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  • Alison Hall

Holding Water to Ransom

How the Kamal Khan Dam is causing violence and conflict between Iran and Afghanistan

In 1974 construction of a new hydroelectric dam began on the Helmand River in the Chahar Burjak District of Nimroz Province in Southwest Afghanistan. However, it wasn't inaugurated until 2021, just months before the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

The ambition for the dam is to irrigate 175,000 hectares of agricultural land whilst producing 9 MW of electric power. It remains to be seen whether that goal has been, or will be, achieved.

The dam promises a solution to many of the region’s infrastructural and agricultural challenges. It also threatens to interrupt the supply of water to Iran and has become a source of political dispute between Iran and Afghanistan and more recently, a cause for violent conflict. On 7th March 2022, fighting broke out between Iranian security forces and Taliban border guards. Some media reports say that Taliban forces began firing on Iranians who were attempting to dredge the canal after crossing over the border into Afghanistan . Conflicting reports suggest that it was Afghan farmers trying to construct a new canal who were attacked by Iranian guards in efforts to stop them.

We have told the story of the dam and subsequent violence in an immersive and interactive story map.

Dive in and explore how the Helmand River ebbs and flows between the 2 countries and how an intervention to improve lives is, in fact, costing them.


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