The Taliban regime unveiled a plan on March 31, 2022, to build a sizable canal in Afghanistan’s north. Construction of the Qosh Tepa canal, which originates from the Amu Darya, is taking place in Balkh province. In a new YouTube video, bulldozers rumble across sand dunes while coworkers of many ethnic backgrounds cooperate. According to the Taliban regime, more than 3,300 units of machinery are used continuously by 5,500 workers on the project. After it is finished, the Qosh Tepa Canal will use Amu Darya River water to supply irrigation. One of the longest rivers in Central Asia, previously called Oxus was once named, and it begins in Afghanistan and Tajikistan before emptying in Uzbekistan.
According to the Taliban, 550,000 hectares of the desert will be converted into much-needed farmland. 7 km³of water from the Amu Darya basin has so far been delivered to Afghanistan. Now, it is planned to get 17 km³. Consequently, Uzbekistan’s supply will decline by 10% to 15%. Tajikistan may not notice the decline in the main water supply, but Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan will. In the worst-case scenario, the lower half of the river’s Karakalpakstan and Khorezm will suffer badly. The availability of water in Uzbekistan is dwindling as a result of climate change and widespread drought. Climate change is causing Uzbekistan to lose 15% of its water, and if the canal causes it to lose another 10%, Uzbekistan would lose 25% of its water.
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There is speculation about using water as a political tool because it is the issue of the future, as many experts say. The “Global Water Intelligence” magazine claims that the money made in the water market in a single year is comparable to the sum used for military expenditures. In this regard, Uzbekistan fears that the Taliban regime may attempt to politically sway Uzbekistan by exploiting the water issue.
Since Afghanistan is now under one government for the first time in 40 years, Uzbekistan wishes to keep peace with and within Afghanistan. Uzbekistan is currently in a difficult situation regarding its diplomatic relations with Afghanistan due of its own interests. But, according to international law, Afghanistan is allowed to use the water from Amu Darya. The canal construction cannot be stopped with Uzbekistan’s veto and no country in the area wants to fight the Taliban, yet due to its interests, Uzbekistan cannot remain neutral. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are anticipated to discuss this with the Taliban. There is a UN Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and certain experts now want Afghanistan to be a part of the convention. However, the Taliban oppose the Transboundary Water Agreement. So, bringing the Taliban to the table would be a challenging undertaking for Uzbekistan.
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