Afghanistan Transboundary Waters: Perspectives on International Law and Development
Volume: 01 | Issue: 01 | 2017 – accessible on Afghanistan Water Portal
Afghanistan, an upper riparian country, is located at the center of the region’s largest renewable sources of fresh waters, making the habitat of the people of this country quite well resourced in terms of access to fresh waters.
Afghanistan has five major river basins with an annual surface water flow of about 57 billion cubic meters. Afghanistan’s location as an upper riparian country makes it the source of water flowing into neighboring riparian countries of Iran, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
However, despite Afghanistan’s rich water resources, the sector remains severely under-studied and under invested. Lack of technical knowledge pertinent to this field remains to be a major challenge inhibiting Afghanistan’s sustainable development and management of its rivers, particularly aiming at its catalytic role in economic development. Reasons are many. Years of conflict impeded regular data collection and destroyed valuable infrastructure. In addition, the politicization of this issue has discouraged attempts at studying it and understanding it sufficiently. This is while Afghanistan’s riparian neighbors built their skills in the area as well as developed their water infrastructure. The consequence of this lack of development in the sector is a wide gap in water specific knowledge in Afghanistan.
As evident from regional and global experiences, sustainable management and development of water resources has the potential to become vital asset for regional cooperation and economic development. In addition to ensuring sustained access to water resources within the country, Afghanistan for example, can secure access to sea and trading ports, to the benefit of both the agricultural and industrial sectors.
To compensate for this lack in capacity and access, it is critical for Afghanistan to draw practical linkages between its water resources and major sectors that contribute a significant deal to economic development, such as agriculture and trade. The Kokcha River Irrigation Scheme for example has the potential to irrigate thousands of hectares of agricultural land in the area, as well as generate thousands of MWs of electricity.
But before we materialize linkages between Afghanistan’s water resources and its key economic sectors such as trade and agriculture, it is important to strengthen the structural, institutional, legal and policy foundations of the country in this field.
Of equal significance is shaping the national discourse on transboundary water issues. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of sufficient information and awareness on the role of Afghanistan’s water resources in national economic development and on the significance of water resources development and management in improving people’s standard of living.
While there are numerous researches conducted by international organizations on Afghanistan’s transboundary resources, there are not enough number of researches done by Afghan policy analysts, scholars or academicians.
Afghans have begun to pursue educational careers focusing on transboundary water management or international water law. However, considering the existing capacity gaps and huge potential for knowledge production in the sector, these numbers are in need of urgent increase.
Duran Research & Analysis is proud to present the first issue of the first volume of the Journal of Afghanistan Water Studies, a first of its kind, which comprises of academic analysis with policy implications, mostly developed by Afghan experts of the field. Efforts as these can increase the availability of useful and easily accessible material on the subject for Afghan policy makers in the government, policy analysts and researchers in the civil society sector, and the academia.
This issue of the Journal of Afghanistan Water Studies, a small endeavor in contributing to knowledge base development on Afghanistan’s transboundary water resources, includes analysis on topics such as the UN Water Conventions and Afghanistan, role of water in regional dynamics, hydro-cognizance, water security and hydropower.
Duran Research & Analysis is grateful to expert authors of this issue including Muhammad Daud Rezaee, Dr. John F. Shroder, Sherjan Ahmadzai, Dr. Glen Hearns, Mir Sayed Shah Danish and Najib Rahman Sabory for their voluntary contribution. Duran is also thankful to the United States Institute of Peace for financial support to this effort.
Duran Research & Analysis remains committed to knowledge base development and awareness raising on Afghanistan’s transboundary waters and will continue to contribute, through these efforts, to sustainable management and development of this valuable asset in Afghanistan.
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