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Iran unhappy with water right from river shared with Afghanistan

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows a fisherman scouring waters of Hamun Lake in eastern Iranian region of Sistan where locals have complained about declining share of water coming from Helmand River in neighboring Afghanistan.

Iranian Energy Ministry officials have renewed their dissatisfaction over the share of water coming from the Helmand River in Afghanistan, saying Iran’s eastern neighbor should fully observe the terms of a 1973 river-sharing agreement between the two countries.  

Ghasem Taghizadeh, who serves as the top official on water and wastewater issues in the Iranian Energy Ministry, said on Tuesday that the water pouring from Helmand to Iran’s eastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan has not been consistent with agreements reached with Afghanistan in recent years.

“People in Sistan region are thirsty and what has worried us is the failure to receive the water right in the current (water) year,” said Taghizadeh in a meeting of Helmand Water Commissary held in Tehran.

Iran and Afghanistan have renewed efforts to reach a permanent solution on water right from Hirmand, as the river is known on the Iranian side of the border. The two countries commissioned a month-long surveying mission on the river in February as Iran announced plans for construction of precise water right measuring installations on the border.

Iran is entitled to 26 cubic meters per second (850 million cm per year) of water from the Helmand based on a historic treaty signed between governments of the two countries in 1973. However, the share has dwindled in recent years because of excessive use of water for irrigation and dam construction in Afghanistan.

Ahmad Veis Basiri, who represented Afghanistan in the Tuesday water commissary meeting, said that the decline this year in Iran’s water right from Helmand was mainly because of a dry spell that has led to lower precipitation in Afghanistan.

Veis Basiri said talks with Iranian authorities would continue into Wednesday as the two sides seek to reach a decision on the issue.

Iranian Deputy Energy Minister Taghizadeh said, however, that Iran would press the Afghan side for a full allocation of Iran’s water right.

“We would pursue the case of receiving our water right in full and in accordance with the (1973) treaty,” he said.  

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