Since 2002, despite Iran’s heavy involvement in Afghan reconstruction projects, the issue of Hirmand has continued to be a source of tension. The dispute has taken a new course since the start of the Khamal Khan Dam project, which would severely affect the amount of water that flows into Sistan Balochistan.Iranian hard-line media has accused “ungrateful” Afghans, “who do not appreciate what Iran has done to help them,” of violating the 1973 agreement. Afghan media quoted “Afghan officials” as saying that Iranian concerns are baseless and that “it is the right of Afghanistan to construct dams on its soil.” Iranians respond that recent drought and the decrease of water flow into Hamoon lake in Sistan Balochistan and subsequent drought in Hamoon have caused massive sand storms that also spread infectious diseases. Iranians also accuse Afghanistan of depriving Iran of Hirmand water in order to irrigate Afghanistan’s poppy crop, the source of heroin that is a scourge for Iranian youth. Water is a collective issue for Afghanistan and its neighbors. Any solution should therefore be multinational. Nations involved in Afghanistan, in particular US-led forces, should avoid politicizing this problem as it is so vital to the future of Afghanistan and the region as a whole. Investment decisions should be based not on efforts to deprive neighboring countries of water but on avoiding waste and improving utilization of resources. Without regional cooperation, Afghanistan will be faced with deeper and unresolvable challenges that will be even more difficult to solve after most international forces leave in 2014.
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