The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

Afghanistan’s water resources: an opportunity for development

Part II

By: Firooz Ahmad Ebrahimi

Despite Afghanistan being a water-rich country, it has always struggled with water management. According to the Ministry of Energy and Water, Afghanistan’s water resources total 75 billion cubic meters. However, due to agreements or lack of management, 70% of this water is used by neighboring countries, particularly Iran and Pakistan, leaving only 30% for domestic use. Interestingly, even without proper management facilities for its dams, Afghanistan is not considered a country facing water scarcity compared to others. The country’s water resources amount to 75 billion cubic meters, but the lack of facilities to manage this vast resource, unresolved political issues with neighboring countries over water use, the absence of specialized human resources at the helm of water resource management, incomplete information about water basins, a lack of strategic vision for water as a crucial factor in economic development, low awareness about better water usage, and outdated irrigation infrastructure have all contributed to severe water and food shortages despite these vast resources. Proper management of the country’s water resources, especially controlling border waters and converting them into productive resources for agriculture and energy production, can be a key factor in changing Afghanistan’s economic status. One way to reduce Afghanistan’s dependence on international aid and strengthen development is by correctly using its vast water resources. This requires creating efficient water management and making substantial investments in controlling and integrating water into the production cycle. Reducing poverty, increasing family capabilities, raising per capita income, and boosting economic growth are directly linked to the proper use of water resources. Research indicates that Afghanistan’s lands are divided into six types based on agricultural potential. Cultivable lands and those under saplings cover 7.8 million hectares or 11.96% of the soil area. Grasslands span 31 million hectares, about 49%; forests cover 1.9 million hectares, 3%; and there are waterlogged and non-arable lands. Different regions in Afghanistan have specific climates, such as Surobi district near Kabul, which doesn’t receive snow in winter. Provinces like Kandahar, Khost, Nangarhar, Laghman, and Garmser also do not have snowfall in winter. Deserts cover 1/6th of Afghanistan, an area of 108,704 square kilometers or 10.87 million hectares. Over 80% of Afghanistan’s water sources originate from the Hindu Kush mountains. There are a total of 7.8 million hectares of cultivable land, including 3.3 million hectares (181.5 million acres) of irrigated land and 4.5 million hectares (225 million acres) of rain-fed land. Out of these, 4 million hectares are under cultivation. In 2010, about 3.1 million hectares were used for fodder crops, including 2 million hectares for wheat. Irrigated lands cover approximately 1.8 million hectares. In 1.44 million hectares, due to sufficient water, double cropping occurs. Almost all plants grow naturally in this soil, except for a few limited ones. In most parts of northern, southern, and southeastern Afghanistan, summer temperatures reach 45 degrees Celsius. Despite the population increasing every year, agricultural lands are being used for construction, and water that was naturally used for agriculture is diverted to other purposes. This water, after use, mixes with oils and chemicals and does not evaporate, lowering the relative humidity. The Afghan people have traditionally been agriculturists, and the water entering residential areas through canals was sufficient based on the population and land needs. Years of war and colonization in Afghanistan led people to abandon farming and migrate. Upon returning, the population had significantly increased. It was necessary to increase water resources and agricultural lands, but this did not happen. Due to various factors, some lands remained uncultivated, resulting in the country losing selfsufficiency and leading to the importation of several agricultural products. Besides agriculture, water has become one of the most effective energy production factors in the world today. Developed countries use water resources as one of the cleanest and most powerful energy sources. Afghanistan annually imports millions of dollars worth of electricity from neighboring countries, even though its rivers naturally provide the best opportunities for dam construction and energy production. Although limited use is made of some Afghan rivers for energy production today, proper management and significant investments in creating water-driven dams could increase energy production capacity tenfold, significantly reducing the country’s reliance on imported electricity. Despite having such excellent natural resources, Afghanistan remains in poverty, and its abundant water resources have not led to development. Instead, for many years, Afghanistan has faced issues with neighboring countries, particularly Iran and Pakistan. The water from the Helmand River flowing into Iran and the waters from the Kabul, Panjshir, Alishing, and Alingar rivers into Pakistan irrigate thousands of acres in these countries, while thousands of acres within Afghanistan suffer from severe water shortages. Attempts by the Afghan government to control and use these waters have often been met with objections from these countries. In many cases, these countries have created insecurity along the river routes to hinder the government’s efforts to build dams and control water. The question is, what are the effective measures for managing water resources, and what is the Islamic Emirate’s responsibility in converting this element into a production and development cycle? These questions will be discussed in the next part of the article. Continue…

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.