ISLAMABAD: The United States is facilitating initial talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan on a bilateral water treaty as part of its efforts for Afghanistan-Pakistan-US cooperation on water, informed sources told Dawn on Tuesday.
The US-led international organisations are currently engaged in Afghanistan under a ‘donor-funded Afghan Rebuild Programme’ in the assessment of the current situation and the strategy development for short- and long-term water sector projects and rehabilitation of irrigation system in the war-ravaged country.
The US is also working with multilateral lenders to help Pakistan prepare a long-term water sector strategy, creation of a water council and a water regulatory body for better management of water resources.
A separate Pakistan-US water working group is also in place under the strategic dialogue process.
Diplomatic sources said that the Pakistan-US water working group held a meeting early this month here and it was also joined by under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs, Maria Otero, as part of preparations for the fourth round of the strategic dialogue in coming days in Islamabad and Pak-US-Afghanistan trilateral meetings.
The meeting specifically discussed the USAID-funded projects, particularly with reference to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s signature programme for water sector reforms in Pakistan and set the agenda for next water working group meeting and support for Afghanistan-Pakistan-US cooperation on water resources.
The US interest in facilitating the two countries, the sources said, was that with improved utilisation of water in Afghanistan at a later stage, acrimony may emerge between the two countries. The US, therefore, feels the need for a mechanism in place now to ward off such disputes in future and instead have a joint system in place for long-term benefit of the two countries.
Officials said that Pakistan and Afghanistan shared nine rivers with an average annual river flow of about 18.3 million acres of feet (MAF). Of this, Kabul River alone has water flows of 16.5 MAF, in which River Chitral, originating from Pakistan, contributes about 8.5 MAF.
After entry into Afghanistan, this is called River Kunar which joins the Kabul river near Jalalabad and then re-enters the Warsak dam in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s concern is that India, as part of international lenders in Afghanistan, could gain more influence over its water sector from the western side.