Pakistani official warns of ‘hostility’ over Taliban’s Kunar River dam decision

Jan Achakzai, the Minister of Information for Pakistan’s Balochistan province, has declared the Taliban’s “unilateral decision to establish a dam on the Kunar River” as a “hostile act against Pakistan”.

Achakzai stated on X on Sunday that the Taliban is currently engaged in negotiations with an Indian company for the construction of the dam, emphasizing its potential substantial impact on the water flow in the Indus River.

He said that in 2013, both Pakistan and Afghanistan initiated cooperation on a 1,500MW hydropower project on the Kunar River. According to him, significant progress was made towards establishing the Kabul River Basin Management Commission, drawing inspiration from the Indus Waters Commission between Pakistan and India.

The Kunar River, alternatively referred to as the Chitral River, spans a length of 480 kilometers, coursing through northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Its source lies just south of the Hindu Kush Mountains, situated in the northern region of Badakhshan. Flowing southward, the river eventually converges with the Kabul River in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province. Nourished by the melting glaciers and snow from the Hindu Kush mountains, the Kunar River serves as a significant tributary to the Kabul River, itself a contributing tributary to the mighty Indus River.

Achakzai warned, “If the Afghan Taliban proceeds with this dam without involving Pakistan, it will have severe consequences, escalating tensions and potential conflict.”

Highlighting the Taliban’s activities in the north, he mentioned efforts to divert the Amu River water, causing concerns in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan due to water shortages. Achakzai argued, “Both countries are facing extensive water shortages, and the Amu Darya River cannot afford to lose the 10 billion cubic meters that Qosh Tepa will divert.”

On December 10, the Taliban-run Ministry of Water and Energy announced plans to build a dam on the Kunar River in the near future. The ministry specified that the dam would have a capacity to produce 45 megawatts of electricity and irrigate 34,000 hectares of agricultural land.

The Taliban’s Ministry asserted that the management of Afghanistan’s internal waters is a fundamental right of the Afghan people, emphasizing the need for large financial donors in the country for effective water management.