From RFE/RL Iran Report Volume 5, Number
Farmers in Iran's southeastern Sistan va Baluchistan Province depend on water from Afghanistan's extensively used Hirmand (Helmand) River to irrigate their crops, and the division of the waters has been a contentious issue for many years.
In March 1969, for example, Kabul would agree to ensure water flow to Iran only in exchange for credit facilities, improved access to Iranian ports, and development assistance, according to the diaries of Iranian Minister of Court Asadollah Alam ("The Shah and I," Alinaghi Alikhani, ed., London, 1991). And when the Afghan legislature discussed a new agreement on the Hirmand in October 1972, Tehran feared that it would be costly: Iranian monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi said, "authorize him [the Iranian ambassador to Kabul] to make the payoffs if you really think they're necessary."
The prime ministers of Iran and Afghanistan signed an accord in 1973 that determined the specific amount of water that should flow into Iran: 26 cubic meters of water per second. Taliban violations of this accord, four years of drought, and the silting up of the waterways combined to badly damage farms in Sistan va Baluchistan Province. A new agreement was reached during President Khatami's 13 August visit to Afghanistan, and the Hirmand's waters reached Iran on 25 October (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 November 2002). This did not last very long, however, and the water stopped about 10 days later (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 11 November 2002).
Afghan Minister for Housing and Urban Reconstruction Yusef Pashtun on 15 November registered surprise regarding the interruption of the flow of the Hirmand River's water to Iran, according to IRNA one day later. Pashtun told Iranian officials in the city of Zahedan that the water is supposed to flow for 60 days, and he speculated that Afghan farmers might have diverted the waters for their own use. Khalid Pashtun, the spokesman for Afghanistan's Kandahar Province, said in an interview with Mashhad radio's Dari Service on 16 November that he reassured Iranian Ambassador Ebrahim Taherian that the Hirmand water would reach Zahedan in 10 or 15 days. (Bill Samii)
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