The Panjshir Valley (also spelled Panjsheer or Panjsher; Persian: درهٔ پنجشير - Dare-ye Panjšēr; literally Valley of the Five Lions) is a valley in north-central Afghanistan, 150 km north of Kabul, near the Hindu Kush mountain range. Located in the Panjshir Province it is divided by the Panjshir River. The valley is home to more than 140,000 people, including Afghanistan's largest concentration of ethnic Tajiks. In April 2004, it became the heart of Panjshir Province.
It was the site of the Panjshir offensives fought between the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and the Soviets against the mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1980 to 1985. The valley again witnessed renewed fighting during the civil war in Afghanistan (1996–2001) between Taliban and the Northern Alliance under command by now national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud.
The name Panjshir, literally meaning "Five Lions", refers to five Wali (literally, protectors), highly spiritual brothers who were centered in the valley. Local legend has it that the five brothers built a dam for Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in the early 11th century AD. The foundations serve today for a modern reservoir.
Economy and natural resources
The Panjshir Valley has the potential to become a major center of emerald mining. As early as the 1st century AD, Pliny the Elder commented on gemstones from the region. In the Middle Ages, Panjshir was famed for its silver mining and the Saffarids and Samanids minted their coins there. As of 1985, crystals upwards of 190 carats (38 g) had been found there, reported to rival in quality the finest crystals of the Muzo mine in Colombia. American reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan has sparked a development boom in the valley with the construction of new modern roads and a new radio tower that allows valley residents to pick up radio signals from the Afghan capital, Kabul. The valley has the potential of being an energy hub for Afghanistan, through construction of several electric dams. Rewat locality can be the site of the first electric dam. The valley can make the region around the Afghan capital electricity self-reliant. The construction of an asphalted road to the Badakhshan Province can contribute to the prosperity of the valley. Tourism can constitute another major source of income.
The Panjshir has always been an important highway. Nearly 100 km long, it leads to two passes over the Hindu Kush – the Khawak Pass (3848 m) leading to the northern plains, and the Anjoman Pass (4430 m) that crosses into Badakhshan – used by the armies of Alexander the Great and Timur. The Red Army had some of its darkest days in Afghanistan here.
Tony Woods, a New Zealand renewable energy specialist, built a 10-turbine wind farm in Panjshir Valley in April 2008.
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