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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Enhanced engagement in research on the Kabul River basin (EKaRB)

PI: Muhammad Azeem Ali Shah (, International Water Management Institute
U.S. Partner: Lauren Hay, United States Geological survey
Project Dates: November 2015 - October 2018

Project Overview

The Indus river system originates in the Himalayas in northern Pakistan, flows across three provinces, and meets the Arabian Sea at its southern end. It has many tributaries that contribute to its flow, and one of its most important is the Kabul River system, which contributes almost 19 MAF of water at Attock annually (IUCN, 2013). Historical data from 1937 through 2008 show a considerable decrease in annual flows in the Kabul river system, from 28 to 19 MAF. The possible reasons could be climatic variability, persistent drought, or enhanced use of water in Afghanistan. The Kabul river basin (KRB) has its unique geographical importance as it originates from Pakistan, enters Afghanistan and then comes back to Pakistan. In that sense Pakistan and Afghanistan are both upper and lower riparian states. Its tributaries—namely Bara, Konar, and Swat—originate in Pakistan. These contribute to the flows of KRB, which covers 348 miles in Afghanistan and then enters Pakistan to join the Indus River at Attock. It is in the interest of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to have evidence-based knowledge on the variability in flows of KRB and future impacts of climate change.

The lead institute on this project, IMWI, has partnered with the National Centre of Excellence in Geology in Peshawar, with the U.S. Government-supported partner being the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In addition, IWMI has made contacts with the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water, which has shown keen interest in the project idea has indicated that Kabul University may become involved. The project researchers will investigate the impact of climate change on the highly varying flows of KRB, where the ratio between lowest and highest annual flows is 1:3 (IUCN, 2013). Afghanistan has planned multiple storage facilities on KRB for irrigation and power generation purposes, and these will directly impact supplies of water to the Indus river basin. This could result in potential transboundary water conflicts in the absence of any treaty between the two riparian states. In order to facilitate any meaningful negotiation between the two states, the first step is to develop a scientific repository of evidence based research on KRB that provides insights into future water resource development scenarios in Afghanistan with and without climate change impacts. Pakistan’s economy is heavily dependent on its agricultural produce, with about 70% of its population earning a living through agriculture. Because surface water from rivers is a key input to agriculture, any uncertainty in future water supplies will directly affect the economy of Pakistan and increase poverty. On the Afghan side, the project aims to contribute to the important goal of sustainable agriculture-led economic growth. This will be achieved by informing Afghan policy makers through the dissemination of project findings about the impact of climate change on the variability of flows in KRB and the need to adapt to the changing climate patterns.

Summary of Recent Activities

4-255 National Media Dialogue
Participants of a national media dialogue event wherein media outlets were introduced to the project and its impact (photo courtesy of Azeem Shah).
In the spring of 2017, the project team’s work on the WEAP model development continued. The team has run the model to see initial results and is now working on to develop various "what if" scenarios to help policy makers in their planning. There are still difficulties in acquiring groundwater data on the Afghanistan side as well as the data on reservoirs (i.e. reservoir operating rules, area elevation curves, design parameters etc.). The provision of this data will further refine the model outputs and the team recently made new connections on the Afghan side in the hope of leveraging them for the acquisition of the data.
The Kabul River Basin Geodatabase was made online available at the end of this quarter. This is a valuable resource with a huge repository of GIS data which is available open source to all the researchers and policy makers. It can be accessed through the link below.

The work on the legal analysis of the Kabul River Basin was conducted during this quarter. A draft manuscript is ready and the target is to submit it for possible publication during the third quarter. This will be an important reference for the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan if they wish to engage in a bilateral treaty on Kabul River Basin.

The plan for the coming quarter is to complete the WEAP model with all the scenarios. This is contingent on the availability of required data for some of the scenarios. Additional work on the draft of legal analysis of Kabul River Basin will be carried out to be ready for submission in a reputed journal and a review draft on the Kabul River Basin will also be submitted to a journal for possible publication. The manuscript on rainfall runoff modeling results for Kabul River Basin incorporating climate change scenarios will also be completed for possible publication in a scientific journal.

Kabul River Basin Database

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