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The News

Published Date: May 16, 2011


Islamabad will share with Washington its concerns over the Karzai administration’s plan to build 13 hydropower projects on the Kabul River and will also seek help in inking a water treaty with Afghanistan to ensure the water rights of the low riparian country, The News has learnt.

“These burning issues will be taken up in a Pak-US strategic dialogue scheduled for May 21-22 in Islamabad,” official sources confirmed. “Earlier, the Pak-US dialogue was planned at a ministerial level and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was also due in Islamabad but because of tensions in the wake of the get-Osama operation, she has reportedly postponed her visit.”

“Now the Pak-US strategic dialogue will be held on a working group level only on water and security issues,” sources said. “The US may also announce a substantial amount of $100-200 million for the Diamer-Bhasha dam.”

Sources said in a meeting of the board of directors of ADB recently held in Hanoi, the US disclosed informing India about its intention to provide Pakistan funds for Diamer-Bhasha dam, since New Delhi argues the dam is being constructed on disputed territory.

“We have received very good feedback of the Hanoi meeting and if US announces reasonable funding for the Bhahsa dam, the World Bank, which earlier refused to fund the project because of opposition from India, may also change its mind,” the insider said. “The ADB has already committed to providing $5 billion for the project and after the US shows willingness, other donor agencies will also follow.”

On water issues with Kabul, sources said Indian experts are extending help to Afghanistan build 13 dams on the Kabul River with total water storage capacity of 4.7 Million Acre Feet (MAF) which is 25% more than that of Mangla Dam. Pakistan’s irrigation system will be adversely impacted by these projects, experts say.

Sources explain Pakistan gets a crucial 16-17 percent water supply from the Kabul River when the Indus River sleeps during the winter season. Pakistan and Afghanistan currently share nine rivers with annual flows of about 18.3 million acres of feet (MAF). Out of this, the Kabul River possesses water flows of 16.5 MAF, to which River Chitral, originating from Pakistan, contributes about 8.5 MAF.

After entering Afghanistan, the Chitral River becomes the River Kunar, joins the Kabul river near Jalalabad and then re-enters Pakistan.

“Earlier, Pakistan did bring Afghanistan to the negotiating table with the intervention of the US to help chalk out some mechanism to ensure a win-win situation for both the countries. Pakistan wants to ensure existing water inflows in Kabul River even if Afghanistan builds its dams,” said an expert. “Islamabad also wants the assurance that in the future, Kabul will not initiate any schemes which lead to increase in water storages of the proposed hydropower projects. In this regard, the US is keen to facilitate a water treaty fearing future water disputes.”

Afghanistan claims it has so far not been able to start negotiations for the water treaty because the Kabul administration is working to frame its own National Water Policy and it is not possible to initiate talks with anyone until that policy is complete.

Authorities in Pakistan also want a role in the joint study of the water basin of Afghanistan to assess the water flow and chalk out a plan that would be helpful for Pakistan’s water uses and allow the two countries to come up with a framework that suits both. Sources said Pakistan wants to be involved, along with Afghanistan and the World Bank, in meaningful technical assessment of the basins.

On the Kabul river in Punjshir sub-basin, 4 hydropower projects will be constructed including the $332 million Totumdara project which will generate 200 MW and have water storage capacity of 332,510 acres feet; the $1.174b Barak project with capacity to generate 100 MW and capacity to store water of 429,830 acres feet; the $1.078 billion Panjshir project of 100 MW with capacity to store 1,054,300 acres feet; and the $607 million Baghdara project of 210 MW with capacity to store 324,400 acres feet of water.

In the Logar Upper Kabul sub-basin on the Kabul river, India plans to build four more dams which include the $72 million Haijana project of 72 MW with water storage capacity of 178,420 acres feet; the $207 million Kajab of 15 MW with storage capacity of 324,400 acres feet; the $356 million Tangi Wadag of 56 MW with capacity to store water of 283,850 acres feet; and $51m Gat project of 86 MW with storage capacity of 405,500 acres feet.

In the Lower Kabul sub-basin, there will be more 4 dams including the $442 million Sarobi project of 210 MW with capacity to store 324,400 acres feet of water; $1.434 billion Laghman project of 1251 MW with storage capacity of 233,568 acres feet; and $1.094 billion Konar (A) of 94.8 MW and Kama project of 11.5 MW electricity.