Steps towards an Afghanistan–Pakistan Water-Sharing Agreement

Inspired by the announcement of August 26,2013 about a joint 1500MW hydropower project on Kunar River, this paper discusses the challenging dynamics of a potential water sharing agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan in the long term. Marking the unique conditions of Kabul River Basin, where both riparian neighbors are upstream and downstream to the other, the paper notes these dynamics to include uncertain natural conditions marked by climate change, lack of systematic data collection due to conflict, and political tensions reflected in Pakistan’s concerns about Indian support to infrastructural projects on the Kabul River.

Highlighting incentives such as managing flood control and domestic water supplies, improving reliability of irrigation supply, and increasing power production, the paper offers positive analysis of potential for cooperation over Kabul River Basin between Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided states take necessary steps to reduce uncertainty and increase the likelihood of success on reaching an agreement for shared management of the Kabul River by adopting a long term institutional approach aimed at understanding the natural, societal and political dynamics in the basin.

The author recommends that measurement tools must be adaptive to new information and changing natural and human conditions, that local information from local communities could be used to compensate in part for the lack of systematic data and that local support is necessary for implementation of water development projects. In addition, the author underlines the need to create common sets of data and information, to move away from project driven discussions and towards clear articulation of interests in terms of water use, to remain focused on talks on water as distinct from trade talks, to conduct talks within a legal framework such as the 1997 United Nations Convention, to clarify domestic institutional roles, and to sustain continued communication and exchange by creating relevant institutional arrangements.

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