Transboundary water sharing policy between Pakistan and Afghanistan along with emerging issues over the Transboundary Kabul River have been discussed incorporating long-term hydrological trend analysis, water quality issues and temporal changes in land cover/land use. The annual (1977–2015) mean river flow of 26.32 billion (109) cubic metres (BCM) with a range of 13.77 to 42.2 BCM and standard deviation of 6.026 BCM revealed no significant trend in annual inflow data of the Kabul River. Afghanistan planned developments in the basin were analysed in the light of reduction in the transboundary flow. Faecal coliforms, pH (7.90 to 8.06), Escherichia coli and other water quality parameters were found to be within permissible limits, however, dissolved oxygen was just above the permissible limits to sustain aquatic life. Water was found unsuitable for drinking while suitable for agriculture and aquatic life. Remote sensing data used for temporal change detection showed an increase in built-up-areas and cultivated areas along Kabul River inside Pakistan by 50 and 47%, respectively. Significant changes were observed at two locations in the river course. Insights of emerging Kabul River issues and a way forward have been discussed which could serve as the basis for formulation of adaption strategies leading to a ‘Kabul River Water Treaty’.

Introduction

Transboundary water conflicts are on the rise among neighbouring countries of Central and South Asian regions due to increase in water demand and exponential growth in population. Climatic change and environmental degradation have further increased the pressure on water resources (Al-Faraj & Al-Dabbagh, 2015). Besides all the advancements of the 21st century, water planning and management remains a challenge for the stakeholders (Sivakumar, 2011). Water stress has taken the shape of a real threat especially in the arid and semi-arid countries, like Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, etc., which are already facing water and food shortages. Pakistan, being a lower riparian state, receives waters from India (eastern neighbour) through Indus, Chenab and Jhelum Rivers and from Afghanistan (western neighbour) through Kabul River. This makes the state highly vulnerable to water stress due to lack of control of its waters required for irrigation of vast areas of the country (Punjab and Sind) for food, and fibre production. Irrigated agriculture, being the backbone of Pakistan's economy, is largely dependent on the water of transboundary rivers. Increasing population, decreasing water flows due to climate change and excessive silting of storage reservoirs are resulting in declining per capita water availability in Pakistan from 5,650 cubic metres (cum) in 1951 to 1,000 cum in 2012 (Yaseen et al., 2015). Also, cultivated areas in the world are likely to be increased by 15 to 22% by 2025 putting extra pressure on water resources due to irrigation (Valipour, 2015b). During the last two decades, fresh water resources of Pakistan have been depleting at a fast rate.

The Kabul River Basin is located in eastern Afghanistan, neighbouring the Pakistan border. Much of the discharge of Kabul River results from the melting snow accumulated during the winter season in the Hindu Kush Mountains and runoff generated in the early summers (Lashkaripour & Hussaini, 2008). The Kabul River Basin has five major catchments covering a total area of 76,908 km2 out of which 14,000 km2 of the upstream sub-catchments is in Pakistan while a 62,908 km2 area is in Afghanistan (Ahmadullah & Dongshik, 2015). It irrigates an area of 3,060 km2 in Afghanistan (Favre et al., 2004). Being an important transboundary river, Pakistan has constructed Warsak Dam (the only large dam) on the main Kabul River irrigating three districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, i.e. Peshawar, Charsadda and Nowshera. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 44% of the total cultivable land is under irrigation out of which 16.92% is irrigated through Kabul River (Nafees et al., 2016).

The Government of Afghanistan has evolved comprehensive plans for future developments in Kabul River Basin in irrigation, fishing and the hydropower sector with the help of international support. Major planned hydrological developments include Konar A Power and Irrigation Project (installed capacity of 336 megawatt (MW) and live storage of 1,010 million cubic metres (MCM)), Barak Power and Irrigation Project (installed capacity of 100 MW and live storage of 390 MCM), Baghdara Power and Irrigation Project (installed capacity of 210 MW and live storage of 330 MCM), Panjshir I Power and Irrigation Project (installed capacity of 100 MW and live storage of 1,130 MCM) and Gat Irrigation Project (live storage capacity of 440 MCM) (World Bank, 2010). Such developments will not only affect the Kabul River inflow into Pakistan but could eventually trigger tensions, especially given the decades-long, still unresolved, border dispute between the two countries (Renner, 2010). Water Pollution is a harm that is generally inflicted by upstream states on downstream states, given that it takes the course of the water flow (Leb, 2012). Industrialization, return of refugees to Afghanistan and growing population in Kabul River Basin is also raising concerns about water quality regarding safe disposal of wastewater and effluent. Quantitative assessment of hydrological developments by Afghanistan in Kabul River Basin is necessary to understand the emerging issues related to water quantity, quality and future water resource planning.

In the previous studies, the papers dealing with the statistical/scientific hydrological analysis do not infer consideration on the policy issues and vice versa. However, this paper primarily deals with transboundary water sharing policy between Pakistan and Afghanistan based on statistical long-term hydrological trend analysis along with the water quality issues to discuss a way forward in light of the existing well established and time tested Indus Waters Treaty. The specific objectives of this paper were to (1) assess temporal trend in the inflow of the Transboundary Kabul River inside Pakistan, (2) assess the water quality of the Transboundary Kabul River, (3) assess the temporal changes in land cover/land use along Kabul River, and (4) suggest a way forward for formulation of adaption strategies towards a Kabul River water treaty.

Methodology

Study area

Kabul River originates in the Sanglakh Range 72 km west of Kabul, it flows eastward passing through Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan and enters into Pakistan in the north of the Khyber Pass (Khattak et al., 2015). Its length is about 700 km, of which 560 km flows inside Afghanistan (Lashkaripour & Hussaini, 2008). The Chitral River originates from the mountains of the Hindu Kush near Chitral, Pakistan and flows westward crossing the border of Afghanistan where it is renamed the Konar River. The Konar River joins the Kabul River near Jalalabad where it flows eastward and enters into Pakistan. In Pakistan, it is joined by Swat River and Kalpani Nullah before it empties into the mighty Indus River at Khairabad, Attock (Figure 1).
Fig. 1.

Map of study area showing Kabul River and its basin.

Fig. 1.

Map of study area showing Kabul River and its basin.

The Kabul River Basin has a semi-arid climate where evaporation rates are high relative to annual total precipitation (Mack et al., 2013) which is characterized by cold winters with maximum precipitation (mostly snow) from November to May and warm to very hot summers with little or no precipitation. Rainfall is highly variable throughout the basin. The average annual precipitation in the basin is of the order of 600 mm and temperature ranges between 9 and 36 °C (Khattak et al., 2015).

Hydrological component

The 10-day average discharge data of the last 39 years (1977–2015) were acquired from the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), Pakistan. The data were converted into volume of water, i.e. monthly, seasonal and annual mean inflows. Mean monthly inflow data of Kabul River based on measurements of stream gauges installed in Kabul River Basin within Afghanistan were acquired from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS started stream gauging in Afghanistan in the mid-1940s but it was discontinued in 1979 due to the long-term civil unrest followed by invasion of the Soviet Union on Afghanistan (Olson & Williams-Sether, 2010), therefore limited hydrological data records were available.

Annual and seasonal (Kharif and Rabi) inflows of the river for observed data (1977–2015) were tested to determine the trend by applying a nonparametric Mann-Kendall (Mann, 1945) test (two-tailed) using ‘Xlstat extension of Microsoft Excel’ software. An autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) model (univariate linear time series model) was applied using ‘IBM-SPSS Statistics 20’ software to forecast the annual supply of Kabul River water incorporating only the mean annual inflow data due to data limitation. Data regarding the planned hydraulic structures in Kabul River Basin were acquired from the World Bank to assess the transboundary impact of these developments in terms of water reduction in Pakistan in the Rabi and Kharif seasons.

Water quality component

To cater for the effects of the spatial variability in water quality of the study area, water samples were collected from Kabul River at three different locations close to the Durand Line, i.e. (1) upstream of Warsak Dam, (2) downstream of Warsak Dam, and (3) upstream of Peshawar City (Figure 2). Sample collection and laboratory analysis was done during the month of October when flow conditions were low and organic pollutions were expected to be high. The grab sampling technique was used to collect the water samples. Two separate samples were collected from each location at a depth of 0–5 centimetres from the surface of the water in the middle stream, i.e. one for physical (colour and turbidity) and chemical analysis (electrical conductivity (EC), pH, alkalinity, bicarbonates, calcium, carbonate, chloride, total hardness, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulphate, nitrate, total dissolved solids (TDS), and sodium absorption ratio (SAR)) in a sterilized 1,000 ml bottle and one for microbiological analysis (total coliforms, faecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), chemical oxygen demand (COD) and dissolved oxygen (DO)) in a sterilized 300 ml bottle (Bartram & Ballance, 1996). These samples were tested in the laboratory of Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) for the parameters mentioned in Table 1 to assess the physical, chemical and microbiological characteristics of the water. Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater by the American Public Health Association (Rice et al., 2012) were used as reference methods for laboratory analysis. The results of the laboratory analysis were compared with laid down water quality standards of ‘World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan’ (World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan, 2007) to ascertain the suitability of Kabul River for drinking, agriculture and aquatic life.
Table 1.

Water quality parameters of Kabul River at selected locations.

Water quality parameters Permissible limits (WWF)
 
Results
 
Drinking Aquatic life Irrigation Upstream Warsak Dam Downstream Warsak Dam Upstream Peshawar 
Chemical analysis 
 Colour Colourless Colourless Colourless Turbid Turbid Turbid 
 Electric conductivity (μS/cm) <1,250 <1,500 <1,500 331 327 349 
 pH (pH units) 6.5–8.5 6.5–8.5 6.4–8.4 7.89 8.12 8.08 
 Turbidity (NTU) <5 <5 <5 79 82 38 
 Alkalinity (ppm) NGVS* NGVS NGVS 132 142 172 
 Bicarbonates (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS 132 142 172 
 Calcium (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS BDL 49 31 
 Carbonate (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS BDL BDL BDL 
 Chloride (ppm) <250 NGVS 100 16 16 12 
 Total hardness (ppm) <300 NGVS NGVS 162 172 182 
 Magnesium (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS 39 12 26 
 Potassium (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS 3.7 3.6 4.3 
 Sodium (ppm) <200 NGVS NGVS 
 Sulphate (ppm) <400 NGVS NGVS 18 11 
 Nitrate (ppm) <10 NGVS NGVS 0.7 0.8 0.3 
 TDS (ppm) <1,000 NGVS 450 182 180 192 
 SAR NGVS NGVS BDL 1.63 1.68 
Microbiological analysis 
 BOD (mg/l) >2 >8 >8 BDL BDL BDL 
 COD (mg/l) >25 >50 >70 BDL BDL BDL 
 DO (ppm) >6 >5 >4 6.92 7.03 7.67 
 Total coliforms (No./100 ml) −ve <1,000 <1,000 −ve −ve −ve 
 Faecal coliforms (No./100 ml) −ve <200 <500 −ve −ve −ve 
E. coli −ve NGVS NGVS −ve −ve −ve 
Water quality parameters Permissible limits (WWF)
 
Results
 
Drinking Aquatic life Irrigation Upstream Warsak Dam Downstream Warsak Dam Upstream Peshawar 
Chemical analysis 
 Colour Colourless Colourless Colourless Turbid Turbid Turbid 
 Electric conductivity (μS/cm) <1,250 <1,500 <1,500 331 327 349 
 pH (pH units) 6.5–8.5 6.5–8.5 6.4–8.4 7.89 8.12 8.08 
 Turbidity (NTU) <5 <5 <5 79 82 38 
 Alkalinity (ppm) NGVS* NGVS NGVS 132 142 172 
 Bicarbonates (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS 132 142 172 
 Calcium (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS BDL 49 31 
 Carbonate (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS BDL BDL BDL 
 Chloride (ppm) <250 NGVS 100 16 16 12 
 Total hardness (ppm) <300 NGVS NGVS 162 172 182 
 Magnesium (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS 39 12 26 
 Potassium (ppm) NGVS NGVS NGVS 3.7 3.6 4.3 
 Sodium (ppm) <200 NGVS NGVS 
 Sulphate (ppm) <400 NGVS NGVS 18 11 
 Nitrate (ppm) <10 NGVS NGVS 0.7 0.8 0.3 
 TDS (ppm) <1,000 NGVS 450 182 180 192 
 SAR NGVS NGVS BDL 1.63 1.68 
Microbiological analysis 
 BOD (mg/l) >2 >8 >8 BDL BDL BDL 
 COD (mg/l) >25 >50 >70 BDL BDL BDL 
 DO (ppm) >6 >5 >4 6.92 7.03 7.67 
 Total coliforms (No./100 ml) −ve <1,000 <1,000 −ve −ve −ve 
 Faecal coliforms (No./100 ml) −ve <200 <500 −ve −ve −ve 
E. coli −ve NGVS NGVS −ve −ve −ve 

‘NGVS’ indicates no guidance value set.

‘BDL’ indicates beyond detection limit.

Fig. 2.

Map showing locations for collection of water samples.

Fig. 2.

Map showing locations for collection of water samples.

Temporal change detection using satellite remote sensing data

The area selected for temporal analysis along Kabul River extended between the Durand Line in the West and Khairabad (location of the Kabul River confluence with Indus River) in the East (Figure 2). Landsat 4, 5 and 7 imagery of the last 30 years was downloaded from Earthexplorer/USGS with an interval of 10 years, i.e. September 1985, September 1995, September 2005 and September 2015. All these images were pre-processed, atmospherically corrected and standardized in respective Red and Near Infrared bands using Erdas Imagine 2013 Software. Pre-processed images were classified into five land cover/land use classes, i.e. (1) shrubs and grass lands, (2) thick vegetation and crops, (3) water bodies, (4) built-up-areas (BUAs), and (5) bare lands, using the thresholds of the normalized difference vegetation index in ArcMap 10.1 software. A tool was programmed in Python language to automatically calculate the area of each land cover/land use class in km2 in the respective classified images. The Aster Digital Elevation Model of 30 m spatial resolution was downloaded from Earthexplorer/USGS and used for hydrological and terrain analysis in ArcMap 10.1 software.

Results and discussion

Hydrological trend analysis

The total Kabul River inflow received at the Durand Line (Pakistan Border) in a year is about 19.35 BCM of which 9.44 BCM (49%) is contributed from Afghanistan through Kabul River while 9.91 BCM (51%) is contributed through Chitral River, Pakistan (Figure 3). After the joining of Swat River and Kalpani Nullah inside Pakistan, the mean accumulative inflow of Kabul River received every year at Nowshera, Pakistan is 26.23 BCM, i.e. 5.23 BCM in Rabi season (October to March) and 21 BCM in Kharif season (April to September). The annual (1977–2015) mean river inflow of 26.23 BCM with a range of 13.77 to 42.2 BCM and standard deviation of 6.026 BCM reveals no significant fluctuation in the transboundary mean annual inflow (Figure 4). The fluctuation in highest and lowest annual river inflows can be attributed to climatic variability or droughts in the last 39 years.
Fig. 3.

Annual inflow (BCM) of (a) Kabul River at Durand Line, (b) Kabul River excluding inflow of Konar River (net generated within Afghanistan), and (c) Konar River (contribution of Pakistan) at Asmar (Source: USGS).

Fig. 3.

Annual inflow (BCM) of (a) Kabul River at Durand Line, (b) Kabul River excluding inflow of Konar River (net generated within Afghanistan), and (c) Konar River (contribution of Pakistan) at Asmar (Source: USGS).

Fig. 4.

Mean inflow of Kabul River at Nowshera in BCM: (a) mean annual inflow, (b) mean inflow in Rabi, (c) mean inflow in Kharif, and (d) mean monthly inflow (Source: IRSA).

Fig. 4.

Mean inflow of Kabul River at Nowshera in BCM: (a) mean annual inflow, (b) mean inflow in Rabi, (c) mean inflow in Kharif, and (d) mean monthly inflow (Source: IRSA).

The Mann-Kendal trend test (Mann, 1945) for trend significance (p ≤ 0.05, two-tailed) was applied to the mean annual and seasonal (Kharif and Rabi) inflow data. The calculated p-values of 0.77, 0.829 and 0.516 for mean annual inflow data, Kharif inflow data and Rabi inflow data, respectively, were found to be non-significant (p ≥ 0.05). Linear regression, being a widely used method (Valipour & Eslamian, 2014; Mohammad, 2015; Valipour, 2015a, 2015d), was applied to the mean monthly inflow data and yielded the following results: 
formula
 
formula
with the slope calculated as ‘–0.00011’ in the linear regression and p > 0.05 in the Mann-Kendall trend test, it can be concluded that there was no significant trend in the mean annual inflow data (Figure 5). This could be due to the fact that there are no major hydraulic structures built on Kabul River inside Afghanistan to affect the inflow. The other reason for this could be that the climate change has created the variability in the seasonal snowfall area; however, the total amount of snowfall has not been significantly reduced. Atif et al. (2015) conducted a study to map the trend of snow cover area in the upper Indus basin using the MODIS product from 2003 to 2013. They found seasonal variability in the snow cover area but no significant change in the total amount of snow received during the year.
Fig. 5.

Mean monthly inflow (1977–2015) of Kabul River at Nowshera in BCM (Source: IRSA).

Fig. 5.

Mean monthly inflow (1977–2015) of Kabul River at Nowshera in BCM (Source: IRSA).

River flow forecasting is important for water resources management, environmental protection, flood control, draught protection, reservoirs management and water allocation (Huang et al., 2004). The ARIMA model is a general time series model which is used for hydrological forecasting (Valipour, 2012a, 2012b, 2015c; Valipour et al., 2013). The ARIMA model produces the best correlation between model forecasting and the observed data (Abudu et al., 2010). The ARIMA model was trained using yearly average inflow data from 1977–2015. Four extreme values (outliers) were defined in the yearly inflow data, i.e. 1992, 1993 due to flood years and 2001, 2002 due to drought years. Yearly flow forecast (2016–2050) from the ARIMA model followed the general trend of observed yearly flow data (1977–2015). The ARIMA model, with correlation coefficient of 0.783 between the observed and forecasted data, mean absolute percentage error of 11.284, coefficient of determination (R squared) of 0.613 and root mean square error of 4.349, predicted no significant change in the mean annual inflow of the forecast up to 2050 and was able to reproduce the general trend of yearly flow as shown in Figure 6.
Fig. 6.

ARIMA time series modelling and forecasting for mean annual inflow of Kabul River in BCM.

Fig. 6.

ARIMA time series modelling and forecasting for mean annual inflow of Kabul River in BCM.

Afghanistan is in the process of reconstruction and uplifting of existing hydraulic structures, which were damaged due the prolonged civil war in the country, and planning for construction of new storage, irrigation and hydro-electric structures. The Sustainable Development Department – South Asia Region, World Bank carried out a study in 2010 in consultation with the Government of Afghanistan to evaluate potential options for storage investments in Kabul River Basin. The World Bank has forecasted the future water use/demand of Afghanistan in Kabul River Basin for 2020 based on historic water use data and suggested options for storage investment, hydro-electric power development, irrigated agriculture development and urban and industrial water supply. The study is part of the World Bank's water sector program in Afghanistan and has been conducted as a collaborative effort between the Bank's South Asia Sustainable Development Department and Afghanistan's Ministry of Energy and Water (World Bank, 2010).

The total storage capacity identified in the Kabul River Basin is approximately 3.309 BCM without accounting for the major storage site on the Konar River, which is an additional one third of this (World Bank, 2010). The potential sites identified for water storage, irrigation and hydropower plants in the Kabul River Basin along with their details are shown in Figure 7. As a result of these hydrological storage developments, every year Pakistan will receive 4.793 BCM (including major storage on the Konar River) less quantity of Kabul River water. The mean annual inflow of Kabul River at the Durand Line will be reduced from 19.35 BCM to 14.56 BCM (25% decrease) whereas at Nowshera the decrease in annual inflow will be 18%.
Fig. 7.

Map showing proposed multipurpose dams in Kabul River Basin (Source: World Bank).

Fig. 7.

Map showing proposed multipurpose dams in Kabul River Basin (Source: World Bank).

The stream flow pattern (Figure 4) shows that the mean monthly inflow of Kabul River at Nowshera starts increasing in March/April and peaks (4.94 BCM) in June/July which is valuable to Pakistan in the Kharif season as it supports early sowing of Kharif crops in Sindh Province (International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2014). Coupled with the effects of climate change any reduction in the inflow of Kabul River will severely affect Pakistan's existing and future water usages in Rabi and Kharif seasons and may lead to economic deterioration, higher food prices and a shift in rural-urban population. Emerging water issues over Kabul River among the basin states can be a driving force towards low intensity conflicts, ethnic conflicts, civil war and insurgency (Homer-Dixon et al., 1993).

Water quality analysis

Over 40% of the world population live in the watershed of transboundary basins. Pollution is not restricted by borders; it flows downstream and affects food security, health and other basic uses of water, as 80% of water being used all over the world is not treated before use (Corcoran, 2010). Knowledge of both physical and chemical properties is important to assess the suitability and use potential of a river. The chemical composition of river water depends upon many factors, the most important being geology, discharge characteristics, topography, climate, land use and human activity (International Union for Conservation of Nature, 1994).

Monitoring the Kabul River pollution after it flows into Pakistan is an important aspect of transboundary water management. Water samples were collected from Kabul River and analysed in the laboratory of PCRWR (Table 1). The parameters which exceeded the permissible limits were turbidity and water colour. While all other physico-chemical parameter values were within the permissible limits including pH, EC, total hardness, TDS and SAR. The ‘World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan’ (WWF) recommended standards were used for drinking, aquatic life and irrigation water.

Inadequate wastewater management and treatment is a significant contributor to the overall water quality problem (Evans et al., 2012). Total coliforms, faecal coliforms and E. coli were found to be negative in the microbiological analysis of Kabul River water; however, reduced annual inflow of Kabul River because of future developments could deteriorate the water quality of the river as there will be less water to dilute the sewage/organic pollutants. The DO level within the river was found to be slightly higher than the minimum required limit for fisheries and aquatic life which is not encouraging. The BOD value of the river is acceptable, as it appeared to be much less than the maximum permissible limit. According to the laboratory analysis, Kabul River water was found to be unsuitable for drinking while suitable for aquatic life and irrigation.

The comparatively low pollution of the Kabul River as it enters Pakistan could be attributed to low population density and absence of any major industry in Afghanistan and along the Durand Line. In the future, significant increase in population resulting from return of Afghan refugees and industrialization in Afghanistan will not only put pressure on Kabul River water but will also likely deteriorate the water quality of the river. Therefore, it is suggested that the water quality of the Kabul River should be monitored at regular temporal intervals.

Temporal change detection through satellite remote sensing data

In the span of the last 40 years, very intensive anthropogenic-based environmental changes are noted along Kabul River after it crosses into Pakistan which are primarily cultivation activities, increase in population, and deforestation (Ahmadullah & Dongshik, 2015). Classified images for temporal analysis of land cover/land use classes over the last 30 years are shown in Figure 8.
Fig. 8.

Classified images of land cover/land use classes.

Fig. 8.

Classified images of land cover/land use classes.

Significant temporal changes observed along Kabul River include an increase of 50% (average annual increase rate of 2.2%) in the BUAs and 47% (average annual increase rate of 2%) in the crops/cultivated areas and a decrease of 27% in the bare lands and 14% in the grass lands (Figure 9). An increase in BUAs and cultivated lands with a decrease in bare lands and grass lands is directly proportional to the increase in population which has increased at an average annual growth rate of 2.82% in the study area, over and above the national growth rate of 2.69% (Bureau of Statistics, 2014). Based on the identified average annual increase rate of BUAs and crops/cultivated areas, it can be projected that after 10 years, i.e. in 2025, BUAs and crops/cultivated areas will have increased by about 20% as of 2015 and after 20 years, i.e. 2035, the increase in respective areas will be 35% as of 2015.
Fig. 9.

Temporal changes in the area (km2) of land cover/land use classes.

Fig. 9.

Temporal changes in the area (km2) of land cover/land use classes.

Water bodies were extracted from the classified images of respective years and overlaid on one another to analyse the temporal changes in the river course in last 30 years. Significant changes in the Kabul River course were noted at two different locations, which are identified in Figure 10. These changes might be due to anthropogenic activities or due to artificial floods created by opening, during the flood season, of the spillway gates of Warsak Dam, which is constructed on Kabul River about 30 km upstream of Peshawar.
Fig. 10.

Map showing temporal changes in Kabul River course.

Fig. 10.

Map showing temporal changes in Kabul River course.

Policy discussion on sharing of Kabul River water

International framework for managing shared water resources

Numerous water treaties exist around the world, which are considered as old as civilization. The oldest water treaty was signed in 2,500 BC between the two Sumerian city states of Lagash and Umma on use of the Tigris River. There are 276 transboundary river basins in the world which are common to two or more states (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2013). Since 1964, only 37 incidents of transboundary water disputes involving violence have been documented whereas 150 water related resolutions or treaties have been signed (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2013). The sheer scale and complexity of water resources management problems confronting present-day society demand solutions that go beyond political borders (Correia & da Silva, 1999).

Hydro diplomacy is about dialogue, negotiation and reconciling conflicting interests among riparian states involving the institutional capacity and power politics (Hefny, 2011). The first major land mark in defining water laws was the emergence of the Madrid Declaration in 1911 which defined international regulations for the use of transboundary rivers and encouraged the establishment of a joint water commission to address the issues of transboundary rivers (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1998). The International Law Association (ILA) drafted the Helsinki Rules in 1966 dealing with the legal aspects of transboundary water issues and introduced the term ‘equitable utilization’ applicable to transboundary rivers (Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers (with comments), 1966). The American Law Institute elaborated that a country should refrain from taking such measures which could eventually harm its neighbouring countries (Dellapenna, 2001).

The Helsinki Rules have emerged as one of the most influential documents within the family of declarations, resolutions, rules and recommendations (Gander, 2014). The articles of the Helsinki Rules were finally approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1997 in the form of a convention which was subject to implementation only when the basin states were in a situation of any sort of mutual agreement or treaty for the use of common rivers. In 2004, the Convention on Helsinki Rules due to limited scope was updated by the Berlin Rules ratified by the ILA which summarized the international laws pertaining to transboundary rivers as applicable in the present era, specifically addressing the issues of global warming and climate change (International Law Association, 2004).

Since inception, the Indus Waters Treaty has always proved beneficial to water conflict resolution despite arch rivalry between India and Pakistan resulting in two wars in 1965 and 1971. This attribute of the treaty makes it more suitable when seeking guidance for any future water related agreements in this part of the world. Major lessons learnt from the Indus Waters Treaty which could be beneficial for any future course of action (Alam, 2002) include: (1) disputes over political boundaries can result in intra-national conflicts increasing tensions over existing issues, (2) to make the process of negotiation functional, water disputes have to be separated from other regional conflicts, (3) involvement of a third party or a guarantor is helpful in resolving the conflicts, (4) ambiguity in any points can lead to misperceptions – wrong precedence is set to take actions which are considered for granted, and (5) a joint water commission for transboundary water issues is ideal for conflict mitigation.

Proposed mechanism for Kabul River Water Treaty

International common water bodies can be skilfully treated in a manner where these can be used for mutual benefit of all basin states (Biswas, 1992). An agreement or treaty can be easily reached at times when there is neither abundance nor shortage of water availability (Wegerich, 2009). The proposed Kabul River Water Treaty must be based on trust-building measures between both the countries, i.e. data sharing, joint ventures and joint research. Open mind-set, visionary leadership and setting aside the historic grievances between both the states should be the hallmark of the negotiating process. Pakistan should recommend that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Economic Cooperation Organization should ratify the United Nations (UN) Convention of 1997 on Joint Waterways by formulating a ‘Joint Water Treaty’ among the member countries of SAARC with the help of the World Bank (Aziz, 2013). Key points of the proposed Kabul River Water Treaty must include:

Equitable share of benefits

Developments in the water sector of Afghanistan are essential for a stable security situation across the entire region. A political and public mind-set should be created in Pakistan to assist Afghanistan financially and technically in the developments of hydraulic infrastructure in the Kabul River Basin. A certain transition period may be defined during which the historic flow of the Kabul River to Pakistan should be maintained and Afghanistan should develop its hydraulic infrastructure with financial and technical assistance from Pakistan and the international community. The proposed treaty must cater for the equitable share of benefits connected to the Transboundary Kabul River Basin, particularly energy production.

Effective flood management

Flood protection becomes much more difficult in a lower riparian when the upper riparian is only concerned about its own economic exploitation (Angelidis et al., 2010). Improved flood management and mitigation of adverse impacts calls for a regional basin-wide approach with efforts in timely data sharing and modelling (Shrestha et al., 2015). The proposed treaty should include the procedures for implementation of integrated flood risk management based on policies, legislations, regulations and ordinances, as well as on technical standards of the riparian countries. It should specify the essential measures required from the upper riparian for flood mitigation. Appropriate institutional structure and infrastructure, i.e. legal regulatory systems, monitoring networks, water authorities and research, may be formulated and a joint commission may be established mandated for investigatory and advisory responsibilities. Satellite remote sensing (RS) of rainfall can potentially address the current challenge of improving the accuracy and range of flood forecasting for many flood-prone nations constrained within international river basins (Hossain, 2007). Due to its spatial dimension, a Geographical Information Systems (GIS)-based application may be developed and used for effective flood risk management as well as for post-flood damage assessment (Moody & van Ast, 2012). The treaty may include the parameters of sharing the cost of renovations as well as annual repairs of hydraulic infrastructure to cater for water losses.

Enhanced mutual cooperation

Conflicts among the riparian states prevent the best utilization of their shared water resources, however, cooperation may reduce these conflicts by adopting schemes and strategies of mutual benefit (Bhagabati et al., 2014). Cooperation can take different forms ranging from the sharing of data and information to procedures for cooperation or the implementation of joint investments to sharing river benefits (Douven et al., 2014). Transparent sharing of discharge data through installation of satellite-based real-time telemetry systems, timely sharing of data regarding new Afghan projects, a combined hydrological database and cooperation in ensuring quality of water bodies. A Hydrologic Information System using RS and GIS can facilitate data access within governmental institutions and among stakeholders (Comair et al., 2014).

Provisions regarding usage of groundwater resources

Transboundary aquifers are as important a component of global water resource systems as transboundary rivers (Brooks & Linton, 2011). Groundwater development is a common practice in both the basin states and with the passage of time groundwater developments have not only increased but have also become an important source for irrigation. The proposed treaty should include provisions related to the developments and uses of groundwater resources and should not allow the activities of harnessing groundwater to the upper riparian which have adverse effects on yield capacity of downstream aquifers in the lower riparian.

Provisions addressing the water quality issues

According to international laws on joint waterways, any undue pollution of water which might occur due to disposal of sewage or industrial waste into river water will be prevented. The trend for water supply schemes based on surface water resources is on the increase in the lower riparian (Pakistan). Use of fertilizers, reduced river inflows due to hydraulic developments and disposal of sewage into rivers in the upper riparian would create severe health issues for the lower riparian because of deteriorated upstream water quality. Detailed provisions for optimal quality of river water should be included in the proposed treaty. A well designed monitoring programme may constitute the base coupled with restoration actions and possible accessional actions for readjustments (Mantzafleri et al., 2009).

Provisions addressing the effects of climate change

Climate change is a global phenomenon; a major contributing factor for melting and shrinking of glaciers as well as changes in precipitation patterns. Climate change is expected to significantly increase the withdrawal of water for crop irrigation due to the decrease in rainfall and increase in evapotranspiration because of higher air temperature. Comprehending climate change impacts on hydrological conditions is essential to enable more efficient water resources development in the Indus River Basin (Ty et al., 2012). The proposed treaty should include the provisions countering the contemporary challenges of ‘Climate Change’ and ‘Global Warming’ for maximum advantageous use of the whole river basin by both the basin states (Hanasz, 2011).

Provisions for water sharing during dry periods

The proposed treaty should contain a specific criterion for water sharing during the periods of water scarcity in dry years when inflows are almost half of the wet years. Moreover, future water storage by Afghanistan in the Rabi season will be a serious concern for Pakistan when natural flows are already reduced to one fifth of the Kharif season. Basin states should develop a mutual policy for equitable sharing of water scarcities in the dry year and during Rabi season. The treaty must clearly define the priorities for use of Kabul River during the periods of water shortage and must take into consideration the international standards for ecology to ensure the water quality.

Conflict resolution mechanism

A joint institution to resolve the conflict will strengthen the effectiveness of the treaty (Landovsky, 2006). The proposed treaty should incorporate the institutional arrangements to maintain regular communication between Pakistan and Afghanistan on all aspects mentioned in the treaty. A Kabul River Commission, comprising a Commissioner from each basin state, should be created to oversee any future developments in the basin. The two Commissioners should meet on a regular basis for effective implementation of the treaty and resolution of any water disputes between both the countries. In case the proposed Kabul River Commission is not able to resolve any dispute, there may be provision for appointing a ‘neutral expert’, whose decision shall be final and binding on both the states. If the decision of the neutral expert is also not acceptable to one or both the states then there may be provision for establishment of a court of arbitration as per procedures mentioned in the proposed treaty.

Conclusion

Analysis based on the aspects of hydrology, water quality and temporal change detection indicates a continuously increasing dependency on Kabul River and also highlights the future water scarcity for Pakistan as a result of future developments in Kabul River Basin by Afghanistan. Reduction in the annual quantity of Kabul River water inside Pakistan will impose a serious problem to agricultural economy and social dislocation. Coupled with climate change, water scarcity can lead to deteriorating relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan needs to revise its water management strategies concerning transboundary rivers. Timely institutionalized efforts towards a ‘Water Cooperation Initiative’ to establish a ‘Joint Commission for Kabul River’ would help both the countries to benefit from the valuable resource of Kabul River. It will be harder to negotiate a treaty at the time when the crisis of water has occurred as the two sides may not find sufficient space to manoeuvre and strike compromises. More detailed studies should be conducted at strategic level incorporating the effects of climate change to frame viable options towards a Kabul River Water Treaty.

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the World Bank for giving special permission for use of its data. The authors are also thankful to the department of the Indus River System Authority (IRSA) for provision of flow data and Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) for providing laboratory facilities to carry out the study.

References

References
Abudu
S.
Cui
C.-L.
King
J. P.
Abudukadeer
K.
(
2010
).
Comparison of performance of statistical models in forecasting monthly streamflow of Kizil River, China
.
Water Science and Engineering
3
(
3
),
269
281
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3882/j.issn.1674-2370.2010.03.003
.
Ahmadullah
R.
Dongshik
K.
(
2015
).
Assessment of potential dam sites in the Kabul River Basin using GIS
.
International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications
6
(
2
),
83
89
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.14569/IJACSA.2015.060213.
Alam
U. Z.
(
2002
).
Questioning the water wars rationale: a case study of the Indus waters treaty
.
The Geographical Journal
168
(
4
),
341
353
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0016-7398.2002.00060.x
.
Al-Faraj
F. A. M.
Al-Dabbagh
B. N. S.
(
2015
).
Assessment of collective impact of upstream watershed development and basin-wide successive droughts on downstream flow regime: the Lesser Zab transboundary basin
.
Journal of Hydrology
530
,
419
430
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.09.074
.
Angelidis
P.
Kotsikas
M.
Kotsovinos
N.
(
2010
).
Management of upstream dams and flood protection of the transboundary river Evros/Maritza
.
Water Resources Management
24
(
11
),
2467
2484
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-009-9563-6
.
Atif
I.
Mahboob
M. A.
Iqbal
J.
(
2015
).
Snow cover area change assessment in 2003 and 2013 using MODIS data of the Upper Indus Basin, Pakistan
.
Journal of Himalayan Earth Sciences
48
(
2
),
117
128
. .
Aziz
K.
(
2013
).
Need for Pak-Afghan treaty on management of joint water courses
.
Criterion Quarterly
2
(
4
),
18
. .
Bartram
J.
Ballance
R.
(
1996
).
Water Quality Monitoring: a Practical Guide to the Design and Implementation of Freshwater Quality Studies and Monitoring Programs
.
Published on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO)
,
London
.
Retrieved March 08, 2017, from http://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/41851
.
Bhagabati
S.
Kawasaki
A.
Babel
M.
Rogers
P.
Ninsawat
S.
(
2014
).
A cooperative game analysis of transboundary hydropower development in the Lower Mekong: case of the 3S sub-basins
.
Water Resources Management
28
(
11
),
3417
3437
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-014-0594-2
.
Biswas
A. K.
(
1992
).
Indus water treaty: the negotiating process
.
Water International
17
(
4
),
201
209
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02508069208686140
.
Brooks
D. B.
Linton
J.
(
2011
).
Governance of transboundary aquifers: balancing efficiency, equity and sustainability
.
International Journal of Water Resources Development
27
(
3
),
431
462
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2011.593117
.
Bureau of Statistics
(
2014
).
Development Statistics of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
.
Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
,
Peshawar
,
Pakistan
.
Retrieved March 08, 2017, from http://kpbos.gov.pk/files/1399368724.pdf
.
Comair
G. F.
McKinney
D. C.
Maidment
D. R.
Espinoza
G.
Sangiredy
H.
Fayad
A.
Salas
F. R.
(
2014
).
Hydrology of the Jordan River Basin: a GIS-based system to better guide water resources management and decision making
.
Water Resources Management
28
(
4
),
933
946
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-014-0525-2
.
Correia
F. N.
da Silva
J. E.
(
1999
).
International framework for the management of transboundary water resources
.
Water International
24
(
2
),
86
94
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02508069908692144
.
Dellapenna
J. W.
(
2001
).
The customary international law of transboundary fresh waters
.
International Journal of Global Environmental Issues
1
(
3–4
),
264
305
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1504/IJGENVI.2001.000981
.
Douven
W.
Mul
M. L.
Son
L.
Bakker
N.
Radosevich
G.
Hendriks
A.
(
2014
).
Games to create awareness and design policies for transboundary cooperation in river basins: lessons from the Shariva game of the Mekong River Commission
.
Water Resources Management
28
(
5
),
1431
1447
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-014-0562-x
.
Evans
A. E. V.
Hanjra
M. A.
Jiang
Y.
Qadir
M.
Drechsel
P.
(
2012
).
Water quality: assessment of the current situation in Asia
.
International Journal of Water Resources Development
28
(
2
),
195
216
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2012.669520
.
Favre
R.
Kamal
G. M.
Service
A. I. M.
(
2004
).
Watershed Atlas of Afghanistan: Working Document of Planners
,
1st edn
.
Afghanistan Information Management Service
,
Kabul
. .
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
(
1998
).
Sources of International Water Law. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/005/w9549E/w9549e00.pdf
.
Hanasz
P.
(
2011
).
The Politics of Water Security in the Kabul River Basin. Retrieved 28 December, 2015, from http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publications/food-and-water-crises/298-the-politics-of-water-security-in-the-kabul-river-basin.html
.
Hefny
M. A.
(
2011
).
Water Diplomacy: A Tool for Enhancing Water Peace and Sustainability in the Arab Region (Draft Technical Report)
.
UNESCO
,
Cairo
. .
Helsinki Rules on the Uses of the Waters of International Rivers (with comments), International Law Association
(
1996
). .
Homer-Dixon
T.
Boutwell
J. H.
Rathjens
G. W.
(
1993
).
Environmental change and violent conflict
.
Scientific American
268
(
2
),
38
45
. .
Hossain
F.
(
2007
).
Satellites as the panacea to transboundary limitations for longer term flood forecasting?
Water International
32
(
3
),
376
379
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02508060708692217
.
Huang
W.
Xu
B.
Chan Hilton
A.
(
2004
).
Forecasting flows in Apalachicola River using neural networks
.
Hydrological Processes
18
(
13
),
2545
2564
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hyp.1492
.
International Union for Conservation of Nature
(
1994
).
Pollution and the Kabul River – An Analysis and Action Plan
.
Department of Environmental Planning and Management, Peshawar University, Peshawar & IUCN–The World Conservation Union
,
Pakistan
, p.
123
. .
International Union for Conservation of Nature
(
2014
).
Hydro Diplomacy: Water Cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan
.
IUCN
,
Karachi
,
Pakistan
. .
Khattak
M. S.
Rehman
N. U.
Sharif
M.
Khan
M. A.
(
2015
).
Analysis of streamflow data for trend detection on major rivers of the Indus Basin
.
Journal of Himalayan Earth Sciences
48
(
1
),
99
111
. .
Landovsky
J.
(
2006
).
Institutional Assessment of Transboundary Water Resources Management (Report No. 36): United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
. .
Lashkaripour
G. R.
Hussaini
S. A.
(
2008
).
Water resource management in Kabul river basin, eastern Afghanistan
.
The Environmentalist
28
(
3
),
253
260
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10669-007-9136-2
.
Leb
C.
(
2012
).
The right to water in a transboundary context: emergence of seminal trends
.
Water International
37
(
6
),
640
653
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02508060.2012.710950
.
Mack
T. J.
Chornack
M. P.
Taher
M. R.
(
2013
).
Groundwater-level trends and implications for sustainable water use in the Kabul Basin, Afghanistan
.
Environment Systems and Decisions
33
(
3
),
457
467
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10669-013-9455-4
.
Mann
H. B.
(
1945
).
Nonparametric tests against trend
.
Econometrica
13
(
3
),
245
259
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1907187
.
Mantzafleri
N.
Psilovikos
A.
Blanta
A.
(
2009
).
Water quality monitoring and modeling in Lake Kastoria, using GIS. assessment and management of pollution sources
.
Water Resources Management
23
(
15
),
3221
3254
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-009-9431-4
.
Mohammad
V.
(
2015
).
Comparative evaluation of radiation-based methods for estimation of potential evapotranspiration
.
Journal of Hydrological Engineering
20
(
5
).
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(asce)he.1943-5584.0001066
.
Moody
R.
van Ast
J. A.
(
2012
).
Implementation of GIS-based applications in water governance
.
Water Resources Management
26
(
2
),
517
529
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-011-9929-4
.
Nafees
M.
Khan
S. A.
Zahidullah
(
2016
).
Construction of Dam on Kabul River and its Socio-Economic Implication for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Paper presented at the Pak – Afghan Water Sharing Issue
,
Islamabad
,
Pakistan
. .
Olson
S. A.
Williams-Sether
T.
(
2010
).
Streamflow Characteristics at Streamgages in Northern Afghanistan and Selected Locations: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 529
, p.
512
.
Retrieved March 08, 2017, from http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/529/
.
Renner
M.
(
2010
).
Troubled waters: Central and South Asia exemplify some of the planet's looming water shortages
.
World Watch
23
,
14
20
. .
Rice
E. W.
Baird
R. B.
Eaton
A. D.
Clesceri
L. S.
(
2012
).
Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater
,
22 edn
.
American Public Health Association, American Water Works Association, Water Environment Federation
,
Washington DC
. .
Shrestha
M. S.
Grabs
W. E.
Khadgi
V. R.
(
2015
).
Establishment of a regional flood information system in The Hindu kush Himalayas: challenges and opportunities
.
International Journal of Water Resources Development
31
(
2
),
238
252
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1023891
.
Sivakumar
B.
(
2011
).
Water crisis: from conflict to cooperation – an overview
.
Hydrological Sciences Journal
56
(
4
),
531
552
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02626667.2011.580747
.
Ty
T. V.
Sunada
K.
Ichikawa
Y.
Oishi
S.
(
2012
).
Scenario-based impact assessment of land use/cover and climate changes on water resources and demand: a case study in the Srepok River Basin, Vietnam–Cambodia
.
Water Resources Management
26
(
5
),
1387
1407
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11269-011-9964-1
.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
(
2013
).
Transboundary Waters. Retrieved 22 December, 2015, from http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade/transboundary_waters.shtml
.
Valipour
M.
(
2012b
).
Critical areas of Iran for agriculture water management according to the annual rainfall
.
European Journal of Scientific Research
84
(
4
),
600
608
.
Valipour
M.
(
2015a
).
Evaluation of radiation methods to study potential evapotranspiration of 31 provinces
.
Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics
127
(
3
),
289
303
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00703-014-0351-3
.
Valipour
M.
(
2015b
).
Future of agricultural water management in Africa
.
Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science
61
(
7
),
907
927
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03650340.2014.961433
.
Valipour
M.
(
2015c
).
Long-term runoff study using SARIMA and ARIMA models in the United States
.
Meteorological Applications
22
(
3
),
592
598
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/met.1491
.
Valipour
M.
(
2015d
).
Temperature analysis of reference evapotranspiration models
.
Meteorological Applications
22
(
3
),
385
394
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/met.1465
.
Valipour
M.
Eslamian
S.
(
2014
).
Analysis of potential evapotranspiration using 11 modified temperature-based models
.
International Journal of Hydrology Science and Technology
4
(
3
),
192
207
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1504/ijhst.2014.067733
.
Valipour
M.
Banihabib
M. E.
Behbahani
S. M. R.
(
2013
).
Comparison of the ARMA, ARIMA, and the autoregressive artificial neural network models in forecasting the monthly inflow of Dez dam reservoir
.
Journal of Hydrology
476
,
433
441
.
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.11.017
.
Wegerich
K.
(
2009
).
Water strategy meets local reality: Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit Kabul. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from http://areu.org.af/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/919E-Water-Strategy-IP-2009-web.pdf
.
World Bank
(
2010
).
Afghanistan – Scoping Strategic Options for Development of the Kabul River Basin: A Multisectoral Decision Support System Approach
.
World Bank
,
Washington, DC
, p.
130
. .
World Wide Fund for Nature – Pakistan
(
2007
).
National Surface Water Classification Criteria & Irrigation Water Quality Guidelines for Pakistan. Retrieved March 08, 2017, from http://www.environment.gov.pk/act-rules/SurfaceWaterStds-FEB2007.pdf
.
Yaseen
M.
Khan
K.
Nabi
G.
Bhatti
H. A.
Afzal
M.
(
2015
).
Hydrological trends and variability in the Mangla watershed, Pakistan
.
Science International (Lahore)
27
(
2
),
1327
1335
. .