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One last post on water, or more specifically, how Afghans go about getting over water.

(Note: You can click on the pictures to see larger versions of them.)

Floods are, of course, a problem everywhere, but can be catastrophic in drought-ridden areas due to their tendency to wash out all the overly-dry land alongside channels and riverbeds. This is especially problematic if said riverbeds (we called them wadis, which is actually an Arabic term) serve as one of your main forms of roads,

or if the few bridges over wadis and ravines are wiped out. In the fall of 2010, there were some pretty torrential downpours. The land was in no way able to absorb that much that water that quickly, so it ran down any available avenue and eventually on into Pakistan where it did a lot of damage.

But where we were, the floods had still ruined crops, changed the course of roads, and taken out bridges, bad news for those who had to cross one to get to basic services like a medical clinic or school. Sometimes we managed to rebuild them (yay for the Corps of Engineers!) in a few days.

(Admittedly, this job went so quickly mostly because it’s on a major highway that we use too, but the locals really appreciated it and were a lot friendlier afterward.)

Sometimes it took a little longer because we had to wait for the Afghan government to get their collective butts in gear and do it themselves. That’s tricky in and of itself since they don’t exactly collect taxes for public works. Or for anything. How do they pay for it, then? Foreign donor money! On the upside, this particular bridge was a footbridge so kids could get to school, which is kind of hard to argue with. And the day I took this, a local official and repair contractor came out with us to do a site survey. So the government was scoring points in the people’s eyes for actually being effective, which theoretically reduces popular support or tolerance for insurgents.

Of course, some people had never had a bridge in the first place and so just made do. The picture below, by the way, was taken in early March and it was pretty darn cold outside (note the snow-capped mountain in the back right). Suddenly I’m glad I pay taxes. I like my roads and bridges.

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