Abstract

An important question that has been absent from the national dialogues and policy debates in Afghanistan is water resources development and management. Integrated water resources management at the national level and creating an agreed-upon legal framework for trans-boundary water resources at the regional level is the third most important policy question for Afghanistan after security and legal reform agendas that needs to be addressed effectively. Afghanistan shares four of its trans-boundary river basins with its neighbors: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Pakistan. Afghanistan is upstream to all of these basins except for the Kunar tributary river draining into the Kabul lower basin. Being an upstream state that has not developed its uses of water due to a variety of reasons, Afghanistan desires and desperately needs to fully use its share of water from the shared river basins for hydro- power production, irrigation, municipal, and industrial uses as well as other economic purposes. At the same time, there are concerns that the prior uses by neighboring countries might be significantly impacted if Afghanistan will use its share of water. With the entry into force of the UN 1997 Watercourses Convention, Afghans are keen to know that how provisions of this new treaty law will impact Afghanistan’s desire to fully utilize its share of the trans-boundary river basins. The United Nations adopted the 1997 Watercourse Convention in an attempt to regulate use, development, management, and conservation of watercourses crossing national boundaries of states. The Convention entered into force on August 17, 2014. Afghanistan is not yet a party to the Convention. This paper will examine importance of the Watercourses Convention for Afghanistan.

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2021-10-25