By Zia Danish
Translated by Abdul Ahad Katawazai
According to the latest data published by the World Bank, 44% of country’s work force is engaged in the agricultural sector, and as result, the income of 60% of the families supplied by this sector. Agricultural growth annually contributes 1.2% to economic growth and creates 1.2 million job opportunities in a medium timespan (about a decade). Accordingly, Afghanistan is a country where the main part of its economy is relied on agricultural products and goods, therefore for better functioning of agricultural sector it urgently requires water management in the country.
The government, realizing the importance of this matter, strives effectively and usefully manages the surface and groundwater of the country for the purpose of agricultural growth, strengthening of industries and hydroelectric power generation.
Importance of Water and Land in Afghanistan
It is approximated that the annual level of rains in Afghanistan reaches up to 163 billion cubic meters of which 57 billion cubic meters considered surface water, 18 billion cubic meters is groundwater and the rest is stored, absorbed or evaporated. Afghanistan has 25 big canals, hundreds of small canals and thousands of mountain peaks and small rivers (streams) covered with the snow, which considered as an unmatched wealth for the country; while it can only utilize 20 billion out of 75 billion cubic meters.
Afghanistan is a country mostly reliant on agricultural economy and its 80% of population engaged in farming and livestock. Based on reports, 31% of the country’s economy is consisted of agricultural products. The arable land is consisted of more than 9 million hectares of this total only 4 million hectares is under cultivation.
The growing rate of population and the need for agriculture development in the country, the government requires to effectively and properly carry out the water and land resources management of the country.
On the other hand, the economic development is dependent on human development and the human development is impossible without having access to safe drinking water. For this reason, the government’s greater efforts are underway to increase and expand the level of citizens’ access to safe drinking water.
Government and Management of Water Resources
Since National Unity Government took office, it began taking significant steps towards managing water resource and turning this vital wealth into capital in both areas of formulating policies and regulations, as well as technical and operational studies. In this regard, in addition to the Ministry of Energy and Water the ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, and Agriculture and Irrigation have also carried out significant initiatives in the area of managing water resource by providing safe and sufficient drinking and agricultural water in villages and rural areas of the country.
A)Position of Water Management in the Country:
The National Unity Government sees the issue of water as being fundamental wealth of the country and it places the management of groundwater resources and the control of surface waters of the country in the urgent and prioritized position of its operational strategy and outlines. Because management and control of country’s waters can be utilized for achieving domestic sustainable and balanced development, and adequate use of water by commonwealth countries.
President Ashraf Ghani has continuously mentioned about water issue and its vital role, and pointed out the need for paying serious attention to this matter during the summits convened for the economic growth and human development of Afghanistan. Given the importance of county’s waters, in 2016 the National Unity Government has founded “Supreme Council of Land and Water” under the chairmanship of President Ashraf Ghani which already have convened several summits and taken necessary decisions regarding management of land and waters of the country.
B)Launching Programs and Formulating Policies
Concerning management and utilization of water being as vital wealth, the strategy for country’s water sector is formulated, based on this strategy the technical studies, detailed designing and construction work of 32 water reserve projects are implemented, besides these initiatives other government agencies also execute big and small size projects related to the safe drinking, agricultural and electricity generating water. The mentioned projects will produce tangible outcomes in short-, medium-, and long-terms periods.
In the past one and half decade, Afghanistan began studying the feasibility and benefits of approximately 111 water dams which some are already completed and others are under process of completion.
The Afghan government strives to take fundamental steps concerning management of water resources and prevention of problems generated from mismanagement in this area by launching national water resources program intended for constructing of development water reserve dams, nationalizing and reforming of water institutions to rehabilitate diversion structures (sarbands) and canals, and strengthening of country’s river banks.
C)Initiatives and Activities
Recently Afghan government took steps in the following areas related to conducting studies and further and better carrying out operations for waters management:
1. Identifying and Classifying Country’s River Basins
In order to carry out better management of countries water, government has divided the existing water resources into five river basins to better and further management of country’s water:
-Amu River Basin (Wakhan, Kokcha, Kundoz, Andarab and Khenjan)
-North River Basin (Balkhab and Sarepol)
-West River Basin (Harirod, Marghab, Sherintagab, Kishk, Aderskan, Koshan, Qaisar, Gulran and Khasrod)
-Helmand River Basin (Arghandab, Ghazni, Tarang, Arghistan and Musa Qalah)
-Kabul River Basin (Gulbahar, Panjshir, Kabul, Logar, Kunar, Alisheng and Alingar)
2. Construction of Diversion Dams
The work of procuring 32 water reserve dams with the value of USD 2.33 billion started last year which include technical, detailed designing and constructing studies of the projects. After completion and exploitation of these dams, Afghanistan will be able to achieve following results:
-Irrigation of more than 366 hectares of land;
-Irrigation improvement of more than 230 hectares of land;
-Water reservation of more than 20.3 million cubic;
The abovementioned results lead to income generation for hundreds of families and jobs creation for thousands of citizens as well as improvement and increase of domestic revenue and significant reduction in poverty rate in the country.
In order to achieve set goals, fundamental steps have taken in 2015 and 2016, and it is worth mentioning that in 2016 significant activities and plans are under execution, therefore followings are the examples:
-Initiation of installation process related to the hydro-meteorological, meteorological and snow survey stations across the country to obtain data;
-Preparation of hydrological maps across the country;
-Construction or rehabilitation of more than 10s of canals, diversion structure (sarbands) and consolidating projects intended for riverbank preventing wastage and efficient use of water;
-Initiation of masterplan work on five river basins;
-Rehabilitation of 1953 KM of irrigation infrastructures in five river basins of the country which led to significant increase in water level irrigating more than 5200 hectares of agricultural land;
-Completion of Nangarhar’s Gamberi project design meant to irrigate 35 thousand hectares of agricultural land;
-Finalization of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s principles document for water diplomacy;
-Draft plan preparation for trans-border water policy;
-Draft plan preparation for groundwater policy;
-Draft plan preparation of policy and strategy for capacity building in water sector;
-Preparation of water resource management policy;
-Draft plan preparation of regulation for water resources table and boundary, and water institutions;
-Outline preparation for establishment of administration consolidating Amu riverbank;
-Outline preparation for rehabilitation and reconstruction of underground canals.