The Politics of River Basin Organisations
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The Politics of River Basin Organisations

Coalitions, Institutional Design Choices and Consequences

Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink

Can River Basin Organisations (RBOs) actually improve water governance? RBOs are frequently layered on top of existing governmental organisations, which are often reluctant to share their power. This, in turn, can affect their performance. The Politics of River Basin Organisations addresses this issue by exploring the subject on a global level.
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Chapter 10: River basin organisations in Northern Afghanistan: the holy trinity of contemporary water management in practice

Jeroen Warner and Vincent Thomas


While, at the time of writing in December 2013, their country prepared for an uncertain economic and political transition as a consequence of the withdrawal of most international troops by 2014, farmers in Afghanistan continue irrigating their crops to make a living and feeding the population. Afghanistan is not water-scarce, it has many water resources and its geography provides significant opportunities for their exploitation. War has, however, dwarfed the area under irrigation. Water resource development and irrigation are key to Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy 2008–2013 which claims that, ‘throughout, this transition can only take place with the full participation of all stakeholders’ (IROA 2008: 151). The Afghan Water Law of 2009 proposes water sector reform leading to the delegation of the national Ministry of Energy and Water’s management responsibilities to participatory river basin and sub-basin committees to promote principles of integrated water resources management, multi-stakeholder consultation and basin-level decision making–which Warner (2007) has called the ‘holy trinity’ of water management. River basin and sub-basin committees are a novelty for Afghanistan, and it is unclear when the committees will gain their mandate. This chapter reports on research into the functioning of river basin participation processes in two sub-basins of the Panj-Amu River basin in Northeast Afghanistan (see Table 10.1 for some ‘fast facts’), carried out by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit in 2011–2012, to see how the process of devolution to the basin level and multi-stakeholder deliberation functioned.

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