Trickling Knowledge

Dr. Haidari from TU Delft in Afghanistan

Dr. Amir Haidari's gave a 10 day-long workshop in Afghanistan under the CD4D framework in October, 2017. The workshop was greatly appreciated and will contribute to much needed water management, sanitary and environmental engineering in Afghanistan. The topics covered in the workshop were new to many, and the participants were eager to learn.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in the Western part of Afghanistan but I had to flee to Iran when I was a child. I later went back - the year before the Taliban regime reached the city of Herat – so I soon had to flee again, this time to the Netherlands. I lost a lot of time, beloved friends and family in my life, due to the Taliban regime.

I always had a real interest in education, getting it myself but also giving it to others. When I came to the Netherlands I did a Bachelor in Civil Engineering at Hogeschool van Amsterdam. Then I did a Master's at TU Delft in water management and later during my PhD, I enriched my knowledge about the purification of water with membrane technology, also at TU Delft. Currently, I am involved in a European project funded by Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The project aims to recover minerals as well as water from the waste stream of membrane filtration processes and to minimize the impact of the brine from the industry on the environment.

(From left to right, KPU Chancellor Professor Mohammad Sayed Kakar and IOM Afghanistan Chief of Mission, Laurence Hart.

What drives you?

IOM's project: The Temporary Return of Qualified Nationals invited, in cooperation with TU Delft, the head of the engineering department of the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. He interned at the university for three months where he learnt about the ancient water transport and treatment system (Karizes). That’s when he asked me if I could give a workshop in Afghanistan on these ancient water transport and treatment systems but also on new water technology (my area of expertise).

First, I went to Afghanistan to make an assessment to better understand the context in Afghanistan, as not having the ancient water transport and treatment system is not the only issue. One of the biggest problems is that a large proportion of the population is deprived of potable water, especially those with a low income.

The first thing that drives me is my passion and respect for ancient technologies especially for the Kariz system. It was always one of my wishes to contribute to the reviving of Karizes in Afghanistan.

Kariz system dates back to about 3500 years ago but still works, it originates from the region which is currently called Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan. Its implementation was encouraged by not paying tax for five generations for the constructors of Karizes during Darius the great. In this way, Karizes spread to North Africa, and later to Southern Europe with the Muslim invasion and from there to South America. The system is still innovative as you don't need a pump to extract the water from the ground. In Afghanistan, 6% of the water in rural area is dependent on this system, however, the knowledge on how to maintain and utilize the system is disappearing. The Afghan Government are showing more interest in these systems and are investing money into it.

The second matter that drives me is peace in the region. Afghanistan has enough water but doesn’t have the resources or knowledge on how to manage it and how to treat it, which could cause conflicts between Afghanistan and some neighboring countries. Limited treaties, foreign war and ongoing civil wars in Afghanistan for more than four decades allowed the downstream neighboring countries of Afghanistan to use the water originated from Afghanistan for many years without any responsibilities. Negotiating and making decisions on the water originating from Afghanistan which ends up in their countries without involving Afghan authorities. Because of this, the tensions about transboundary waters seems to be silently increasing between Afghanistan and some neighboring countries. This urges the Government to take measures and invest more in higher education in all of Afghanistan.

To contribute to the post-master education, I therefore, accepted to give the workshop and approached IOM CD4D’s project for assistance. In October the ten day workshop took place in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was very difficult and exhausting but once I saw the interest and enthusiasm of the participants, it gave me the drive to continue. I also learnt a lot from participants on the problems in Afghanistan and how can we help in the future.

What drives me is a passion for water, environment and peace in the world. Without one you can't have the others! 

What do you hope for in the future?

A direct effect of the power of knowledge transfers can be seen through the fact that the man currently at the forefront of Afghanistan's governmental projects in this area, came to the Netherlands on a study exchange at TU Delft to revive existing Karizes. I’d like to see Afghanistan pay more attention in the future to education and particularly to water treatment, water management and the environment. As for myself, whether it is in Afghanistan or another, I would like to repeat the experience and transfer my knowledge for good.