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Emotionality in Transboundary Water: A Case Study of Helmand River

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Abstract

While a substantial body of literature perceives rationality as the only path for negotiations over the use of the transboundary shared watercourse, recent scholarship has unveiled the role of emotion in decision-making processes over the use of the shared water. This research aims to challenge the conventional approach—rationality—by exploring affective dynamics of the riparian nations of the Helmand River (shared between upstream Afghanistan and downstream Iran) and how decisions over the use of the shared Helmand River are ingrained in the emotional dispositions of the riparian nations. Taking an integrated approach combining emotional political ecology and neoclassical realism, this research unravels the intricate emotional dynamics of the riparian nations to the flow of the Helmand River. The staggering increase in water withdrawal—both surface and groundwater resources— coupled with the population growth, and adverse effects of climate changes has stimulated the negative emotional dispositions of the borderland communities— the sufferings of farming communities due to lack of access to water—resulting in water conflict escalation in the Helmand River Basin. Finally, it is asserted that negotiations over the use of Helmand River are considered to be ill-equipped unless emotionality and rationality—a pluralistic approach— are equally weighed or gauged in water allocation and utilization by the co-riparian nations.

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Fig. 1

Data availability

The data and materials that support the findings are included in the manuscript.

Notes

  1. Transboundary water refers to lakes, aquifers, and rivers shared between two or more riparian nations. In the face of changing climate and increasing pressures on water resources, the misgovernance of the transboundary watercourse leads to social unrest among the upstream and downstream riparian nations (Kim and Glaumann 2012).

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Acknowledgements

The author is grateful for the constructive feedback and thoughtful comments and suggestions provided by four anonymous reviewers over three rounds of review process. The author is also thankful to the endless support of the editorial board of the Environmental Management Journal- Springer.

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Najibullah Loodin, the sole author, has contributed to the entire manuscript.

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Correspondence to Najibullah Loodin.

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Loodin, N. Emotionality in Transboundary Water: A Case Study of Helmand River. Environmental Management (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-024-02005-0

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