People, Environment

Water Talks With Kabul

Iran must ensure 60 million cubic meters of water for the wetlands every year.
Iran must ensure 60 million cubic meters of water for the wetlands every year.

Iran and Afghanistan have held preliminary talks about the water rights of transboundary Hamoun Wetlands, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.

Speaking to ILNA, the spokesman said Tehran and Kabul reached an understanding during a recent visit by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Iran's eastern neighbor.

"Without a doubt, the most important issue between us is the issue of water, for which a joint committee has been formed," he said.

Hamouns are a series of shallow marsh lakes in southwest Afghanistan and southeast Iran, constituting 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 Afghanistan’s Helmand River.

The wetlands are predominantly fed by Afghan rivers, although the amount of inflow Iran is legally obliged to allow into the wetlands is not sufficient to help restore the imperiled lagoons.

Iran must ensure 60 million cubic meters of water reach the wetlands every year which, according to Mohsen Soleimani Rouzbehani, director of the Iranian Wetlands Conservation Project, “is so small it can barely be considered water rights”.

The construction of dams and canals in Afghanistan has led to channeling water away from 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.

The Hamouns are one of the major domestic sources of dust and sandstorms in southeastern Iran, battering cities such as Zahedan and Zabol.

Dust storms originating from Iraq and Syria have only exacerbated Iran's struggle with the phenomenon. Drying up of rivers and marshlands in the Arab countries is largely blamed on Turkey's large-scale dam projects.

Since 1975, Turkey’s extensive dam and hydropower construction projects have reportedly reduced water flows into Iraq and Syria by approximately 80% and 40% respectively, the independent Australian research institute, Future Directions International, announced.

"We're on good terms with Turkey, so we'll negotiate with them when necessary," Qasemi said.


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