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

Understanding our joint water-climate change challenge and exploring policy options for cooperation on the Afghan-Pak transboundary Kabul River Basin

PI: Hina Salim Lotia, co-PI: Khalid Mohtadullah (, LEAD Pakistan
U.S. Partner: Amir AghaKouchak, University of California, Irvine
Project Dates: March 2016 - February 2019

Project Overview

Scientific information on water availability/use and climatic impacts in the Kabul river basin is much needed and can provide a foundation for any future discourse on the basin. Augmenting the problem, climate change has inserted a layer of complexity over the already challenging water governance issues (Zhu et al., 2013; Habib et al., 2013; Beekma & Fiddes, 2011). Keeping in mind the scarcity of research in the Kabul River Basin and lack of data in the region, Phase 1 of the project will include a scientific study using remote sensing data to better understand water availability in the basin and the impacts of climate change. In Phase 2 the project team will explore avenues of water-related cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and will propose an integrated basin wide approach for the governance, management and development of the transboundary Kabul river basin waters. The U.S. Government-supported partners will provide remote sensing and GIS data support to supplement available data over the Kabul river basin, offer advice on large basin-level hydrological modeling approaches, mentor graduate students and young researchers involved in the project, and review
and provide quality control to the various project knowledge outputs.

Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have serious governance and security challenges that are impeding their future development and growth prospects. To make matters worse, the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated due to cross-border terrorism, extremism, violence, and a worsening security situation. Both countries also face common issues such as economic growth, food security, energy security, and agriculture productivity, and water is key to achieving meaningful results in all these areas. For both Pakistan and Afghanistan water is vital to the social and economic well-being of population and also for peace and stability in the region. The centrality of water for both countries makes the transboundary Kabul River Basin an extremely important shared resource. It is of utmost importance to study the nature of this valuable resource and explore options where an integrated basin wide approach can be undertaken for its management, governance and development.

Summary of Recent Activities

In the second quarter of 2017, the team drafted a discussion paper, “Prospects for benefit sharing and investigating social, economic and political constraints to cooperation over the transboundary Kabul River basin between Afghanistan and Pakistan” and it is currently in the review phase. The paper explores the prospects of aligning the interests of both Pakistan and Afghanistan to share the benefits of the waters of Kabul River Basin. The outline and methodology for a second discussion paper is being drafted on the topic “Challenges and opportunities for implementing an integrated basin wide approach to the management of Kabul River waters.” LEAD Pakistan show-cased the project at various fora through-out the quarter including the Workshop on Transboundary Water Cooperation in Nepal, National Training on Benefit Sharing in the Indus Basin in Islamabad, PEER Kabul River Basin Forum in Sri Lanka, and other one-to-one meetings and discussions with subject experts, academic institutes, and government officials.

The team's research on both the surface water modeling and future climatic scenarios is also on-going in collaboration with GCISC and PMD with IGIS-NUST students and faculty providing technical support in PMD and GCISC in acquiring the General Circulation Models from IPCC’s CMIP5 model simulations.

One of the persistent challenges faced by the project team is bringing experts and stakeholders from Afghanistan on-board. To address this challenge, the team has engaged various local and regional experts who have worked on the Kabul River Basin and transboundary issues to assist in identifying key stakeholders and experts from Afghanistan. In this regard, the Afghan stakeholders will be involved at various tiers; researchers from academia, subject experts from government and international institutes working on KRB, and organizations in the development sector. Based on various discussions with experts, representatives from US Embassy in Kabul and Islamabad, and USAID mission in Afghanistan, it was suggested that rather than holding the sessions in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a neutral location should be selected to convene stakeholders.

In the next quarter, the team expects to conclude the primary scientific research phase and finalize the first draft of the first two research papers. Subsequent reviews will be carried out by senior researchers both in Pakistan and from the USG-supported partners from University of California, Irvine and NASA to ensure scientific integrity of the research study. Two other policy papers are planned to be authored, pending finalization of the research papers. The papers will expand on the scientific research to feed into the policy discourse under the banner of ‘science-based-policy’. Lastly, the team has begun planning an exposure visit to US and is working with the US partners to finalize the planned activities and agenda.

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