Home > Capacity Building for Cooperation in Water Resources Management in Afghanistan - Updated: 21-10-2003 10:35 am
Executive Summary

The UNESCO’s water initiative in Afghanistan aims at assisting the Afghanistan government in its efforts for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country by putting special emphasis on human and institutional capacity building, enhancement of higher educational institutions, capacity in water resources management as well as on institutional set up. Thoroughly reviewed and reformulated based on the finding, this interdisciplinary project has the advantage of responding to the two key priorities of the government. It has duration of six years, spanning from January 2002 to December 2008, and a two-phase approach. It is executed in cooperation with four water-related ministries identified as active partners of UNESCO: The Ministry of Water and Power; Ministry of Irrigation, Water and the Environment; Ministry of Reconstruction and the Ministry of Higher Education. Three of these Ministries benefited from the first phase of action accomplished by UNESCO from 29 January 2003 to 12 February 2003. This project is open to interagency cooperation. UN agencies and others organizations are invited to join the UNESCO’s efforts for capacity building in Afghanistan.

Imam Sahib_300.jpg Photo: Imam Sahib - Kalakatal village - view of Amu Darya river and Tajikistan in background on right


This project responds to the appeal of the government of Afghanistan and the Untied Nations’ system to assist the reconstruction of the country. As early as December 2001, the Division of Water Sciences mobilized efforts in formulating an interdisciplinary project for human and institutional capacity building as a contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The project was retained as the highest-ranked UNESCO water proposal in the ATIMS round of proposals presented to the Afghanistan government in January-February 2002.

In May 2002 the UNESCO’s Executive Board allocated US$100, 000 for the launching of the first phase of action. In August 2002 UNESCO fielded a fact-finding mission to Kabul in order to identify water-related issues, formulate a consolidated project in the area of water resources management and establish a common approach to attain the objectives. The mission identified the acute needs in Afghanistan concerning water and environment sectors including institutional and human resources development. This project addresses the corresponding capacity building requirements; and it has strong educational components.

The implementation of the first phase was accomplished in January-February 2003 with the training of fifteen Afghan water experts coming from the Ministry of Water and Power; Ministry of Irrigation, Water and the Environment; Ministry of Higher Education including Kabul University and Kabul Polytechnic Institute. While congratulating UNESCO for its initiative, the participants requested continuation of this capacity building effort for the attainment of the objectives for the Afghanistan sustainable reconstruction and development.

Based on the finding and the government’s key priorities, this project is run as a cooperative effort of UNESCO and Afghanistan’s water-related Ministries as well as higher educational institutions, which are considered as the owners of the project. UNESCO will assist and coordinate the implementation of the project. Regional water centers (Tajikistan, Tehran…) in cooperation with other Asian (AIT, a postgraduate academic institute) and European universities (Germany…) will participate in the execution of the project.

The second phase of the project was launched by the Director General of UNESCO in April 2003. The Director General provided additional 100.000US dollars for a study and the preparation of the master plan for integrated management of Kabul river basin, which will cost US$1.1 million, and related scientific projects such as monitoring capability improvement of the hydrological network in Afghanistan including the establishment of water center which will cost US$2 million over the next three years. The Iranian government who provided US$ 1.000.000 (see page 5, e.3) is one of collaborating partner of UNESCO in this endeavor. This component is being managed from UNESCO’s office in Tehran in co-operation with the Tehran Regional Centre on Urban Water Management established under the auspices of UNESCO, which has also offered its training facilities. UNESCO is seeking additional 2. 4 million to realize the remaining similar work on the Amu Darya and Helmand river basins in Afghanistan.


This project responds to the Afghanistan government key priorities for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country, with an emphasis on human capacity building, upgrading and training water-related experts/engineers in water resources management in order to reduce the country’s dependency toward international community.

The overall objectives are:- to increase national water security through improved water resources management capacity; to establish political and scientific co-operation in Central Asia in managing transboundary water resources; to develop an enhanced understanding of vulnerabilities and causes of water conflicts, and develop co-operative approaches and tools to assist in preventing or reducing them through equitable water resources management.


Water sector development is one of the highest priorities of the Afghanistan’s government, but the country lacks qualified human resources, technical, institutional and managerial capacities to attain this objective. Confronted by multiple water-related problems (drought, famine, and environmental degradation from overexploitation of aquifers), Afghanistan needs to act urgently in order to ensure water security for its people. However, as an upstream country situated in four internationally shared river basins (Amu Darya, Hari Rud and Murghab; Kabul River, Kunar, and Helmand), Afghanistan can not unilaterally undertake water resources development without establishing cooperation with downstream countries (Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, and Pakistan). Helping Afghanistan to adopt a cooperative approach at an early stage would not only stave off these potential tensions but could serve as an engine for broader regional collaboration and goodwill. Therefore this project seeks to pre-empt any such undesirable development by strengthening the capacity of the water resources administration of Afghanistan Government in cooperation and negotiation over shared water resources. UNESCO will also assist Afghanistan in the establishment of regional scientific cooperation in order to enable the Afghan water experts to deal with the issues.

Approach and Strategies

The UNESCO’s water initiative for human and institutional capacity building has a two-phase approach.

Strategy 1- Short-term activities: (2003-2004)

  • Rehabilitation and reinforcement of existing scientific and political institutions through upgrading and training water-related experts/engineers and water authorities senior staff;
  • Providing technical assistance and equipment for laboratories, research centers and libraries;
  • Supporting managerial capacity of water authorities through training and upgrading of senior staff;
  • Providing technical assistance and seconding of international experts/lecturers… to support Afghan universities and water authorities as well as to assist the implementation of the project;
  • Assisting higher educational institutions in curriculum renewal and development ; reintroducing (Ph.D. level) programmes in water and environmental sciences;
  • Facilitate access to scholarship abroad for young experts who lack technical experience;
  • Assisting in the review, formulation and development of national water policy and legislation;
  • Assisting in an institutional capacity building and networking in water-related sciences and engineering, as well as data collection, creating data banks, monitoring and policy advice.

    Strategy 2- Medium-term (2005-2008)

  • Continuing human and institutional capacity building;
  • Helping in institutional set up : creation of a scientific center under UNESCO’s auspices ;
  • Assisting in the establishment of regional scientific cooperation and network (WaterCan);
  • Facilitate information and knowledge sharing and management; setting up of data banks;
  • Assist in the establishment of regional cooperation in sharing transboundary water resources ;


  • Government;
  • Higher educational institutions;
  • Water Authorities;
  • Population


    It will take a long time before the results of this effort become visible. However, the first phase of action attained the outlined/intended objectives. It is important to continue investing in capacity building, which is the only way for ensuring sustainable development. Over the next four years, the expected key results include the following:
  • Managerial capacity of water authorities enhanced;
  • National water policy and legislation developed and implemented ;
  • Higher educational institutions managerial, technical, research and program development capacity enhanced;
  • Water authorities technical and managerial capacities enhanced;
  • Educational programmes developed and implemented;
  • Research/knowledge center under UNESCO auspice established;
  • Regional political and scientific cooperation on transboundary water resources established;
  • National and regional capacity to deal with the challenges of water management and security, in their political, environmental and socio-economic context strengthened.

    List of equipment for: hydrological research, water treatment, water supply, waste water treatment, fluid mechanics, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering… Soil, drilling and sampling, Agro-climate, Physical survey (for agriculture)…
  • Hydrological research: hydrological research demands strict requirements for the equipment to be used, such as: consumables for environmental groundwater research (to take soil and groundwater sample) which is also used to prevent contamination and water level measurements;
  • Agro-climate: Meteorological instruments; Data loggers, Sensors and measuring stations
  • Physical survey: Agricultural development projects can only succeed if comprehensive study is made by using the appropriate instrument: Surveying equipment; Aerial survey interpretation…
  • Soil drilling and sampling: Hand auger equipment (especially for heterogeneous soils); Hand-operated bailer boring equipment; Lifting sets for drilling equipment;

    Evaluation and Monitoring:

    Evaluation and monitoring are part of the management of this project. It will establish an international technical committee of renowned water-related experts composed of Afghanistan’s water authorities, UNESCO’s and international independent experts. The Committee will be charged with evaluation, supervision and monitoring of the progress of the project components. Annual evaluation meeting will be held at UNESCO’s Headquarter.

    Budget: this project is estimated to be 5.5 million US dollars.

    Summary of activities and budget

    A- Training and Capacity Building US$ 500.000
    B- Equipment and supplies US$ 500.000
    C- Formulation of National Water Policy US$ 1.000.000
    B- Networking US$ 200.000
    C- Technical cooperation in central Asia US$ 3.300.000

    Total: US$ 5.500.000

    Start Date 01-01-2002 10:00 pm
    End Date 31-12-2008 10:00 pm
    Total Project Cost US$ 5.500.000
    Project Document AfghanistanUpdatedOctober2003.doc 86016 bytes (Download Help)
    Lead Organization / Sector / Office UNESCO Division of Water Sciences
    Associated Organization(s) UNESCO / IHP in collaboration with the UNESCO / IHE Institute for Water Education/RCUWM and ICWM (the Intergovernmental Commission for Water Management of the Aral Sea Basin)