The fears of a security breakdown in Afghanistan boil the larger possibility of an economic collapse. The country’s revenues seem abysmal, and the mismanagement of billions of dollars in aid has turned it entirely dependent on foreign donations and the presence of foreign troops.
With Afghanistan being largely an agricultural country, investment in the water sector should have been a natural priority for sustainable economic development. Yet, that is not the case. In the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, a framework for allocating international aid, water does not figure as a core development sector. Only 5 percent of development has gone into the water sector during the past decade.
The Ministry of Water and Energy says that Afghanistan water resources reaches to 57 billion cubic meters which the most parts of it use by neighboring countries.
Along the Afghanistan’s borders, villagers see their water flow into the neighboring countries without being able to use it for their own local fields. The scarcity of water has led to tensions between tribes and villages.
The ministry if water declared that the continuation of insecurity caused Afghanistan fails to effectively use its water from the construction of dams and other projects.
Officials in the ministry noted that the residents of the country must cooperate with the government in providing the security of water and electricity projects.
“The construction of dams takes long time and in some cases the works have not been done properly and on time. In addition, the main problem is insecurity that cause the projects face a deadlock,” Ali Ahmad Osmani, minister of Water and Energy said.
One of Afghanistan’s missed opportunities in the last decade was its failure to legislate a comprehensive water law. Existing law does not define water rights.
Land owners are also owners of water and landless farmers have no rights to water. The water management institutions are highly ineffective.
The lack of a database of natural resources and the limited ability of the government to collect data is another challenge and a major obstacle to planning and development.
Afghanistan has a population of 29 million, with 79% of the population living in rural areas. Only 27% of its population has access to improved water sources, and it goes down to 20% in rural areas, the lowest percentage in the world.
The numbers get even worse when you look at the percentage of people with access to improved sanitation facilities. With the numbers at 5% nationwide, and only 1% in rural areas, Afghanistan again ranks the worst in the world.
In Kabul, the capital, with a population of 6 million, 80% of the people lack access to safe drinking water, and 95% lack access to improved sanitation facilities.
Analysts say that reaching the safe driniking water is another challenges of Afghanistan residents which the people are suffering from.
Water is a collective issue for Afghanistan and its neighbors. Any solution should therefore be multinational. Nations involved in Afghanistan, in particular US-led forces, should avoid politicizing this problem as it is so vital to the future of Afghanistan and the region as a whole.
Investment decisions should be based not on efforts to deprive neighboring countries of water but on avoiding waste and improving utilization of resources.
Without regional cooperation, Afghanistan will be faced with deeper and unresolvable challenges that will be even more difficult to solve after most international forces leave in 2014.