Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, June 18th, 2018

Afghanistan Water Resources: The cause of Conflicts with Neighboring Countries

Water is a liquid nearly all beings need it. Indeed, it gives life to us but it can change to a means of death as well. As the number of world population increases, the amount of water is decreasing. Many people think the idea of global water wars as impossible, but it has its supporters too. Even in the course of history, water has been in many cases an indirect source of conflict in many countries.
However, the data shows a billion people or one in seven people on the planet, lack access to safe drinking water. Many countries in Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia experience water shortage over the coming years because they have not managed their waters carefully and have overused it badly. 
The losses of water reserves have been catastrophic in some regions. For example,   Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers lost 144 cubic kilometers of stored freshwater just in seven years. The same amount of water has been lost in the Dead Sea according to the data compiled by the Grace Mission.
The main cause of water los is reductions in groundwater, lost to evaporation from lakes and reservoirs, also plays a major role in the water loss and a small portion of the water loss is due to soil drying up and to a poor snowpack in many parts of the world.
The losses of groundwater have been very high during the last decade. For instance, about 600 million people live on the 2,000km swath that extends from eastern Pakistan. And about 75% of farmers rely on pumped groundwater to water their crops, and water use is intensifying in these areas.
In a report released by the US director of national intelligence in 2010, it stated that water loss and shortage could lead to potential conflicts – including terror as in India and other countries – that could potentially compromise US national security.
The report focused on water basins critical to the US security regime – the Nile, Tigris-Euphrates, Mekong, Jordan, Indus, Brahmaputra and Amu Darya. It concluded: “During the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States would experience water problems – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States.”
According to this report water alone would not bring down governments. But water shortages could could threaten food production and energy supply and put additional stress on governments struggling with poverty and social tensions that may ultimately bring some of them down in these countries.
According to Peter Glerick, the risk of conflicts over water is growing, because of increased competition, bad governance and the impacts of climate change. Based on this, countries like Afghanistan that has substantial water resources, are critically vulnerable to water conflicts with its neighbors. Afghanistan water resources comprise five major river basins and 36 sub river basins of which three river basins (Kabul Indus, Helmand and Harirod-Murghab) flow to the neighboring countries of Pakistan (Indus River Basin), Iran and Turkmenistan and one river basin (Panj-Amu) marks the border with three Central Asian Republics (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) in the north. As a matter of fact, a large proportion of Afghanistan’s waters either flow to or are shared with the neighboring countries.
Tensions over water are already apparent on the ground between Afghanistan and its neighbors, especially Iran and Pakistan. For example, On May 20, 2018, Defense, interior ministers, the spymaster and a top US, NATO commander in Afghanistan have accused Iran of fueling the conflict in western Farah province just for water.  
As mentioned, water plays a critical role in our lives. It has been the source of conflicts in the past and it certainly would be the cause of many conflicts in the future, especially as the number of the global population increases and water sources diminish due to climate change and bad water management by the governments. Afghanistan as a country with rich water resources that shares its water basins with neighboring countries,  requires to have a very active water management policy and seeking to address its water issues based on bilateral, regional and international mechanisms. At the sometime, it needs having a strong army to defend and protect its water resources and ensures the rights of the Afghan citizens, if needed.