Afghanistan » Economy

Water Management: Problems and the Capacity of Electricity

Published Date: March 8, 2015


In the last thirteen years, more than 4 billion U.S. dollars were spent on electric infrastructure[1]; But, Afghanistan still faces electric load shedding and there is nothing done to solve this problem. Therefore, due to the avalanches in Salang, the electricity cables were cut in Salang valley and Kabul faced lack of electricity for many weeks.

While in many places, Afghanistan has the capacity to produce electricity more than its electric demand; but currently most of its water flows to the neighbouring countries, in addition to electricity, it cannot use it even for agricultural purposes.


The River Basins of Afghanistan:

The water flow in Afghanistan is divided into five river basins:

  1. The Amu Darya river basin
  2. The Helmand river basin
  3. The Kabul river basin
  4. The Harirod-Murghab river basin
  5. The Northern river basin

Afghanistan is a mountainous and landlocked country; it is linked with five out of its six neighbouring countries through water. It is linked to Tajikistan through Amu River basin, while these waters then flows to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with Turkmenistan and Iran through Harirod-Murghab basin, with Iran through Helmand River basin, and with Pakistan through Kabul River basin.

In the following map, you can see the water basins of Afghanistan and its relations with the neighbouring countries:






The upcoming International Politics and Water Based Conflicts:

In the international politics, water can be a reason for cooperation and a reason for rivalry and competition. Therefore, in addition to food and energy security, water security is also an important part of foreign policy of one country.

Afghanistan is a country, which is located between South Asia and Central Asia, so there is the possibility of water-based conflicts in Afghanistan. There is the possibility of water-based conflicts in the Central Asia, Afghanistan and Central Asian countries, especially with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, water-based conflicts with Iran and Pakistan, and water and dam based conflicts between India and Pakistan.


Water-Sharing Agreements with the Neighbouring Countries:

Up to date, Afghanistan had signed only one agreement of water sharing with Iran on the waters of Helmand river basin. The Agreement was signed during Musa Shafeeq and Iranian Raza Shah Pahlavi’s regime.

Yet Afghanistan does not have any other water-sharing agreements, a part from Iran, with its neighbours. This may cause many challenges ahead; because, when Afghanistan decides to make dams on these rivers, which neighbours are somewhat depended on it, may produce an extreme reactions of the neighbouring countries[2]. However, if Afghanistan signs water-sharing agreements with the respective neighbouring countries, water will become the source of cooperation between them instead of source of conflicts.


Water Dams; Benefits and Requirements:

It is said that Afghanistan has the capacity of production more than 22 thousands megawatts of electricity, including the Kunar River that has the capacity of 1,000-megawatt electricity. By making dams inside the country, Afghanistan will not only produce electricity for its own consumptions, but will also be in a position to sell it to the neighbouring countries, like Pakistan, which is faced with electric deficiency. Therefore, Afghanistan will get financial rewards, and it will have then positive impacts on its commerce and economy.

With making dams, most of agricultural lands, which is faced with water shortage, those lands will get water for irrigation purpose, in addition to the increase of agricultural products, and the economy of the people will improve; because half of the country is directly engaged with agriculture.

Meanwhile, building dams will also play an important role in the prevention of natural disasters; for example, it will prevent floods in many areas that cause human and financial losses.


Capacity of Afghanistan’s electricity:

There is a great capacity of electricity in Afghanistan and it can produce more than 22 gig watt. We will here count only the capacity of Kabul River basin, and we will count that how much electricity it can produce.

A research shows that the Kabul river basin can produce a specific amount of electricity:

Name of Dam Capacity by Megawatt Budget needed by Million dollars Timeframe for making
Baghdara Electricity Dam 225 800 Six to seven years
Gulbahar Electricity Dam 120 500 ___
Second Sorobi Electricity Dam ___ 420 Five years
Kunar Electricity Dams;Kunar A (Shaal), Sagai Dam  



220 Eight to ten years
Kama Dam 45 ___ ___
Gamberee Dam 40 ___ ___

For more details read Eng. Mohsen Amin’s article in BBC Pashto website[3]:


The Current Condition of Electricity:

The current condition of electricity in the country is extremely hesitative; because, based on the statement of the ministry of electricity and water, currently Afghanistan needs 3,000 megawatt electricity per year, and only its 6% is produced inside the country and the rest of the electricity is imported from the neighbouring countries, especially Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran. Most of the electricity is imported from Uzbekistan, which is 55% of total import, from Iran 22%, from Tajikistan 7%, and from Turkmenistan 16%[4] .

As Afghanistan imports huge amount of electricity from its neighbouring countries, so it has negative impacts on its overall commerce. Currently Afghanistan spend most of its expenses on importing the mentioned electricity.

There are six million people living in Kabul, which is approximately 20% of the overall population of the country. Meanwhile the number of factories and industries are also in great number at the capital.

Currently Kabul’s demand of electricity is 530 megawatt, and its 260 megawatt is being import from other countries, especially, during winter it is imported from Uzbekistan through Salang tunnel to Kabul. However, these lines of electricity could be easily cut by natural disasters and other incidents.



  • Afghanistan should sign water-sharing agreements with the neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan, because China has given green light for construction of Kunar’s Dam, and the conflict of water sharing will start from this point.
  • As water can be either the source of cooperation or competition and rivalry between countries, but this must become a source of cooperation.
  • The annual water that flows from Afghanistan to its neighbouring countries should be measured and there should be a systematic exchange of data.
  • While signing the agreements with the neighbouring countries, those countries should be charged for the extra water that flows into those countries.
  • While exchanging data with the neighbouring countries the speed of water flow should be technically observed, and they should cooperate with each other in the water observation and management.
  • The water management in Afghanistan should be strengthened, so not only those lands, which are faced with water shortages, will have water, but also other lands, which are un-irrigable, becomes irrigable.
  • The government should pay more attention for construction of dams and production of electricity in various places of the country; so, in addition to the removal of the current challenges of electricity, it will strengthen the commerce and economy of the country.
  • The Government of Afghanistan should encourage private sector to invest in the fields of water and electricity.

The End

[1]Mohsin Amin, Power to the People: how to extend Afghans access to electricity?, Afghanistan Analysts Network, See it online:

[2]Regarding this, sometimes Iran has shown reactions against Salma Dam and Pakistan has shown reactions against Kunar Dam.

[3] Mohsin Amin, da Kabul sind hawzay da brekhna bandona, heelay ao lomreetobona (Dams on Kabul river basin: Hopes and Preferences, BBC Pashto website, see it online:

[4] Have a look to the website of the centre for electricity data of Afghanistan:–2011.pdf





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