A research by Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies shows that water level has dropped by 50 percent in Harirod River water zones, affecting many areas around the river in Herat province in the west of Afghanistan.
Experts who have worked on the research said excessive use of water by neighboring Iran is a key element to drop in water levels in the river.
The research titled Review of Harirod Water Basin indicates that Iran has established 28 dams along the Harirod River, one dam is under construction, and studies are ongoing to establish 11 other dams by using the Harirod water while Afghanistan has only one dam along the river.
The river is flowing 1,100 kilometers from the mountains of central Afghanistan to Turkmenistan, where it forms the Tejend oasis and disappears in the Karakum Desert. In Turkmenistan, it is known as the Tejen or Tedzhen river and passes close to the city of Tedzhen.
The river originates in the Baba mountain range, part of the Hindu Kush system, and follows a relatively straight course to the west. Still some 200 kilometers upstream from Herat the river meets the Jam River at the site of the Minaret of Jam, the second tallest ancient minaret in the world at 65 meters.
“The one who has the history of using the water has the priority. Historical articles about Harirod River show that Herat deserts were the first areas where the Harirod water was used and it continues until now,” said Sayed Ali Hussaini, an AISS researcher.
“If we do not build a national authority, neither we will be owning our water neither our country nor we will be able to bargain about it in [international] negotiations. This is one of the problems we face practically while we don’t have a simple solution to the problem,” said Najib Aqa Fahim, Minister of State for Disaster Management.
The research shows that with the expansion of the agriculture sector in Iran, the utilization of water from the Harirod basin has significantly increased while Afghanistan faces severe drought along the basin.
But, from the legal perspective, the Harirod River water zone is one of the fourth stressful rivers in the world, the study shows.
“This is an invisible crisis which we see today. It will destroy the things in ten years and several regions of the world have already been eliminated because of lack of water,” said Ali Ahmad Osmani, former Minister of Energy and Water.
Based on statistics by Ministry of Energy and Water, Afghanistan’s water resources have declined to 49 billion cubic meters from 57 billion cubic meters due to climate change in the last 40 years, which shows a 14 percent decline.