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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Using water resources systems analysis to guide transboundary Kabul River water partnership

PI: Hina Lotia (, Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Pakistan
U.S. Partner: Julie Kiang, U.S. Geological Survey; Jerad Bales, Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI); and Robert A. Pietrowsky, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources
Project Dates: February 2017 to January 2020

Project Overview:

Transboundary water resources systems are constrained by complex social, economic, and environmental processes that require decision making in a sophisticated framework involving many stakeholders, who are directly or indirectly affected by those decisions. The transboundary Kabul River Basin is no exception to such challenges, where sensitive geopolitical relationships and an unconventional political order have arrested efforts for any cooperative water resources management system between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Current river basin management is very fragmented and narrow in scope. Decisions are often made without a full appreciation of the cross-sectoral impacts and socioeconomic implications. The aim of this project is to support policy makers in both countries to work towards a benefit-sharing approach for the Kabul River Basin. Development of the case for this approach will be based on scientific analysis supported by a strong stakeholder and public policy engagement process to ensure that the outputs are impactful and reflective of the stakeholders’ aspirations.

A systems modeling approach for optimized water resources management in the Kabul River Basin will be implemented to provide a strong scientific basis for a benefit-sharing regime between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The project will address how natural, social, and environmental drivers combine to impact transboundary water management in the Kabul River Basin. This advances scientific knowledge and technical capabilities in two primary ways:
  1. By developing an enhanced, spatially distributed, glacial hydrology model and coupling it with a water resources systems model. To deal with the data-scarce nature of the study area, model calibration and optimization will account for the various sources of uncertainty by making use of high-performance computing.
  2. By incorporating a feedback mechanism in the coupled-modeling approach where the decision from one agent impacts the decision from the other and vice versa. This allows for a better reflection of real world decision making. Embedding the technical analysis within a comprehensive stakeholder and public policy engagement framework should also improve knowledge accessibility and drive long-term policy action.
Water resources are crucial for the development and economic prosperity of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The transboundary Kabul River Basin presents a strategic opportunity for the neighboring countries to develop a cooperative water resources management framework that can maximize the benefits for both sides. Unfortunately, historical geopolitical tensions and regional dynamics have created an atmosphere of mistrust where both countries are undertaking unilateral policy action on the river basin that will have implications for downstream communities. The project team is a unique interdisciplinary collaboration between international academic institutions, policy research organizations, and government departments, which should help to ensure that their modeling efforts and analysis are grounded in reality and thus more effective and more likely to be adopted by stakeholders.

Overall Project Summary:

This project concluded in early 2020 with a final national workshop entitled "Water beyond Boundaries: Managing Pakistan’s Shared Water Resources" that was held on the 23rd of January 2020 with the aim to bring highlight Pakistan’s transboundary water issues at the national policy level. Overall the project had seven main accomplishments:
  1. Improved scientific evidence base to support the case for a cooperative benefit sharing arrangement for Kabul River Basin
  2. Strengthened linkages among cross-border stakeholders of Kabul River Basin to build trust and confidence for cooperative water resource management
  3. Developed tools for policy discussion and dialogue for stakeholders of Kabul River Basin
  4. Sensitized and built the capacity of local stakeholders for an optimized water resource management framework for Kabul River Basin
  5. Increased awareness, knowledge sharing and demand articulation from stakeholders of Kabul River Basin
  6. Strengthened formal and informal partnerships with national and regional stakeholders to sustain cooperation
  7. Mainstreamed the transboundary water challenges at the national level among government, decision makers, development sector community

Bokhari, S. A. A., Ahmad, B., Ali, J., Ahmad, S., Mushtaq, H., & Rasul, G. (2018). Future Climate Change Projections of the Kabul River Basin Using a Multi-model Ensemble of High-Resolution Statistically Downscaled Data. Earth Systems and Environment, 2(3), 477–497.

Masood, A., Hashmi, M. Z. ur R., & Mushtaq, H. (2018). Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Early Twenty-First Century Areal Changes in the Kabul River Basin Cryosphere. Earth Systems and Environment, 2(3), 563–571.

Hashmi, M. Z. ur R., Masood, A., Mushtaq, H., Bukhari, S. A. A., Ahmad, B., & Tahir, A. A. (2019). Exploring climate change impacts during first half of the 21st century on flow regime of the transboundary Kabul River in the Hindukush region. Journal of Water and Climate Change, 11(4), 1521–1538.

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