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River Basin Organization And Governance In Afghanistan

World Water Congress 2015 Edinburgh Scotland
7. Valuing water : monetary and non-monetary dimensions
Author(s): Laura Schroeder (Portland
Therese Ure

Schroeder Law Offices P.C.1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 7: Global challenges for water governance,


River Basin Organization and Governance in Afghanistan


In March of 2014, the United States Agency for International Development ("USAID") contracted with Laura A. Schroeder to conduct a three-week consultation mission in an active war zone in Kabul, Afghanistan. The goal of this mission was to provide international water law expertise in developing a decentralized and sustainable water use system by analyzing the current methods of the Country's governance within its various river basins.


The mission focused on teaching Public Administration and Governance Training for basin and local agencies, as well as members of the Technical Secretariat Council on Water. Through this training and teaching, the goal was to provide solid practical instruction to Afghanistan senior and technical staff to facilitate understanding of the deficiencies and challenges within the water sector, and to assist in implementing Afghan water code.

The mission concentrated on the institutional framework of the Afghan water sector, specifically: 1) water governance models and examples; 2) making 2009 Afghan water law effective; 3) methods to effectively include levels of the government in water management; 4) strategies to bring community interest to water governance; 5) incorporation of civil society in decision making regarding water; 6) importance of public administration and different models of administration; 7) role of management in public administration; 8) processes and techniques of decision making; 9) organizational structure, roles and the need for delegation of levels of authority; and 10) financial management, fiscal policies and accountability.


Ongoing transboundary disputes in Afghanistan cause great obstacles to effectively managewater use and delivery systems currently in place. Afghanistan divides hydrographically into four major river basins, the Amu Darya, Harirud-Murghab, Helmand and the Kabul River Basin, all of which cross international boundaries.

The Amu Darya is one of the longest rivers in Central Asia. It flows into the Aral Sea and forms part of Afghanistan's borders with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Water resources from the Amu Darya are shared between Afghanistan and all of the Central Asian states through which it runs. Currently, there exist water treaties which govern the Amu Darya. However, the treaties focus solely on the river as an international boundary, and contain no provisions regulating the equitable division of its water resources.

The Harirud-Murghab represents about 12% of Afghanistan's water resources. It is centered in Herat, an intensely irrigated region of Afghanistan. The river flows through Iran, ending in Turkmenistan, and acts as a border between Afghanistan and Iran and further between Iran and Turkmenistan. In 2005, Iran and Turkmenistan constructed the Doosti Dam, with each country agreeing to equal rights to the river, however neither country consulted Afghanistan prior to constructing the dam. The current $200 million dam project in the works to divert water from Iran to Afghanistan will severely restrict water flow to Iran. Because Afghanistan was not consulted prior to the construction of the Doosti Dam, Afghan officials state they have no plans to negotiate water rights with Iran prior to building the new dam. This project may potentially cause a great set back in the great strides towards peace which has taken place between these two countries.

The Helmand river basin contains the longest Afghan river which forms the Afghan-Iranian border for 55 kilometers. Water from the Helmand basin is used primarily for irrigation. In 1950, Afghanistan and Iran signed an agreement to negotiate ongoing methods to share the water resources from the Helmand River. In 1951, a Commissioner Report was provided to both countries outlining an engineering basis for apportionment. Neither country approved of the report. Later, in 1973, Afghanistan and Iran signed a bilateral treaty regarding the allocation of the Helmand River, allowing for 26 cubic meters per second of water to flow downstream to Iran. However, the treaty was never fully implemented and disputes arose over the terms of the allocation.

The Kabul River flows through Afghanistan and Pakistan and represents approximately 26% of the available water resources in Afghanistan. There is presently no agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan concerning the distribution of the water resources available in the Kabul River.


Afghanistan and most of its neighboring states rely on the available water resources for irrigation and domestic purposes. Developing public administration and governance in Afghan's water basins could greatly benefit Central Asia. Due to political unrest, among other things, treaties between the countries to better regulate these water resources have not been successfully negotiated or implemented. As Afghanistan has not participated in many of the agreements regulating water resources in Central Asia, its "outsider" status may provide an advantage in future regional water sharing discussions. Programs such as those provided by USAID developing water resource administration and governance provide education and support to those who might be able to negotiate international water agreements that will make a difference in stabilizing the region.

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