For foreigners Afghanistan is a country with rough terrain where huge chunk of lands are barren due to lack of water resources. But the reality is entirely different, because even borders of Afghanistan with few neighboring countries are marked by rivers and towering mountains with snow-covered peaks that are counted as good water resource. Mostly, neighbors benefit from Afghan rivers because till date Kabul has not devised a comprehensive strategy to bring in use these rivers and power the energy-hungry industries, irrigate lands and provide potable water to people. The Amu River, Hari Rud, Kunar, Kabul and Helmand rivers are few of such rivers that yet to be utilized to change fate of the war-weary nation.
Therefore, the issue is not lack of water resources but inattention of the authorities and their failure to realize importance of these resources in the modern day politics. Perhaps, this was the reason that minister-designate for energy and water vowed to manage water resources and build hydro power stations. Abdur Rahman Salahi outlining his future plan to the Wolesi Jirga said that if got vote of confidence he would build around 20 dams and launch 2,000 irrigation projects within next five years. If he succeeded in fulfilling his commitments the unexploited rivers could bring 2.8 million hectares more under cultivation and Afghanistan would not need to import electricity from neighbors. The ministerial nominee is confident that he could do it with help of a master plan, yet to be carved out. Even if he got these plans it would not be possible to build 20 dams and create 700,000 jobs within five years. He has not adopted a more realistic approach while keeping correct figures and ground realities in mind. Perhaps, he exaggerated because we have a deficit budget for the fiscal year and the government two times urged international community for financial assistance to pay salaries of the civil servants. Moreover, there is no new developmental project in the current year’s budget then how could he kick off work on the projects that he outlined.
What the government needs is to adopt a clear strategy and allocate sufficient budget to execute the developmental projects. Of course, without a master plan we cannot manage our water resources, but we also need laws and a specialized national water commission to oversee the master plan and plug the loopholes that come under the spotlight. The commission would also be responsible to resolve disputes with neighboring countries over rivers that are flowing from Afghanistan. Afghans have the right to build dams over all the rivers that flow from Afghanistan. Therefore, there should be no compromise to give our resources to others for nothing and leave the nation starving. In addition to that the commission should also have the duties to provide service and water infrastructure maintenance, especially in areas that need water both for irrigation and drinking purpose. As a matter of fact these steps are possible if effective coordination and clear communication between the relevant departments was established. Most importantly, the climate change impacts should be kept in view while designing projects.