Need of a water sharing treaty between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Rayyan Baig

WATER is the most essential commodity as there is no concept of life without water. With the passage of time,?due to the environmental factors, the sources of edible water are shrinking, whereas its demand is increasing with theincrease of population, world over. Rivers are the main sources of transportation of water and they usually cross?frontiers and link countries.
These natural linkages have become/ have the potential to become a source of contentionbetween neighboring countries, if not resolved amicably. Pakistan and Afghanistan share seven trans-boundary rivers,of which the Kabul River has become a cause of concern between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The absence of a formalwater treaty between both the countries presents with a potential for conflict over water.?The Kabul River emerges from the Hindu Kush Mountains Region in Afghanistan and after traversing 700? ?kilometers empties into the Indus River near ? ? Attock. It passes through the cities of Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan? ? ?before flowing into KPK in Pakistan, some 25 kilometers north of the border crossing at ? ? Torkham.
In its journey of 700?KM, Kabul River crosses two major climatic belts. Its upper reaches have a continental warm-summer climate whichcauses early snow melting, thus making water available when Indus River is still asleep due to the winters.?The major tributaries of the Kabul River are the ? ? Logar, Panjshir, Kunar, Alingar, Bara and Swat rivers. Its?largest tributary is the Kunar River, which starts out as the Mastuj River, flowing from the Chiantar Glacier in Brughilvalley in Chitral Pakistan.
After flowing south into Afghanistan it is met by the Bashgal River flowing from Nurestan, theKunar ultimately meets the Kabul River near Jalalabad. Kabul River even after this confluence continues to be called asKabul River, despite the Kunar carrying more water than Kabul, mainly for the political and historical significance of thename.???Afghanistan has various dams over Kabul River for power generation; the three major dams hydro-electricpower plants were built between 1950s-70s, by the USSR. However, during Afghan Wars these were damaged and arestill awaiting complete restoration.
The Afghan Government has started building over one dozen hydro-electric powerplants and irrigation diversion projects with the financial and technical support from India. The feasibilities and detailedengineering have been completed with the help of Indian experts. India is not doing this in love for Afghanistan ratherher revulsion against Pakistan is making her do all this. India is already illegally building the hydro-power projects on the Chenab, Jhelum and Indus Rivers with an objective to control the water flows destined toreach Pakistan. In her desire to turn Pakistan into a desert, she is now vigorous to squeeze the water artery comingfrom Afghanistan. If these projects get completed, they will reduce around 16-17 % flow in the Kabul River reachingPakistan, thus further compounding the water shortage and adversely affecting the livelihoods of thousands ofPakistanis.Afghanistan has the right to utilize water from the Kabul River as do Pakistan. The total flow of Kabul River is21,000 million cubic meters, but the Kunar River, which contributes 15,000 million cubic meters to the Kabul River,originates from Pakistan.
Pakistan is already facing water deficit, the total water flows in its rivers and dams stand at137 MAF and these water uses have been developed for the last many decades. All the water of Kabul River, whichenters Pakistan is 100 percent committed up to Kotri Barrage. Both the countries under the international convention arebound to continue to utilize their developed water uses, furthermore as per the riparian rights no upper riparian countrylike Afghanistan can utilize the committed water uses of Pakistan.
The absence of a formal water treaty between Pakistan and Afghanistan has left conditions ripe for conflict overwater. Water-sharing treaty between Pakistan and Afghanistan is, therefore, an urgent need in the best interest of boththe neighbors. Pakistan has been trying to bring Afghanistan at negotiating table over water sharing, however, theAfghan government, under Indian Influence, has been evading on the plea that it was working on its own national waterpolicy and it was not possible to initiate talks until that policy was ready.
A water-sharing treaty between Pakistan andAfghanistan would be an important development in the relationship between the two countries, and would help tomaintain regional stability.In bilateral agreements there is always some give and take, in an increasingly water-stressed scenario,Pakistan and Afghanistan have much to lose if they cannot co-operate to create a just and fair riparian agreement. Afterall, despite suffering huge financial losses due to Afghan Transit Trade, Pakistan is sticking to the agreement, evenagainst the wishes of the masses, just to fulfill neighborhood obligations.
It also shares and is the main provider ofwheat, rice, livestock and vegetable etc to Afghanistan, which may not continue due to shortage of water. Pakistan hasalso accommodated around 5 million refugees for over three decades and bore all the hardships. Now the time hascome for both the countries to enter into a water treaty for the mutual benefits to avoid any water related conflicts, whichmay disturb regional peace as well.

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