Salaam A Laykum. First Vice President Masood, Minister Khan, distinguished ministers and other civil servants of Afghanistan, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Kai Eide, representatives of the international community, and importantly, all who seek to improve water resources development and management. On behalf of the United States Government, it is an honor to be here at this important conference. Thank you for the invitation.
During my six years over seeing economic policy at the U.S. Department of State, I saw what a great advantage countries gained by managing water resources well. In my short time in Afghanistan, I have been struck by the wealth of activity that develops around sources of water. The phrase “water is life” is proven true in the lush, populated valleys of this great country, where water tempers the sometimes difficult environment, communities flourish, and agricultural and livestock production spurs economic growth.
Oftentimes foreigners remark that Afghanistan just does not have sufficient water resources. Those of us here today know this is not the case. Afghanistan has abundant water resources. Nevertheless, the well-planned and effective management of those water resources is the challenge. As Vice President and Minister Khan noted water plays three critical roles for this country.
First, the seasonality of water abundance amidst Afghanistan’s high mountains requires improved capacity to harness the resource and use it for the generation of electrical energy. The potential here to improve living conditions and spur economic growth is extraordinary.
Second is the capacity for sound water management to tap the vast potential for greater agricultural production. Fertile land lies unproductive because sufficient water is not readily available to support sustainable farming. Increased production and productivity means not only a population that is better fed, but opens the way for value added commercialization, marketing, and exports, bringing additional prosperity to millions.
Third, water is truly a basic and essential requirement for human existence. Increased access to potable water significantly reduces the incidence of infectious disease and contributes to a healthier and more prosperous society, with direct beneficial impacts on the health of women and children.
Unfortunately, the turmoil of the past 30 years has diverted attention from the importance of water resources in Afghanistan.
This conference represents our hope for the future. The international community is joining Afghanistan in recognizing the need to leave behind the tragic past and build a brighter future. Water will play a vital role in realizing this brighter future.
We come together today to focus our attention on the importance of managing water more effectively and to maximize this valuable resource as a fully integrated ingredient to expanding social and economic development throughout every corner of this country. This forum will call attention to both the tremendous potential of the country’s water resources, and the need to improve key aspects of water management.
We are pleased that the United States Government is helping to sponsor this conference. The administration of President Barack Obama strongly supports sustainable economic growth, upheld by an accountable Afghan Government that provides security, justice, and key services for its citizens. Improving water resource management in Afghanistan contributes directly to our shared development goals for this nation. It will provide hydropower for energy production and distribution, increases agricultural production, and improves the health of the population – all of which are essential in a stable, democratic Afghanistan.
And, this conference is providing key water sector stakeholders from Afghanistan and the international community with the opportunity to develop plans to further achieve our mutual goals.
Afghanistan and the United States share a long history of working together to improve water resources in this country.
For example, in the 1970’s, we aided the construction of the Kajaki Dam, creating a stable source of electrical energy and constructing critical irrigation supply structures and delivery systems. Indeed, throughout this country there are irrigation canals that were constructed by the partnership of the Afghan and the American people, beginning as far back as 50 years ago.
Now, here today I can attest to my nation’s efforts to renew our cooperation and help work for better water management in Afghanistan. For example, we have worked with Afghan partners on rehabilitating the Kajaki Dam hydroelectric plant, and our projects have refurbished and rehabilitated important irrigation systems in many provinces.
The United States has also partnered with both the Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development to advance clean water.
We are pleased that the United States is doing its part through our partnership with you. We intend to carry this partnership into the future through new and innovative programs, such as the rehabilitation of the hydropower plant at Darunta Dam, in Nangarhar, over the next year. Very significant investments are also planned to support irrigated agriculture nationwide, particularly in the volatile regions of the south and east. Indeed, agricultural development in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock is one of the key aspects of my nation’s major new areas of developmental emphasis here in Afghanistan. Additionally, a new project will expand access to clean and sustainable water supplies in rural communities in the months and years ahead.
Through your efforts, through the determination of the Government and people of Afghanistan, and with broad international support, the improved, efficient, and equitable management of water resources in this great nation will decisively contribute to collective efforts to deliver peace, justice, and economic well-being. Water is key to providing a brighter future for communities, families, and Afghanistan’s next generations.
We look forward to continuing to work with our Afghan counterparts and international community colleagues in addressing water management challenges, as your friend and partner. I thank all of you for the excellent collaboration. We congratulate all participants to this important event for their dedication and commitment in the wise use of water.
I am confident that developing and managing Afghanistan’s scarce and valuable water resources will promote prosperity in Afghanistan, and greatly enhance peace and stability in the region. Thank you.