Afghanistan is in dire need of new water infrastructure. This has been driven by its rapidly growing population and drought-like weather conditions. The country hasn’t had a decent rainfall and snowfall. India has stepped in to help; investing in the construction of the Shahtoot Dam on the Maidan River which is a tributary of the Kabul River.
Authorities say that the dam is expected to hold about 146 million cubic meters of water. “It will supply water to Kabul’s two million residents, irrigate 4,000 hectares of surrounding land and provide drinking water for Deh Sabz, a new city on the outskirts of Kabul.” The Shahtoot Dam will be operational by 2021.
In the political front, India’s involvement Afghanistan’s ambitious project has the potential to create instability in the wider region. The construction of the dam has fueled fears in Pakistan that it will alter the flow of the Kabul River and reduce the water flows into the country. Pakistan sees New Delhi’s latest gesture as a grand plan to strangle Islamabad’s limited water supply. Moreover, some Pakistanis fear that their country would end up buying electricity from Afghanistan in the near future.
India is involved in Afghan’s other projects as well such as the highway construction and repairing of government buildings that had been damaged in the war. Afghan and New Delhi share a very friendly relationship. Over the years, this tie has grown stronger with India providing refugee status to Afghani people as well as educational scholarships and business opportunities.
According to FP, “since 2001, India has pledged about $2 billion total in development projects in Afghanistan. Most importantly, the world is very much aware of Afghan’s pressing needs. Its wells are drying up. Moreover, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has made water availability via dams a top national priority. The country desperately needs better water infrastructure and water management. Majority of Afghan’s residents are dependent on groundwater sources but this is depleting rapidly.
But then again, Pakistan’s concerns cannot be pushed under the carpet. India has not just assisted in one dam but a total of 12 dams on the Kabul River. And these in total would generate about 1,177 megawatts of power and reduce water flow into Pakistan as a result.
Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, the Pakistan Economy Watch said that Islamabad needs to lessen its dependence on arch-rivals India and Afghanistan for water by constructing dams and water reservoirs. Think tanks in Pakistan are very apprehensive of India breaking the Indus Water Treaty and cutting off all water supplies to Pakistan during a possible conflict.
“Limiting the dependence on enemy nations like India and Afghanistan is fundamental for national security as water is being used as a powerful threat to blackmail Pakistan,” The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) said. Dams will not only guarantee consistent water and security but also diminish dependence on fossil fuels, balancing the energy mix which is profoundly tilted towards oil.
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