KABUL: Following comments by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Afghanistan’s dam projects, the Afghan Ministry of Water and Energy on Wednesday said building dams on Helmand River is Kabul’s top priority which is aimed at managing the country’s waters and improving the national economy. According to the ministry, Iran has used four times more water than stipulated in the Helmand River Treaty over the past few years – under the pretext of being in the neighborhood of Afghanistan. And meanwhile, Iran has built over 30 water dams on rivers which flow to Afghanistan – stopping the flow of water to Afghanistan. Iran, the ministry said, has used unprecedented volume of waters from Afghanistan’s Helmand and Harirod Water Zones, in the bordering areas with Iran, over the years. “With the establishment of dams in the country, we can ensure the management of water resources in Afghanistan,” said deputy minister of water and energy Basir Azimi. Based on Article 5 of the Helmand River Treaty signed between Afghanistan and Iran in 1973, Iran shall make no claim to the water of the Helmand River in excess of the amounts specified in this Treaty, even if additional amounts of water may be available in the Helmand Lower Delta and may be put to a beneficial use by Iran. This comes after the Iranian president criticized Afghanistan’s dam project at a conference on sandstorms in Tehran on Monday Rouhani said: “We cannot remain silent about the thing which is apparently damaging our environment. Establishment of several dams in Afghanistan such as Kajaki, Kamal Khan and Salma in the north and south of Afghanistan,” said Rouhani. He said the dam projects in Afghanistan ‘threatens a number of bordering provinces in Iran’. Afghan experts said they believe that Iran should thank Afghanistan for benefiting from its waters in the course of history. The analysts said Afghanistan would face in a crisis with its neighbors over water if it remains ‘reluctant’ to manage its water resources. “According to the international conventions, we maintain the right to establish dams. It is our responsibility to take steps in this respect according to our national interests,” said Sayed Massoud, an economy expert and Kabul University lecturer. “The Afghan government must take action in line with international conventions and ask Iran to pay Afghanistan for the waters it has received over the years,” said Ramazan Jumazada, head of Afghan parliament’s natural resources commission. On average basis, the scale of water resources in Afghanistan is estimated up to 70 billion cubic meters annually. But 80 percent of these waters are flowing to Iran, Pakistan and other neighboring nations in the Central Asian countries. Iran is one of the neighbors which receive much water from Afghanistan’s two water zones – Helmand and Harirrod zones.