AKIPRESS.COM – During the summit of leaders of the founding states of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea in Dushanbe, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev raised the issue of the planned launch of the Kosh Tepa canal in Afghanistan, which will take water from the Amu Darya River.
The canal can radically change the water regime and balance in Central Asia. At the same time, Afghanistan does not have any obligations with the Central Asian states regarding water use of the Amu Darya River, the Uzbek president’s press service reported.
“In fact, a new participant in the water use process has appeared in our region, who is not bound with any obligations with our countries. You know well that Afghanistan is actively constructing the canal. Its introduction can radically change the water regime and balance in Central Asia,” President Mirziyoyev noted.
The Uzbek leader considers it necessary to create a joint working group to study all aspects of construction of the Kosh Tepa canal and its impact on the water regime in the Amu Darya, as well as try to establish communication on this matter with Afghanistan.
In response to the statement made by President Mirziyoyev, the head of the Taliban’s Ministry of Water and Energy, Abdul-Latif Mansour, said: “Those who express their concerns should do so on the basis of an agreement, but Afghanistan does not have any water-related agreements with anyone here, and we have never had any agreements in this area. If the agreement is violated, we express our concern. In the current situation, we do not have any agreements with anyone in the Amu Darya basin.”
The Afghan minister also said that the Taliban are ready to discuss the issue of using water from the Amu Darya.
Water resources expert Najibullah Sadid, who previously criticized the Taliban project, said that Kabul has right to use the resources of the Amu Darya River. According to him, the current Afghan authorities own from 27 to 30% of the Amu Darya water resources.
Construction of 8.5 m deep Kosh Tepa canal in Afghanistan became known in March 2023. The length of the new canal should be 285 km. The canal originates from the Amu Darya in Kaldar district, Balkh province. Water will be taken into the canal from the same river. The channel’s capacity will be 650 cubic meters per second.
The project is carried out by the National Development Company, construction is carried out at public expense. The estimated cost of the project is about $684 million. According to the developers, the canal will irrigate 3 million jerib of land (1 jerib – 2000 sq. m) in the provinces of Balkh, Jawzjan and Faryab and provide work for about 250 thousand people. The Taliban believe that the project will help irrigate arid regions, which will give impetus to development of agriculture. Now more than 6 thousand people have been involved in construction of the canal.
At the end of November 2022, the length of the completed section was about 40 km. Completion of the project is scheduled for 2028.
Experts fear when the Kosh Tepa canal is put into operation, the situation with water sharing in the region will sharply worsen amid growing shortage of water in Central Asia.
Downstream Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan may be affected worst. Countries could lose up to 15% of their irrigation water from the region’s main river. But the main consumer of water in Central Asia is Uzbekistan, whose population has reached 36 million people and continues to grow. Moreover, 90% of the water in the republic is used in agriculture.