Dirty, dilapidated Kabul river – threat to millions in Afghanistan, Pakistan
On the last day of April 2022, the Kabul River was still flowing from Afghanistan to Pakistan, but only. On that day, the major tributary of the Indus supplied 16,700 cubic feet per second (cusec) of water to the Indus river system, compared to the 10-year average of 41,200 cusecs as of April 30.
Despite the potentially harmful effects on crops, authorities in Pakistan block water in dams to generate electricity instead of releasing it into irrigation canals.
Over the past two winters, the upper reaches of the Kabul River Basin have been dry with below average snowfall and reports of falling water levels (data on Kabul River flow not available).
About 20 million people in Afghanistan and Pakistan depend on the Kabul River for drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, livelihood and recreational activities. An analysis of hydrological data found that the average discharge of water in the Kabul River basin declined by 4.6% between 1950 and 2018.
What can the Kabul River Treaty achieve as water levels change?
Nasir Ghafoor, chief engineer for development in the irrigation department in the state government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said an agreement on shared rivers between Pakistan and Afghanistan would secure the water rights of the two countries. (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the province where the Kabul River enters Pakistan.)
Having the agreement would mean that the current distribution of water will continue as water levels rise or fall due to climate change in the future.
Ghafoor said: “It will not affect or reduce the flow of water into Pakistan or reduce the share of Afghanistan. Pakistan will get what it is getting now and Afghanistan will be able to achieve to the best of its ability.
For example, he said, of the 100 million acre-feet of water flowing into the river, “Pakistan is using 60% and Afghanistan 40%, so in case of a treaty both countries will get the same amount of water.”
However, “if there is no agreement, Afghanistan could store maximum water and deal a huge blow to Kharif and Rabi crops. [crops sown
during the winter and rainy seasons] In Pakistan, which will be very harmful for Pakistan with agrarian economy.
Kabul river has become sewer
The little water that was flowing in the Kabul river at the end of April was dirty. Wastewater from the capital of Afghanistan goes untreated into the Kabul River.
The situation in downstream Pakistan is no better. Industrial wastewater and domestic sewage flow into the river from about 10 cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The province’s 2002 River Conservation Ordinance states: “No person shall, directly or indirectly, dump any solid waste or hazardous waste or other excess substances into rivers or their tributaries specified and notified by the Government.”
Officials told The Third Pole that there are no functioning wastewater treatment plants in either Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or its capital Peshawar.
In 2018, the Pakistan Council for Water Resources Research (PCRWR) assessed the quality of drinking water sources along the Kabul River, including domestic borewells, open wells, tube wells and hand pumps.
PCRWR found most of the water sources of Kabul river unsafe for drinking. The report said that the river water was similar in quality to the drain water, with chemical oxygen demand (COD) at 170 mg/l and biological oxygen demand (BOD) at 98 mg/l. This is beyond the permissible limits prescribed for municipal and liquid wastes in Pakistan’s National Environmental Quality Standards, which prescribe a COD of 150 mg/l for inland water and a BOD of 80 mg/l. There is no recent official research available on water quality.
A senior official in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s local government elections and rural development department, requesting anonymity, told The Third Poll that the late 1990s was due to mismanagement, poor planning, lack of funds and high costs of maintenance. Attempts to set up the plant failed. sewerage system.
In 2014 and 2019, masterplans were drafted proposing to restore existing plants and install new ones. Jehangir Khan, an engineer and project manager at Peshawar’s Water and Sanitation Services, said the high cost of land, treatment machinery and operation and maintenance expenses have prevented the plants from being put into operation. Work is currently underway on a waste water treatment plant.
Khan said urbanization has linked rain and wastewater drainage systems throughout the province. “This system has made it more difficult for the government to set up such projects as it is very difficult to treat water especially in case of heavy rains,” he said.
Health effects are not monitored
“Uncontrolled contamination has turned the river into a sewer, posing a serious health hazard,” said Farah Zaidi, a zoologist at Peshawar University. Along with the pollution that has crippled the river’s ecology and food chain, they pointed to the increased risk faced by women, as they use the river to wash clothes and utensils and drink water from unsafe sources beside the river. Do it for
She said she was not aware of any data on the impact of consuming Kabul river water on human health. He said, “The government should not drag its feet to conduct extensive surveys or laboratory tests, collect data on hepatitis, kidney, liver, respiratory diseases, especially people living along river banks and consuming this water. ” Calls for in-depth survey and research on environmental hazards.
Zaigham Hassan, who researches fisheries and freshwater biology at Peshawar University, said native fish populations are under severe stress due to pollution and are rapidly declining. “We hardly get some Rohu fishes [a species of carp found in South Asia] for lab testing, while the size of Lion Mahi [an indigenous fish] is on the decline. Meanwhile, non-native fish like tilapia are on the rise.”
Hassan said that the waste water should be treated to improve the quality of the river water.
This article was originally published on The Third Pole and is reproduced with permission.