Monday July 15, 2024

PM forms body for water-sharing formula with Afghanistan

By Khalid Mustafa
April 13, 2017

Egged on by India, Afghanistan plans to build 12 dams on River Kabul which should be cause of big concern for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while sensing the importance of the trans-boundary water issues, has constituted a committee headed by secretary water and power with the task how to move ahead in formulating a water sharing formula with Afghanistan.

“The committee has already met on March 31, 2017 and discussed the details how to proceed on this very important issue. The prime minister has taken this initiative of paramount importance after getting the feedback from agencies and Foreign Office which will ultimately result in the form of water treaty with Kabul,” a senior official privy to the developments told The News.

The official said: “We want to hold first meeting with technical team of Afghanistan and share with each other the water data, hydrology of all the sharing rivers including Kabul river and Kunar rivers and data about water uses both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan wants a win-win formula that ensures benefits of water sharing by both the sides. 

“The World Bank has also indicated that it is ready to broker the water treaty between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Bank would also facilitate bringing the two countries on a table to start negotiating for the water deal on the pattern of Indus Waters Treaty signed between Pakistan and India in 1960,” the official said.

Pakistan and Afghanistan currently share nine rivers with annual flows of about 18.3 million acre feet (MAF) of which the river Kabul accounts for 16.5MAF, while River Chitral, which originates from Pakistan, contributes about 8.5MAF. After it enters Afghanistan, this river is called River Kunar. It joins the river Kabul near Jalalabad and then re-enters Pakistan. So in some cases, Pakistan is upper riparian country and in some cases Afghanistan is upper riparian.

The official said: “We have held many brainstorming sessions at the ministry on this particular issue after receiving credible reports about Afghanistan’s plans to build dams on Kabul River.

“Some of Pakistan’s ambassadors appointed in various capitals had earlier taken up this issue with the officials of the ministry and the Foreign Office also forcing the decision makers to engage Afghanistan for water sharing formula.”

He said the ministry had earlier asked many agencies to initiate the process for formulating a water information sharing mechanism with Afghanistan. Being the low riparian, Pakistan has the right to have the data of water flows in Kabul River in the vicinity of Afghanistan.

The technical committee on water resources and dams, headed by AGN Abbasi in 2003, also recommended to the government to enter into a water treaty with Afghanistan to ensure the right of the low riparian country — Pakistan.

India, which also helped Afghanistan in repairing the Friendship Dam (Salma Dam) on the river Chishti-e-Sharif in Herat province, is already erecting the hydro-power projects on the Chenab, Jhelum and Indus with an objective to get the capacity to maneuver water flows destined to reach Pakistan and is now actively egging on India to squeeze the water artery coming from Afghanistan.

According to a document exclusively available with The News, Indian experts have completed the feasibilities and detailed engineering of the 12 projects to be built on the river Kabul. The authorities in Kabul after completing the tendering process will be initiating construction of multi-purpose  water projects on the tributaries of the river Kabul with assistance from the international community. India plans to assist Afghanistan in this initiative, which will adversely impact on Pakistan. The documents also show that the World Bank will provide funding for the 12 dams that will cost $7.079 billion.

The most ironic part of the whole episode is that Pakistan’s authorities have failed to develop water uses on the river Kabul as they failed to build the Kalabagh Dam at the site on the Indus where the river Kabul merges with the river Indus.

Similarly, Pakistan’s authorities have also failed to construct the Munda Dam on the river Kabul. The failure in developing water uses has weakened Pakistan’s case against the resolve of Afghanistan to build the 12 hydro-power projects on the river Kabul.

The documents unveil that four hydro-power projects will be constructed in the Punjshir sub-basin. These include the $332 million Totumdara project which will generate 200MW of electricity and have water storage capacity of 332,510 acre feet; the $1.174b Barak project which will generate 100MW of electricity and store 429,830 acre feet of water; $1.078 billion Panjshir (100MW) project with the capacity to store 105,4300 acres feet of water; and the $607 million Baghdara (210MW) project with the capacity to store 324,400 acres feet of water.

In the Logur Upper Kabul sub-basin on the river Kabul four more dams are to be built which include the $72 million Haijana project (72MW) with water storage capacity of 178,420 acres feet; $207 million Kajab (15MW) project with water storage capacity of 324,400 acres feet; the $356 million Tangi Wadag (56MW) project with capacity to store 283,850 acres feet; and $51m Gat (86MW) project with water storage capacity of 405,500 acres feet. Four more dams will be built in the Lower Kabul sub-basin, including the $442 million Sarobi project (210MW) with the capacity to store 324,400 acre feet of water; the $1.434 billion Laghman project (1251MW) with water storage capacity of 233,568 acre feet; and the $1.094 billion Konar (A) (94.8MW) and Kama projects (11.5MW).

However, the documents say: “Ninety percent of Afghanistan’s land area is located in the five river basins namely: Panj-Amu Darya River Basin, Northern River Basin, Harirud-Murghab Basin, Helmand River Basin and river Kabul basin. The total storage capacity of these dams is around 4.7 million acre feet. It is further estimated that the planned dams will utilise 0.5 MAF water to irrigate additional 14,000 acres of land.

“Afghanistan has the right to utilise water from the river Kabul as the total flow of Kabul River is 21,000 million cubic meters. But the river Kunar, which contributes 15,000 million cubic meters to the river Kabul, originates from Pakistan.

Nonetheless, the relevant officer in the Ministry of Water and Power said that all the water uses of river Kabul are 100 percent committed up to Kotri Barrage. Pakistan is the country which is facing water deficit and has total water flows in its rivers and dams stand at 137 MAF and these water uses have been developed for the last many decades and no upper riparian country like Afghanistan can utilise the committed water uses of Pakistan.

He said that Afghanistan could utilise 2.5 MAF water for irrigation purposes at the maximum. However, at Warsak, Pakistan has committed water flows of river Kabul of 16-17 MAF out of which 8-8.5 MAF water comes from the river Chitral which generates from Pakistan. “No doubt it is the failure of the authorities and political leadership of not building the Kalabagh Dam and Munda Dam, but if the said dams are not built, even then Pakistan’s water uses of river Kabul are established and Pakistan’s case is very strong if needed to move any international forum,” he claimed.