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QUENCHING THE THIRST: Addressing Afghanistan-Pakistan water issues

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Sher Jan Ahmadzai, the director of Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, speaks at OU this past week.
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NORMAN, Okla. – Sher Jan Ahmadzai, the director of Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha was the invited guest of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma to talk about “Water security on the Kabul river basin” on April 6 at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman.

When often petroleum is seen as the most important resource in the world, let’s not forgot the role of water that is indispensable for life, and therefore human life. Every continent is struggling with a rarer water resource. Cooperation between people and governments becomes an obligation if the world doesn’t want to start a new world war.

“Water is a source of life, so it matters,” Ahmadzai said. “Do we have the capacity to avoid conflicts in the future?”

According to Ahmadzai, water is influencing every part of human life including population, energy production, food production, climate, finance, trade, national security and culture.

The water issues encountered between Afghanistan and Pakistan for the control of the Kabul River basin is a perfect example of what humanity is facing today. Ahmadzai said a lack of trust, power game and different historical beliefs are complicating the situation between these two countries.

“It always comes down to a lack of trust,” Ahmadzai said.

The Kabul River basin includes over 8 million people in Afghanistan including 4 million in Kabul and 22 million people on the Pakistani side. Ahmadzai added the population of Afghanistan and Pakistan are growing quickly, increasing pressure on water resources in the region where the chronic period of drought and flooding already complicate the situation.

In addition, Ahmadzai said Afghanistan has almost no infrastructure to produce drinking water and energy, and provide irrigation for agriculture as most of the infrastructures are obsolete.

Even if Ahmadzai believes Afghanistan and Pakistan are able to sign a treaty to share their water resources, he said because of a lack of trust the intervention of a third party to help resolve the problem is more than expected. He added that even if Afghanistan has a theoretical advantage due to the Kabul River starting in its country, Pakistan has an advantage over Afghanistan with its military and economic powers. Pakistan has been asking for a treaty on the Kabul River, but has not received a positive response from Afghanistan.

“Regardless if you are upstream or downstream, whoever is the most powerful is legitimate of the water resource,” Ahmadzai said, adding China didn’t properly consult with Thailand or Vietnam when it started to build dams on the upstream of its rivers.

Ahmadzai also said Afghanistan’s lack of financial, military and engineering capacities to build and protect dams doesn’t help to resolve the problem.

“The Afghan government doesn’t have the money to do it,” Ahmadzai said.

To conclude, Ahmadzai agrees that the problem of the Kabul River basin issue is largely related to Pakistan's behavior.

The lecture was part of the Food and Global Activism in Global Asia Symposium that is also part of the International Awareness Week organized by the College of International Studies of the University of Oklahoma held April 3-7.

EDITOR'S NOTE: And for more information on the growing water crisis in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of Asia, we suggest checking out this website.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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