Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, April 19th, 2021

Afghanistan Water Management: Challenges and Opportunities

Afghanistan is an agriculture country. It is not self‐sufficient for its water needs nor is it removed from the effects of its neighbors' water needs. Afghanistan is a land‐locked country that shares four out of its five river basins with other states. It provides the headwaters of four major rivers that flow into neighboring countries. Afghanistan uses only a small proportion (around one third) of water that originates here. Snow at elevations of above 2000m, primarily in the Hindu Kush Mountains, constitutes the bulk of Afghanistan’ water resources and is therefore of key importance to the country as a natural water storage.
War, civil conflict, exploitation and enforced neglect have left a legacy of degraded natural resources including agriculture, especially destroyed infrastructure and fragmented rural institutions. The successive droughts have further added to the miseries of the Afghan people. Improving the land and water resources is a tough challenge for everyone involved in the development of Afghanistan. It is can provide immediate income, food security, a foundation for new livestock practices and much more to the Afghans.
Government Water Management Initiatives
Currently, water sector in Afghanistan has relatively a clear vision for immediate and future development. Improvements in water resources management is approached in a strategic manner-it needs data driven planning, guidance and investment. The government make efforts to develop a water management system to utilize the abundant water resources of Afghanistan for irrigation, drinking and power generation.

Why Afghanistan Needs a Constructive Water Dispute Management
From the Mayan Empire to modern day, water insecurity has been a predominant cause of social distress, conflict, and crisis. Studies show that there is a 75 to 95 percent probability of water wars in the next 50 to 100 years as the effects of climate change spur intense competition for increasingly scarce resources. The Kabul River is already fueling a conflict between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Helmand River is already fueling a conflict between Afghanistan and Iran, aggravating a conflagratory relationship between the three South Asian neighbors. At the same time, Amu River can fuel conflict between Afghanistan and Central Asian States.

As each country view the problem as a zero-sum game, each country has taken steps to increase control over water, often to the detriment of the others. There is increasing uncertainty in South and Central Asia over plans to build new reservoirs and dams or to expand irrigation. There has been little consultation over most of these projects, leading to intensified suspicions between states. Since the fall of the Taliban in November 2001, there has been concern about the implications of efforts to rebuild agriculture in Afghanistan although, Afghanistan has not been able to use its water resources due to war and conflicts. Currently Afghanistan uses very little of the water from the Amu Darya, Helmand and Kabul River but reconstruction of irrigation systems will put additional pressure on the rivers.
Tensions over water and energy have contributed to a generally uneasy political climate in South and Central Asia. Not only do they tend to provoke hostile rhetoric, but they have also prompted suggestions that the countries are willing to defend their interests by force if necessary.
A multifaceted regional approach is required to addresses energy, agriculture and demographic aspects of water use. As a result, emphasis has been on bilateral agreements that lack political weight and cannot resolve what is a regional problem. Management of water must be reformed to increase accountability and transparency as currently the public, NGOs and the media have little access to information or the decision-making process. The South and Central Asia nations still approach the issue purely as an engineering problem rather than one of managing multiple political, social and economic factors.
Taking into account various aspects of shared waters management, Afghanistan must take an active and strategic approach in water management as water crossing international boundaries can cause tensions between nations that share the basin. Although the tension is not likely to lead to warfare, early coordination between riparians can help ameliorate the issue. Furthermore, water is a useful inducement to dialog and collaboration, even in settings of intense political tension. Successful agreements move generally from thinking in terms of rights to needs and finally to interests, allowing for an equitable distribution of benefits. Whereas focusing on allocating water mires negotiators in a zero-sum game, thinking in terms of benefits allows riparians to move beyond the river, with new possibilities for the basket of benefits to be enhanced. Once international institutions are in place, they are tremendously resilient over time, even between otherwise hostile riparian nations, and even when there is conflict over other issues. More likely than violent conflict occurring is a gradual decrease in water quantity or quality, or both, which over time can affect the internal stability of a nation or region. The resulting instability may have effects in the international arena. The greatest threat of the global water crisis to human security comes from the fact that millions of people lack access to sufficient quantities of water at sufficient quality for their well-being an issue that is exacerbating without control.