Iranian team visits Afghanistan amid efforts to resolve water dispute

Iranian team visits Afghanistan amid efforts to resolve water dispute

Dispute revived recently after Iran’s president warned Taliban to give it ‘water rights’

By Syed Zafar Mehdi

TEHRAN, Iran (AA) - A team of experts from Iran has made its first visit to a water measuring station in Deh Ravod town in southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province amid fresh efforts to resolve the water dispute.

Hassan Kazemi Qommi, Iran's ambassador to Kabul and the president's special representative for Afghanistan affairs, said Sunday the team visited the source of the Helmand River for the first time.

He said the team will submit a report following their observations that will help in verifying claims made by the Taliban authorities in Kabul regarding the insufficient flow of water.

Iran has long blamed the decreasing level and volume of water in the Helmand River on the construction of dams on the Afghan side, but the Afghan authorities have dismissed the claims.

In a June meeting with the UN representative in Kabul, Taliban's interim deputy prime minister Maulvi Abdul Kabir said talks are underway between the two sides to resolve the dispute.

According to experts, the water measuring station located in Deh Ravod, southwest of Kabul, measures the amount of water entering the Helmand River, known in Iran as Hirmand.

Iran and Afghanistan share a 900-kilometer (559-mile) border that stretches from Turkmenistan in the north to Pakistan in the south, a largely porous frontier that has been a source of tension between them.

The long-running dispute over shared water resources from the Helmand River, which originates in the Hindu Kush Mountains near Kabul, has been a key bone of contention between the two sides.

The strategic river flows into Iran’s Hamoun wetlands in the Sistan-Baluchestan province and contributes to the livelihood of tens of thousands of people in the border province.

According to a 1973 water-sharing agreement between the two countries, Afghanistan is supposed to allow the passage of an average of 820 million cubic meters of water per annum to Iran.

Qommi recently said only 27 million cubic meters of water reached Iran last year, which makes the Hamoun, the third-largest lake in Iran and the seventh-largest in the world, prone to disaster.

The dispute revived recently after Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi during a visit to Sistan-Baluchestan province on May 18 warned the Taliban authorities to “immediately” give Iran its “water rights”.

He also issued instructions to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Energy to pursue the matter.​​​​​​​

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