Paper No. 29-11
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM
TRANSBOUNDARY WATERS AND GEOPOLITICAL ISSUES IN AFGHANISTAN
Afghanistan is at the top of almost all of its watersheds issuing from the Hindu Kush and Afghanistan Pamir mountains, and it produces from them ~73 km3 yr-1 of water (~57 km3 surface, ~18 km3 underground,). These water amounts have been repeatedly reduced because of increasingly severe droughts in recent decades, but normally would be sufficient for most agricultural needs (only ~20 km3 irrigation is used annually). Nonetheless, in a combination of traditional upstream versus downstream riparian animosities, vagaries of historical events, climate-change-induced, river-discharge diminutions, and geopolitical intransigence between neighboring countries; the results are growing increasingly problematic economically, environmentally, politically, and scientifically. Any sort of field-work research in hydro or other geology topics are almost impossible without serious military protection, and problems of surface and groundwater over-use, over-pumping, and contamination abound so that water quantity and quality are seriously compromised nationwide. Although few people want to entertain notions of real or pending water wars, with the reasons for ongoing bellicosity in the region generally ascribed to other causes, the true nature of many local problems commonly involves strong difficulties with ground- and surface waters. Past and present governments of Afghanistan have handled their varied problematic water situations poorly and have refused to discuss their water problems in international contexts because nearly four decades of war have destroyed good education and reduced hydro-cognizance to bare minima, from which the country seeks to recover. Ideas of hydro-hegemony or gaining power (geographical, material, bargaining, ideational) over water offer some solutions, as do renewed educational efforts by electronic distance-learning modules that are being offered. Integrated water resource management has been promoted as a necessary solution, but this is highly problematic in a situational series of incompetent and corrupt governments. The future of wise water use in Afghanistan is a work in progress.