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Pakistan, Afghanistan urged to sign treaty on Kabul River water

Updated October 11, 2018

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Afghan counsul general Prof Mohammad Moeen Marastial  addresses a conference on sustainable use of Kabul River water at Peshawar University on Wednesday. — White Star
Afghan counsul general Prof Mohammad Moeen Marastial addresses a conference on sustainable use of Kabul River water at Peshawar University on Wednesday. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Experts at a national conference here on Wednesday called for agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the apportionment of the Kabul River water and warned that construction of reservoirs on the river would disturb its entire ecology.

Area Study Centre, University of Peshawar organised the daylong national conference titled “Sustainable usage of the Kabul River: Challenges and opportunities for Pak-Afghan cooperation”.

Peshawar-based Afghan Counsul General Prof Moeen Marastial, UoP Vice-chancellor Dr Mohammad Asif, experts and academicians attended the conference and read out their papers.

Experts say construction of dams to disturb ecology of river

In his opening remarks, Dr Asif said that Afghan government with the financial and technical support of India had planned construction of 12 reservoirs on the Kabul River that would generate 2400 megawatts electricity.

He said that construction of dams on the river would drastically affect agriculture sector in Pakistan, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the water flow in three main tributaries of the river had already been declined by more than 50 per cent.

He stressed the need for having a bilateral water treaty between Islamabad and Kabul for the reasonable and equitable use of the Kabul River water.

Prof Moeen Marastial supported the idea of bilateral water treaty for having close collaboration on the usage of shared water. He said that international and regional water laws could guide the two countries in reaching to an agreement on the issue.

He said that his government was ready for negotiation with Pakistan on water issues within the framework of international conventions including Helsinki Convention.

Prof Moeen said that Afghanistan had an agreement with the Central Asian Republics over the distribution of water of the Amu River. He said that his government had also offered Iran to sign an agreement on the River Helmand.

He also emphasised improvement of trade relations between the two countries as the bilateral trade had declined recently. He said that exchange of scholars and faculty between the Area Study Centre and various universities of Afghanistan needed.

The experts said that the Kabul River played key role in irrigating lands in Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera and adjoining areas. They said that the river was mainly fed by the Chitral River, which was known as the Kunar River in Afghanistan.

“Differences over use of shared water of the Kabul River could be an additional irritant in future due to the lack of bilateral water agreement between the two neighbours,” they said.

Former vice-chancellor Dr Azmat Hayat said that water resources originated from Afghanistan were very important for agriculture in Peshawar valley, which was considered food basket for the region. He said that unequal distribution of water could trigger linguistic and geographical disputes.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018