People, Environment

Afghanistan Failing to Uphold Iran’s Water Rights

Afghanistan Failing to Uphold Iran’s Water RightsAfghanistan Failing to Uphold Iran’s Water Rights

The Hamoun Wetlands’ revival and upholding water rights have always been the main topics of discussion with Afghanistan, according to Iran’s top diplomat.

Speaking in a parliamentary session on Monday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his ministry has been pushing Afghanistan to uphold the water rights of the imperiled wetlands located on Iran’s border with its neighboring state.

“Afghanistan is supposed to keep their end of the bargain,” he said, referring to previous agreements between the two states that oblige Afghanistan to supply an undisclosed amount of water into the lagoons.

The foreign minister said they have not delivered on that promise, adding that “only when there is flooding in Afghanistan, do they manage to meet the demand”.

Zarif stressed that the issue is “not at all political” and noted that the restoration of the Hamouns can only be beneficial.

Pointing to Sistan-Baluchestan Province’s severe water shortage, the official said the government, in cooperation with the Energy Ministry, has extensive plans for the region.

“And the Foreign Ministry will do its part to ensure the Hamouns’ water rights are upheld,” Zarif added.

During a meeting between the head of the Department of Environment, Massoumeh Ebtekar, and Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani in April during the latter’s visit to Tehran, the two discussed the state of the Hamoun Wetlands and agreed to form a team tasked with the revival of the lagoons.

The Hamouns are transboundary wetlands on the Iran-Afghan border and comprise three lakes: Hamoun-e Helmand, which is entirely in Iran; Hamoun-e Sabari on the border; and Hamoun-e Puzak, which is almost entirely inside Afghanistan.

The three lakes are linked and fed by water from Afghanistan’s Helmand River.

Construction of dams and canals in Afghanistan led to water being drawn off to feed agriculture in the Afghan provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Nimrooz, causing water levels in the lakes to plummet.

To make matters worse, four reservoirs were built within Iran, diverting more water and speeding up the desiccation of the wetlands.

In an attempt to bring global attention to the dire state of the wetlands and secure funds from international organizations, Iran is planning to nominate the Hamouns to the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program.

The wetlands’ dossier is expected to be put up for review and will possibly be approved during the Fourth World Congress of Biosphere Reserves in Peru during March 14-17, 2016.