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Iranian envoy hopes for settlement of Afghan water dispute this year

Helmand River

Iran's special envoy on Afghanistan affairs says government departments are pursuing the country’s water rights from the Helmand River in Afghanistan (also known as Hirmand), expressing hope that the long-running dispute between the two neighbors will be settled this year.

Speaking during a TV program on Monday, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi urged the ruling administration in Afghanistan to implement the 1973 Helmand River Treaty.

“The issue of the treaty is a legal issue, to which the Afghan government is committed and declared its adherence. It must also implement the treaty,” the special envoy said.

“The Islamic Republic’s government departments, specifically the Foreign Ministry, are following up on the people’s rights. I hope that this year the issue will be resolved.”

The Helmand River, the longest water course in Afghanistan, rises in the Hindu Kush Mountains west of Kabul and flows in an arc southwest until it empties out into the Hamoun wetlands, located in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province.

Following more than a century of rifts over Helmand’s water supply, Iran and Afghanistan signed the 1973 treaty, which established a means of regulating each country’s use of the river.

Iran should receive an annual share of 820 million cubic meters from Helmand under the accord, which Afghanistan has grossly violated in letter and spirit.

Afghanistan has largely cut off the Helmand’s flow into Iran, endangering the lives of many Iranians who rely on Hamoun wetlands for drinking water, agriculture, and fishing.

Afghanistan has further built dams on the Helmand which have constricted water flow into Iran.

Kazemi-Qomi said that last year, the amount of water that reached Iran was only 27 million cubic meters, compared to the 820 million cubic meters the country is entitled to.

Farmers from the Afghan provinces of Nimruz, Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul have been holding protests over water issues, he added.

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