Q What is the context ?
- Iran and Afghanistan have been engaged in a prolonged disagreement over the sharing of water from the Helmand River.
- Violent confrontations have occurred in the border region between the two countries in the recent past.
Q What are some key details about Helmand River ?
- The Helmand River is the longest river in Afghanistan, spanning approximately 1,150 kilometers (715 miles) in length.
- It originates near Kabul in the western Hindu Kush mountain range.
- The river flows in a south-westerly direction through desert areas before emptying into Lake Hamun, which straddles the Afghanistan-Iran border.
- Lake Hamun, fed by the Helmand River, is the largest freshwater lake in Iran.
- The Helmand River is a vital water source for both Afghanistan and Iran, supporting agriculture, livelihoods, and ecosystems in the region.
Q What is the issue over Helmand River and Lake Hamun ?
- Afghanistan’s longest river: The Helmand River holds great importance for Afghanistan as it is the country’s longest river, originating near Kabul and flowing through desert areas.
- Iran’s largest freshwater lake: Lake Hamun, located on the Afghanistan-Iran border, is Iran’s largest freshwater lake and has been historically sustained by the Helmand River.
- Drying up due to drought: The Lake has experienced a drastic decline in water levels and has largely dried up, attributed to factors such as drought and the construction of dams and water control infrastructure.
- Economic Importance: Lake Hamun plays a vital role in the regional ecosystem and supports agricultural activities, livelihoods, and economic sectors in the surrounding areas.
Q What are the disagreements between Iran and Afghanistan (Taliban) ?
- Fouling of the 1973 Helmand River Treaty: The agreement signed in 1973 between Iran and Afghanistan to regulate the allocation of river water has not been fully ratified or effectively put into practice.
- Iran accuses Afghanistan of violating water rights: Iran has consistently accused Afghanistan of infringing upon its water rights, claiming that it receives significantly less water than agreed upon in the 1973 treaty.
- Afghanistan blames climatic factors for reduced water flow: Afghanistan has refuted Iran’s allegations, citing climatic factors such as reduced rainfall and diminished river water volumes as the primary causes of the current situation.
- Concerns over Afghanistan’s dam and irrigation projects: Tehran expresses concerns over Afghanistan’s construction of dams, reservoirs, and irrigation systems along the Helmand River, fearing that these initiatives negatively impact water flow into Iran.
Q What is status of Tehran-Taliban Relations ?
- Previous ties between Iran and the Taliban: Prior to the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, Iran maintained diplomatic relations with the group, driven by shared opposition to the presence of US forces in the region.
- Lack of formal recognition of the Taliban government: Despite refraining from formally recognizing the Taliban government, Iran has pragmatically engaged with the ruling group in Afghanistan to protect its interests, including the preservation of Lake Hamun.
- Border clashes since the Taliban’s takeover: Following the Taliban’s rise to power, there have been repeated incidents and clashes along the Iran-Afghanistan border.
Q Why is Taliban furious this time?
- Taliban’s interest in promoting agriculture: The Taliban seeks to prioritize agricultural development, which influences their approach to water management and distribution.
- Tehran’s sudden attention to Sistan-Baluchistan after protests: Following nationwide protests, including Sistan-Baluchistan, Iran’s government has shown increased attention to the region due to its disadvantaged status and reliance on water resources from Lake Hamun.
Q What are the major hurdles in the resolution ?
- Lack of interest: Both Iran and the Taliban show little interest in addressing the mismanagement of water resources and environmental challenges in the region.
- Short-term focus on internal problems: Both Iran and the Taliban prioritize short-term solutions and focus on internal issues rather than actively resolving the water dispute.
Q What is the Current situation in Sistan-Baluchistan ?
- Mounting public anger: The region of Sistan-Baluchistan in eastern Iran experiences growing public anger and frustration, largely driven by water shortages and other economic and social challenges.
- Water shortages and other problems: Sistan-Baluchistan faces severe water shortages, contributing to economic and social difficulties in one of Iran’s poorest areas.
- Setting up an inquiry commission: In an effort to address the recent border clash, Iran and Afghanistan have agreed to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the incident.