Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Growth of Water Dams and its Impacts on Domestic Security

On Saturday, President Ghani once again emphasized on the management and control of the country’s frontier waters on a visit to the Farah province. The president especially spoke about Baksh Abad Dam located near the Iranian border, and emphasized that the Afghan government is serious about the construction of this dam. One of the important features of the president has been his special attention to water issues and construction of economic infrastructure. Since the day he has occupied the presidency of Afghanistan, he has paid serious attention to these issues, and so the construction of water infrastructure has dramatically improved in recent years.
The most common question that comes in our mind is about is the impact of these measures on Afghan national security. In recent years It is vastly believed that the neighboring countries have always benefited from the crisis and weakness of Afghanistan and even there are people who think that the root cause of the neighbors intervention in Afghanistan’s affairs are due to water issues . Afghanistan has nearly 5,800 km border with its neighbors, and so it is said that a large parts border issues are rooted in water sharing issue.
Afghanistan has an enormous amount of water but most of them flow to neighboring countries including Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan while Afghanistan itself extremely needs to water.
In spite the extreme domestic need, unfortunately the former governments did not pay any attentions to water management for internal uses. Now that the government, especially the president is interested to manage the water, the fundamental question is how will this stance of the president and government affect the national security of the country? This question is important because it seems that neighboring countries have been trying to prevent Afghanistan from control of water of Hindu Kush, Baba and other rivers over the past years.
If we think a bit superficially, the control and management of the country’s waters will have a negative impact on national security because the neighboring countries will try to prevent Afghanistan from management and control of its water.  They will create insecurity troubles on the borders of the country like in previous years and they will help illegal armed groups to make Afghanistan insecure. As in the past years, the Salma and Kajaki dam have always been subject to security threats in the west and south of the country.
But if we want to think a bit longer and more strategically, Afghanistan can only help its country by managing its water resources. Based on this idea, the current government has proceeded to construct several dams in the country despite such concerns among ordinary people. One of its clear examples is Shatoot dam on the Kabul River.  This dam is supposed to provide drinking water to the burgeoning population of Kabul City, but there have been protests from Pakistan that the dam would reduce the water flows into Pakistan.  The Dawn in one of the articles has alleged that there could be a drop of 16 to 17 percent of water in the Pakistan side.
Since India has offered assistance in building the dam, the Pakistan media has alleged that a strategic water war is being waged against Pakistan. On the other hand, there has been no water treaty between Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the absence of any water regulating infrastructure in Afghanistan, downstream Pakistan has been utilizing all the unused waters that flow from Afghanistan.   The Kabul River irrigates 85 percent of land in Charsala, 80 percent in Peshawar and 47.5 percent in Nowshera and is also the source of drinking water for millions of Pakistanis living around the basin.
Moreover, The Afghanistan- Pakistan border has a complex maze of rivers and there has been no legal frame work to regulate or share the rivers by both countries.  Thus, whatever little the country had by way of water infrastructure have been completely destroyed due to war and even the very institutions that were meant to protect the rivers are no longer in position to take care of the waters.
It is only during President Ghani that the immense water potential of Afghanistan should be exploited for the economic welfare of the country. It is said that India has assisted Afghanistan in conducting feasibility studies that would provide 12 smaller dams and generate over 1177 Megawatts of Power.  A dam on the Panjshir Canyon alone would be able to store much more water and could generate enormous amount of power for Afghanistan’s economy.
It is said that Pakistan which has been freely using disproportionate share of waters coming from Afghanistan is suddenly putting immense pressure on Afghanistan to sign a bilateral treaty now to share the waters.  There is international pressure too. Till now Pakistan had no complaints as it could use all the waters coming from Afghanistan, but it has realized that it cannot continue when Afghanistan has started using its waters for the development of the country.
Once a treaty is signed, there is no doubt that Pakistan will try to delay as much as possible the new initiatives taken by Ghani Government to make use of its water resources.  It is therefore putting immense pressure on Afghanistan to sign a deal on sharing of water resources as it would then have a legal claim to stop or delay various plans Afghanistan has in developing its water resources. It is therefore of utmost importance that Afghanistan goes ahead with Indian assistance to complete the Shatoot dam that would cost no more than 380 million dollars in time, to relieve the sufferings of the people of Kabul who by one study is said to have more than 60 percent of its water contaminated and unfit for drinking.