The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

Afghanistan’s water resources: An opportunity for development

Part I

You may have often heard that water is the elixir of life. This is not just a theory, hypothesis, or slogan but a fact that can be confirmed from every perspective. If, in the past, coal and oil were considered the main elements of the world and nations sought to obtain them, today, the priority in politics would be focused on water and water resources. This is because water is another natural resource that significantly impacts economic power and international relations. Hydroponics is one of the factors that will undoubtedly play a prominent role in the future international system and will itself cause new political-regional alignments among countries. In the future, countries possessing this resource will enjoy a national advantage and a strategic position in the international system. Although Afghanistan is not a land of seas, does not possess large dams or major rivers, and is deprived of sea transit and ships, having the necessary water for agriculture and the severe dependence of neighboring countries on this resource presents Afghanistan with a new opportunity. Afghanistan’s water resources and the droughts in surrounding areas create a necessity for its neighbors to engage in softer diplomacy and interaction, recognizing themselves as dependent on a resource that legally and rightfully belongs to Afghanistan. The presence of many river sources in Afghanistan, which eventually flow into neighboring countries, provides an essential opportunity for Afghanistan to shape its relations using these geopolitical codes. Properly using these codes and adopting an appropriate hydropolitical strategy will give Afghanistan the chance to achieve a dynamic economy and eliminate unemployment challenges. This opportunity initially includes developing border areas located along these rivers. The first outcome of this policy is the prosperity and job, agricultural, and economic opportunities for border residents. Additionally, by exchanging water resources for raw materials or other necessities, Afghanistan can gain further benefits. In recent years, Afghanistan has sought to manage its water resources by constructing diversion dams on various rivers and streams across the country to prevent the wastage of its water flow. However, this management of water resources, given the importance of water to Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, has provoked reactions from some of these nations. Last year, when the Salma Dam in Herat province was operational, Iran’s “Haft-e-Sobh” newspaper expressed its concern with the headline: “The largest infrastructure project in Afghanistan brings the water supply of Mashhad to crisis?” Several other Iranian newspapers had expressed their concerns about this issue a year before The “Sharq” newspaper, in a report published on October 28, 2013, with the headline “Drought threatens eastern Iran,” which was echoed in other media with titles like “Are Afghans drying out Mashhad?” criticized the Salma Dam. On November 16, 2013, the “Jam-e Jam” newspaper also reported, “Harirud closed to Mashhadi people,” quoting Amir Hussain Qazizada, a representative of Mashhad and Kalat in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, about the Doosti Dam: “For about two and a half years, negotiations and correspondence have been conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Afghan side, but so far, they have been fruitless. Afghanistan has a water scarcity, so it is unlikely that the Salma Dam will not be inaugurated. However, if it is operational, Afghanistan should compensate Iran and Turkmenistan for the damages, but given the situation with Helmand, this compensation is unlikely to be paid. Qazizada’s correct and timely reference to the Helmand Dam, which, once operational in Afghanistan, turned the once water-rich Sistan into a desert, underscores the difficulties faced in reaching a successful water agreement with the Afghan side. Additionally, Ashraf Ghani, the former ruler of Afghanistan, addressed the issue of water and emphasized the management of Afghanistan’s water resources. “Except for China, we are the water source for all our neighbors. But we suffer from two fundamental issues: either floods or droughts. Afghanistan has warmed by one degree over the past 25 years,” Ashraf Ghani said. “We had natural dams; these dams were our mountains, our snow. Our snow used to be stored and would gradually melt from April onwards, sustaining our irrigation system. Now the snow falls all at once or comes as rain. Therefore, without storing it in these dams, we cannot advance our agriculture. For this reason, water management is one of the most critical issues for Afghanistan,” he added. Therefore, the concerning stances of neighboring governments, the region’s acute need for Afghanistan’s water, and the statements from Afghan officials all indicate that this golden element is an opportunity for Afghanistan to take a step toward development. This does not mean that managing Afghanistan’s water resources will increase conflicts between Afghanistan and its neighbors. Instead, the management of Afghanistan’s water resources will compel neighboring countries to expand their economic, political, and even cultural cooperation with Afghanistan to gain advantages in the water sector. However, how to effectively leverage this resource and what measures the government should consider in managing its water resources to turn this opportunity into a beneficial deal is a discussion that will be analyzed in another part of this article. Continue… Firooz Ahmad Ebrahimi

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.