Afghanistan, Transboundary Waters, and Security

Water knows no boundaries. It does not respect human borders. What, then, does it mean when water flows out of one country to another?

The question sparked my interest in transboundary water issues in Afghanistan, a landlocked, mountainous country with several rivers flowing out of its borders, exacerbating national water access and management issues.

The idea was fueled by my interest in security studies as a possible dissertation topic for my undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College (immensely grateful to the guidance of Prof. Kavita Khory and Prof. Sohail Hashmi during my time at MHC). I revisited the topic as national and transboundary tensions regarding water management and sharing heightened in Afghanistan. The intention was to contribute — even if preliminary and despite data limitations— to a field neglected because of decades of war and the constant struggle for survival in face of violence and terror. The research was published in August 2017 in the form of a book: Water, Management, and Cooperation: A brief look at Afghanistan’s water resources, challenges, and approaches.

The book focuses on national and transboundary water issues as the concept of security evolves to more than the traditional discourse.

I look into:

1) Water in Afghanistan: resources, current state, and historical and current transboundary relations

2) Water security in terms of national, regional, and international security: Hydropolitics, human security, state security, and environmental security

3) Water in international law: The nation-state, transboundary waters, and water rights

4) Diplomacy and policymaking for water management and sharing: Approaches

By contextualizing water in the four sections above, I argue for regional cooperation and collaborative policymaking, with special emphasis on Afghan water rights as the neglected upstream riparian. I conclude that understanding the interconnected nature of security — particularly environmental security — can help diminish severe environmental challenges in the future of the drought-prone region.

The book, published in Farsi by Aazem Publication House, is available in bookstores throughout Afghanistan.

Water, Management, and Cooperation — Mariam Hotaki

*Correction for a typo on page 99: force majeure.