Wandering Amu Darya River Opens Afghanistan Border Conflict

by Joe Dyke, IRIN

MAZAR-I-SHARIF — Uzbekistan has a perhaps unusual ally in its territorial claims over neighboring Afghanistan: the mighty and ever-wandering Amu Darya river. And no one knows it better than the children of Arigh Ayagh School, just inside Afghanistan.

Built in 2007 about 3 kilometers from the Amu Darya—which runs along the border between the two Central Asian giants—the school was financed through the National Solidarity Programme, a development scheme largely funded by the World Bank.

Yet all that remains of that investment is a solitary wall, dangling tentatively over a precipice. Sitting in its shadow, two teens stare blankly across the vast river that is rapidly swallowing their homeland.

Every year for the past decade the Amu Darya has encroached up to 500 metres further into Afghanistan, taking with it large swathes of territory and leaving hundreds of families homeless. And as the official border between the countries is defined as the middle of the river, Uzbekistan has laid claim to hundreds of kilometres of Afghan territory.