Earlier today, hundreds of people marched the streets of Lashkargah, the capital of Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand Province, to protest Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s latest remarks on water dispute with Afghanistan, the Afghan media reported. Speaking at an international conference on tackling dust storm, Rouhani had criticized the Afghan government and its international allies for constructing dams and preventing the flow of sufficient water into Iran. The protestors in the southern Afghan province slammed Rouhani’s statement and vowed that “we won’t allow meddling by anyone in our country.” Some protestors also chanted slogans “death to Rouhani” and “down with Iran.” One civil society activist among the protestors called on the Kabul government to stop the flow of water into Iran until existing water sharing agreements between the two countries are fully implemented.

Comment: On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused regional countries, particularly Turkey and Afghanistan, of aggravating environmental problems in Iran and the broader region by constructing major dams without prior consultation with the Islamic Republic. He specifically mentioned about Kajaki dam in Helmand Province and Kamal Khan and Selma dams in western Afghanistan. “We cannot remain indifferent to what is damaging our environment. The construction of several dams in Afghanistan – the Kajaki, Kamal Khan and Selma dams and other dams in the north and south of Afghanistan – impacts our Khorasan and Sistan and Baluchestan provinces,” he emphasized. The Afghan government rejected Rouhani’s remarks as ”inappropriate” and insisted that it manages its water resources and irrigation systems on the basis of its national interests and international norms.

Afghan officials and media outlets often accuse Tehran of aiding the Taliban to obstruct the construction of water dams and ensure the free flow of Afghan water into Iran. According to Hayatullah Hayat, the governor of southern Helmand province, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) has provided the Taliban with sophisticated weapons to disable some of the nation's dams so that Tehran could get a larger share of water from the Helmand River.