Jul 23, 2022 3 min read

Afghanistan: The twin challenge of climate and conflict


This week, we’ll talk about Afghanistan. We have a Q&A and a story by Sanaullah Salam, who is a water management specialist from Afghanistan, currently studying at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands. Let’s dive in.

The Dahla Dam in Kandahar Province, southern Afghanistan. Photo: Mark Ray

The twin challenge of climate and conflict

When it comes to Afghanistan global attention is only on its volatile political environment. However, what we fail to see is the fact that this beautiful country with its rocky terrain and tall mountains is witnessing perceptible impacts of climate change.

With the rising temperature, the region is not only having less snow but also experiencing harsh heat waves. This is also impacting the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on agriculture.

Lesser snow also means lesser water from snowmelt. This is leading to conflict over water and natural resources, adding to the misery of people in a nation already torn by conflicts and brutality.

One of the many ways to conserve water is by raising the heights of dams. In 2019, the erstwhile government of Afghanistan decided to increase the height of Dahla dam, located in the north of Kandahar region, to help solve the water issues. Under the Taliban regime, most of the development projects are now at a halt, including the Dahla project.

However, is raising the height of dams at all the solution to the problem at hand in the region?

Sanaullah Salam argues that the optimum solution to the problem of water in the country is through nature-based watershed management. In this issue, he discusses how Afghanistan is in the face of a climate crisis and why a nature-based watershed programme is the need of the hour.

Sanaullah Salam

Let’s talk about water

Q&A with Sanaullah Salam

Which is your favourite book? The one you fondly remember.

As far as I remember, Sirut-Un-Nabi was the first book that I loved to read with deep focus.

What drives you to work as a water manager in Afghanistan?

The majority of Afghans can’t put two times meals on the table. They don’t have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. The lack of basic water-related necessities always pushed me to work in the water management sector.

What’s the most insightful thing you’ve read about water this month?

A water scarce country is not meant to be water insecure i.e. Israel. It’s more about the management rather than the availability of resources itself.

The twin crises of extreme heat and flash floods are becoming more common in South Asia with climate changes, but the public knowledge about it is limited. What have you learned from local citizens?

No matter how successful the strategy is, it will be difficult to achieve the desired outcome of any planned program without local cooperation.

You’re studying at the institute for water education IHE Delft. What have you picked up from your colleagues in the Netherlands in terms of mitigating the impact of climate change on water-related issues?

Among students, the recent catastrophic weather events are widely believed to be the result of human-induced climate change. Since Nature-based Solutions is not usually linked to adverse environmental effects, they often prioritize for preventative actions.

What’s your one tip (that doesn’t get discussed enough) for young water managers?

A shift from a sector-specific approach to an integrated and holistic strategy i.e. Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM).

Story of the Week

Dahla Dam – increasing the height vs nature-based watershed management

Dahla Dam – increasing the height vs nature-based watershed management

While the proposal to increase the height of Afghanistan’s Dahla Dam will increase the storage capacity, only nature-based watershed management will address the root problem of sedimentation that caused the reduction in the reservoir’s capacity, and prevent flooding that is exacerbated by climate change.

Wrap up

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See you next time,


Joep Janssen
Joep Janssen
Founder and editor-in-chief Nextblue
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