A water war between Afghanistan and Iran
The construction of dams on the Helmand River poses a complex challenge with wide-ranging implications, especially for Iran as a downstream country heavily dependent on the river for its water supply. Afghanistan has built multiple dams along the Helmand, mainly to meet irrigation and hydropower needs. These dams have given rise to significant concerns regarding water control, environmental impact, and regional security dynamics. Some of the major dams along the river are as follows:
- Built in 1945, Grishk Dam has a power generation capacity of 1.2 MW.
- Built in Kajaki district of Helmand province in 1953, Kajaki Dam has a power generation capacity of 151 MW.
- Built near the border with Iran in 2021, Kamal Khan Dam has a power generation capacity of 9 MW.
Water as a political tool Tensions have exacerbated between Afghanistan and Iran over the river, with Iran accusing Afghanistan of using the river as a political tool, suggesting that Afghanistan is manipulating water flow to exert pressure on Iran. In Afghanistan, there is already a backlash against Iran due to its treatment of Afghan refugees and forced repatriation of migrants. Some in Afghanistan posit that Iran is leveraging the refugee issue to put pressure on Afghanistan, prompting Afghanistan to consider using water as a leverage to improve Iran’s treatment of Afghan refugees. This complex interplay highlights how shared water resources can intersect with political agendas and humanitarian concerns, potentially leading to strained relations and negotiations between neighboring states. Impact on India and China Tensions between Afghanistan and Iran can have significant implications for India and China, considering their respective interests and investments in the region. India has enjoyed positive relations with both countries and has made substantial investments in Afghanistan, including the construction of the Salma Dam. In Iran, India has invested in the development of the Chabahar Port, which holds strategic importance for trade and connectivity. Any conflict or dispute between Afghanistan and Iran could disrupt India’s ongoing projects, impact economic interests, and jeopardize regional stability, prompting India to prioritize the prevention of such conflicts. China has been actively expanding its influence in Afghanistan and Iran through investments in infrastructure projects and its Belt and Road Initiative. China's long-term plans in the region could be affected by tensions or conflicts. Both India and China have vested interests in avoiding any water-related conflict or war as it can put their investments at risk and disrupt the overall peace and stability of the region. Conclusion The Afghan-Iran dispute over water has regional implications that can transcend beyond borders, with political factors often complicating the situation further. It is important to prioritize collaboration over competition and focus on long-term water management strategies that ensure equitable and sustainable use of resources. The water crisis between Afghanistan and Iran is a significant challenge that, if left unresolved, can escalate into a conflict over water resources. However, it is important to note that there are viable pathways to address this crisis. Ultimately, the way forward requires a combination of diplomatic efforts, sustainable water management practices, and regional cooperation to ensure the equitable and sustainable utilization of shared water resources. By addressing these challenges proactively and collaboratively, Afghanistan and Iran can promote peace, stability, and mutual benefits and the wider region. The author is the Director of Research at the Indo-Pacific Consortium of Raisina House, New Delhi. He tweets @The_China_Chap. Views expressed are personal
July 10, 2023, 6:17 p.m.
July 10, 2023, 6:05 p.m.
July 7, 2023, 4:47 p.m.
July 5, 2023, 4:28 p.m.
July 5, 2023, 1:49 p.m.
July 4, 2023, 11:36 p.m.
July 4, 2023, 6:05 p.m.
July 4, 2023, 2:44 p.m.