South Asia and Beyond

Unease Over Afghan Canal

The Qosh Tepa Canal aims to provide Afghan farmers with sufficient water to cultivate their fields, but it has raised many concerns as it draws water from the already drying Amu Darya River. This poses a direct threat to Uzbekistan, as it will contribute to the aridification of the Aral Sea and its water-reliant cotton industry.

Imagine a canal stretching nearly 300-km through Afghanistan’s trackless deserts, carrying life giving water to irrigate more than half a million hectares of what is now arid land.

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This is what the Qosh Tepa Canal aims to do, starting in Afganistan’s northern Balkh province bordering Uzbekistan, it will draw from the waters of the Amu Darya to turn desert land into fertile farmland, but Uzbekistan is worried that it could end up losing as much as 25% of its share of the Amu Darya at a time when it is already facing water shortage because of climate change, worse still the Amu Darya is also drying.

Work on the Qosh Tepa Canal began last year and reports say 100-km of the canal has already been dug. The Taliban see the canal as an economic opportunity, and while they appear to have given Uzbekistan some assurances they have refused to sign the UN Convention on Protection & Use of Transboundary Watercourses, which would have given Uzbekistan some guarantees.

Uzbekistan has not escalated matters given that it wants stability on the border with Afghanistan, much will depend on how far the Taliban is willing to go in accommodating Uzbekistan’s concerns.


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