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Afghanistan rejects Iran’s concerns on dam construction

AFGHANISTAN REJECTS IRAN’S CONCERNS ON DAM CONSTRUCTION

Afghanistan has discarded concerns raised by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani regarding construction of dams in the conflict-torn country.

The move came after Rouhani said Tehran cannot remain indifferent to construction of dams in Afghanistan.

"Dam construction in Afghanistan and Sistan-Baluchestan province [in Iran] play a role in the desiccation of rivers," he said addressing at the opening of an international conference on combating sand and dust storms in Tehran, Iran's Financial Tribune daily reported.

Afghan government officials, parliamentarians and civil society activist in various parts of the country have pronounced Rouhani's remarks as 'interference' in Afghanistan's internal affairs.

Najibullah Azad, the president's deputy spokesman, told Anadolu Agency that Afghanistan has the right, and is committed to best utilize its water resources for the welfare of its own people.

"The government of Afghanistan would not remain silent if more is said in this regard [by Iran] or if there is any interference in our affairs", he said.

In summer 2016, Afghanistan completed Salma Dam in western Herat province bordering Iran. It is a mega power project and irrigation dam, which was built 40 years after it was first conceived.

The project has become a reality, thanks to the Indian government's investment of $300 million.

In response to India's steady support for the war-torn country, the government of Afghanistan renamed the dam as "Afghan-India Friendship Dam".

The Kabul government described the project as the 'start of a new era' with at least 12 more dams to be launched across the country. Water and power remain hotly contested entities in this region, with many countries facing acute shortages on day-to-day basis.

At least 10 police personnel guarding "Afghan-India Friendship Dam" were killed in a terrorist attack last month.

Local Afghan officials in western Farah province have long been blaming neighboring Iran for providing sanctuaries and support to the militants to carryout terrorist attacks, a claim rejected by Tehran.

Afghan official accused Iran, the only country that Afghanistan has a water treaty with, of taking up to 70% more water than agreed to. It also blamed Iran for building infrastructure on the incoming water without Afghanistan's consent.

"In the 1973 Afghan-Iranian Treaty, the amount of water that Iran should use from Helmand River is specified, and it has no right to get beyond that," Ghani said earlier this year in.

The treaty was signed by former Afghan Prime Minister Musa Shafiq and his Iranian counterpart Amir Abas Huwaida.

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