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Water Crisis in Afghanistan


It makes up approximately 70 percent of the Earth that we inhabit. You may find yourself
up to the neck in it at any given point, seeing as humans can be composed almost entirely of it.
Water is all around us, and is essential to the ongoing cycle of life. Although water may seem
abundant throughout the Earth and atmosphere; the amount of clean, useable water is an
everyday crisis for some of the drought stricken, less fortunate countries. While the Oceans hold
roughly 97% of the water on Earth, making it saline, humans are left to raise weapons over the
mere 3% we have to use as fresh water. From that 3%, about 70% of that is frozen in the glaciers
and ice caps, making it out of commission too (Fig. 1). It is clear and unfortunate that drinkable
water is a resource that can be hard to come by in certain environments. The aim of this paper is
to depict and examine the impacts of warfare on clean water in Afghanistan, and to identify ways
of alleviating those impacts. There are many factors related to the war that affect Afghans
accessibility to clean water. Dilapidated water infrastructure with little service to the public
results in leakage and contamination of useable water. Streams and canals that were improperly
designed and received substantial destruction result in poor water flow to farmlands. The
constant search for useable water drinks wells dry, making clean water seem like a luxury to the
poorest parts of Afghanistan who rely on groundwater as their only source of water. The
quandary of drought exceedingly cuts into agricultural production, where it was once possible to
farm rain-fed crops without having to worry about the severe lack of water. Introducing and
carrying out new strategies and campaigns to help cope with dehydrated communities is essential
to the recovery of Afghanistans water crisis. Proper infrastructure and legal water distribution
organizations are needed to mitigate some of the affects caused by warfare. When all is boiled
down, the first step in the right direction is to seize to all warfare in Afghanistan.

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To start, three decades of warfare has severely damaged the water infrastructure that
provides irrigation water, as well as water to the people for consumption. Warfare can destroy
just about anything in its path, with violent explosions and gunfire. The water infrastructure in
Afghanistan was ruthlessly battered in the events of the war. Water mains exploding, as well as
holes and cracks in the piping lead to major leaks and contamination. The use of landmines was
attributed to most of the damage done to the infrastructure. Landmines not only disrupt the
irrigation systems by destroying them, but also render the land around the explosions infertile.
All the while, the public has to face the hardships because there is no way to repair the damages
while warfare is present.
Currently, only 30% of the arable land used for agriculture is receiving sufficient
amounts of water to grow their crops. With agriculture contributing to 50% of the nations GDP,
supplying the majority of exports and employing 85% of the workforce, Afghanistan cannot
afford to be wasting or contaminating its water supply.
In relation, the Afghan people rely heavily on the rivers and canals to distribute water.
Right off the bat, these infiltration systems were deficiently engineered. The majority of
Afghanistans water flows down from the Hindu Kush Mountains via rivers and waterways. The
water is stored in the glaciers, and the run-off provides water for surrounding countries. The
downside is the fact that two-thirds of the water flows into neighbouring countries, mainly
Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan. (Fig. 2) Afghanistan is currently working agreements and
negotiating these boundary water issues. The Ministry of Energy and Water documented that
98% of all water diverted from the river and canal systems is used by agriculture, with upwards
of 60% lost to poor on-farm managerial practices and seepage (Schneider, 2011). This is
unacceptable because of the fact that the majority of Afghanistans crops must be irrigated, aside

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from the winter wheat crop. These same irrigation river systems also supply drinking water to
the vast majority of the public for consumption.
The millions of poverty stricken refugees of Afghanistan wanting to return back home
will have to face deficits of having little to no water available, which is most likely contaminated
anyways. These refugees are forced to dig deep wells just to extract water from the ground. This
is a challenge for the poor, who do not have the technology or energy to properly dig these deep,
echoing holes. Creating wells without proper grouting or waste water management leads to
contamination from surface sources. The Afghanistan Geological Survey gathered samples from
92 groundwater and karez sites, as well as 8 surface-water sites (Geological Survey, 2010).
Commonly detected among most of the water samples taken were harmful levels of bacterial
contamination, with values exceeding international drinking standards. Health treatment in
hospitals cannot tend to all of the patients in need of intensive care. For the last six weeks 200300 diarrhoea patients a day, almost all of them children have been visiting our hospital. Head
of a hospital in the northern province of Balkh, Abdula Rawof Ferogh, said on 10 July, 2007
(IRIN, 2007). In the more inhabited areas like Central Kabul, higher concentrations of certain
elements were discovered in the water. These include high levels of chloride, boron, and nitrate
which are all signs that indicate human activity, and in this situation, warfare. Cases of leaky
landfills and waste systems are a prime contributor to the contamination of drinkable water.
Contaminated water can be fatal if consumed by persons with weak immune systems, mainly
young children and elderly people. (Fig. 3)
There are numerous ways of approaching the water crisis in Afghanistan. Looking at
policies and practices to try and mitigate the effects of war is crucial to the sustainability of life
in Afghanistan. First, the government of Afghanistan has to be more active in improving

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irrigation systems. In a town like Tarin Kowt, where 9 of 10 people are farmers, proper irrigation
and storage of water is imperative. The problem is not the amount of water in the region, as it has
the Helmand River running through it (Jawad, 2011). The problem is the absence in managing
the water. Rainfall is plentiful during the winter and spring season, but cannot be stored to
reserve for the dry summer months. Building dams is a great way of storing water, by creating
reservoirs that are copious enough to irrigate thee surrounding land. By constructing such things
as dams and proper canal systems for irrigation, Afghanistan could drastically increase the
efficiency of their water supply resource. So the overall advantage of improving irrigation is
represented by the increase in productivity of agriculture. Afghanistan has the potential to farm
valuable crops for international trade, which in turn would result in a rise the nations GDP. The
downside to this alternative is that it is a very costly renovation. Afghanistan is an
underdeveloped country that has many problems that need to fixed, so government funds are
administered under strict conditions.
Another alternative that has been recently implemented is the improvement of water
infrastructure in local areas. Increasing the availability of clean water to the villages saves the
women and children of Afghanistan tremendous time and hard labour. The National Solidarity
Program has begun building apposite water distribution systems for the villages of Afghanistan.
The investments into rural infrastructure have boosted economic growth in agriculture, as well as
small enterprise developments. Clean water has opened access to significantly better health care
and hygiene. Starting new developments requires workers, which is a great opportunity for the
poor civilians who might not get much work elsewhere. This is also beneficial from the position
of government since the labour is cheap and readily available. The advantages of having quality
water systems are clear; everything functions more soundly with usable water. Health issues

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decline, economic growth inclines, and sustainability of the environment benefits greatly. The
only real disadvantages are involved with the precautions of illegal communities, and making
sure not to fund any illegal processes.
If I were in charge of making the political decisions, I would make investments to
improve the irrigation to the farmlands. By creating dams and digging trenches, the water is
efficiently dispersed to the land which has tremendous potential. Afghanistan loses the majority
of their water as a result of irresponsible management of the mountain runoff and rainfall. This
could be resolved by proper infiltration systems, allowing an adequate supply of water necessary
for agriculture.
In conclusion, the war torn country of Afghanistan is in desperate need of relief
strategies. Investigating the problems and creating solutions to mitigate the effects of war must
be carried out to promote development and economic growth. The government in Afghanistan
has to do a better job of implementing policies and funding practices to improve the overall
quality of life after the war. The water crisis in Afghanistan is restricting any restoration to the
land and communities. So until Afghanistan develops successful means of acquiring and
sanitarily maintaining their water systems, the people of this unfortunate country have to
continue struggling for survival every day.

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References
"Agriculture - Afghanistan: Priorities for Agriculture and Rural Development." World
Bank Group. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. < [URL]
"IRIN Asia | AFGHANISTAN: Contaminated water supplies likely cause of increased
diarrhoea." IRIN humanitarian news and analysis from Africa, Asia and the Middle East
- updated daily. 11 July 2007. < [URL]
Jawad, Ahmad Shah. "Afghanistan Farmers Left High and Dry." Environment News
Service. 18 Aug. 2011.
Schneider, Verne. > "Water." > USGS Projects in Afghanistan. > August 1, 2011. >
[URL]
Survey, Geological. Availability of water in the Kabul Basin, Afghanistan. Reston, Va:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 2010. Print.

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