EghtesadOnline: Iran and Afghanistan signed an agreement in Zabol in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province on Tuesday to reconfirm Iran’s full share of water from Hirmand (aka Helmand) River after half a century, head of the Energy Ministry’s Department of Border Rivers and Joint Water Resources said.
The deal was signed between Abbas-Ali Arjomandi, Sistan's governor general and Naim-Allah Salarzi, Afghan deputy commissioner of Helmand River.
“The two sides agreed that in three months advanced measuring instruments should be installed on the river for regular monitoring and efficient implementation of the 1973 mutual water treaty signed between Amir-Abbas Hoveyda and Mohammad Musa Shafiq then-prime ministers in Iran and Afghanistan,” IRNA quoted Isa Bozorgzadeh as saying.
The two sides noted that the plan on sharing the river should be drawn up a way that the two nations, mainly residents of Sistan and Baluchistan Province in Iran and Nimruz Province in Afghanistan, benefit, he said.
“Engineers from the two sides have one month to prepare the river’s topography maps based on which Iran will install its water intake screening systems on the river to measure how much water flows into the country,” Bozorgzadeh said.
Negotiations centered on resolving disputes over the water share set in the 1973 deal. “According to the treaty, Iran's share is 22 cubic meters per second, but they (Afghans) are in breach in the past several years,” he said, and expressed the hope that the measuring instruments will put an end to the border water issue.
The new deal notes that Iran cannot claim water from Helmand “in excess of the volume specified in the treaty, even if additional water is available in river’s lower delta.”
As per the 1973 deal, Afghans are obliged to make sure a specific amount of water flows into Iran. They also should not restrict Iran's share of the joint basin under any condition. Most of the articles of the agreement have been respected by Kabul in the breach.
The disastrous outcome is that in the past two decades the part of the river inside Iran is dry for almost 10 months in a year.
Helmand River — the longest watercourse in Afghanistan — rises in the Hindu Kush mountains west of Kabul and empties into the Hamoun wetlands that straddle the border between the two countries, seeping into Sistan-Baluchestan and Nimruz provinces.
Prior to the construction of dams on the river, nine billion cubic meters of water flowed into the Hamoun wetlands in Sistan- Baluchestan per annum. Now that has declined to less than 820 million cubic meters, Iran’s Energy Ministry data show. Over the past year, Afghanistan has blocked the flow from Hirmand into Iran.
According to Bozorgzadeh, Iran's declared policy concerning trans-border rivers and shared water resources is to interact with neighbors within the framework of bilateral agreements and build technical and diplomatic cooperation.
“We have accords with all neighbors on shared water and regular meetings have been held between joint committees to resolve the problems.”
Iran is home to an extended network of rivers, most of which originate in the rugged mountain regions and flow into interior basins. Nineteen rivers run along Iran's international boundaries and the country shares these with six neighbors.
“Agreements on water rights of border rivers, have been signed between Iran and Afghanistan (Hirmand River), Azerbaijan and Armenia (Aras River), Turkmenistan (14 rivers including Harir, Atrek and Sumbar), Turkey (Karasu and Sarisu rivers), and Iraq (Arvand River),” Bozorgzadeh said.
Ensuring a fair share of border water has been one of the key issues on which Tehran has strived to collaborate and pool minds with the six neighbors.