Bringing Afghanistan into the conversation
Funded by USAID, the Smart Waters is the first project of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC) that involves Afghanistan. The project aims to bring the countries in Central Asia together with Afghanistan by creating a network of like-minded water management specialists and policy makers across multiple levels.
“Remember, the heart is not located at the centre,” says Benafsha Mirbacha, a consultant to the Regional Cooperation Directorate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is not Central Asia but Afghanistan is the heart of Asia.” It is a critical geopolitical country, she says. “For countries in Central Asia to have a sustainable future they also need to support Afghan peace and stability.”
The Smart Waters project started in 2015, progressively involving Afghanistan in the regional processes and initiatives within the Smart Waters project for the past near-5 years.
“Afghanistan is an inseparable part of Central Asia”, says Hussain Alemi, socio economist at the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation in Kabul, Afghanistan. “We have common environmental threats and we share the same important river basin - the Amu Basin”
H.E., Idrees Malyar, Deputy Minister, Policy and International Affairs for the Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), says that the project allowed them to learn more about the Central Asia, its people, and their work nature. Thanks to USAID funding, H.E. Malyar, together with Mirbacha and Alemi attended the recent 10th anniversary of the Central Asian Leadership Programme on Environment for Sustainable Development in 2019. The occasion brought selected participants from Afghanistan and all Central Asian countries together.
“Knowing our neighbors will be important when we have to sit to discuss our common water and environmental issues and opportunities”, says Malyar. But he adds that there is more to it. “Afghanistan’s recent news are more about war and conflict, but now Afghan participants could share our vision for the country and dispel stereotypes”, he says. “Through talking and networking, and working together we learn about them”, says Malyar, “but they also learn about us. In this way, we have made good working relationships as well as good friends.”
Says Malyar, “friends will always help each other.”
Text and photo: Petro Kotze for Smart Waters #USAID/CentralAsia
Smart Waters project is implemented by CAREC with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development USAID during the period 2015-2020. Overall objective of the project is to enhance regional cooperation on shared water resources. Specifically, Smart Waters addresses the knowledge dis-lock in the region in water sector, builds working relations among water managers and specialists, and demonstrates the potential of the basin management approach and cooperation with the academia.