
Hopes for peace
Some residents of Takhar Province said they expect an increase in such projects if the Afghan government and the Taliban reach a peace deal.
"Everyone is waiting for a peaceful agreement," said Muhammad Salim Haidari, a local resident. "We hope that both parties reach an agreement so that the war can end."
"Peace is a gift," he said. "When peace comes, the flames of war will be extinguished and people will be more engaged in their businesses."
"As we witness the opening of projects in Farkhar District today, I am sure that we will be able to start implementing dozens of projects in insecure districts such as Khwaja Ghar, Darqad, Yangi Qala and Dasht-e-Qala," Haidari said.
Abdul Saboor Zaheri, a political activist in Takhar, is optimistic about the potential for peace between the government and the Taliban.
"The recent peace agreement between the Taliban and the United States opened the door for the two parties to the conflict [the Taliban and Afghan forces] to get closer," he said.
Now, he said, "the internal rifts of Afghanistan need to be resolved through dialogue".