GSN Profile: Atal Ahmadzai, Global Affairs Doctoral Candidate
Rutgers Graduate School-Newark
Office of the Dean
Visit: 175 University Avenue, Conklin Hall Suite 241, Newark, New Jersey 07102
Phone: (973) 353-5834
Atal Ahmadzai, doctoral candidate, Division of Global Affairs
Around the world, fresh water availability is a growing source of tension, and some researchers believe that in future decades that could lead to war. RU-N Division of Global Affairs Ph.D. student Atal Ahmadzai is working to help prevent that from happening.
His research focuses on the major river systems that run through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. As those countries develop, they are drawing more water from their shared rivers, diminishing supply for downstream areas.
“If each of those countries want to use those waters for agriculture and hydropower, there is a huge potential for conflicts,” says Ahmadzai.
Born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan, he has firsthand experience with these issues. Ahmadzai completed a bachelor’s degree in health sciences at Kabul University, and went on to research water and human development for the United Nations. In 2013, after a UN colleague suggested he apply to RU-N, he began a masters degree in Global Affairs. Today he is in his fourth year of the Ph.D. program.
While future water wars are possible, he says it’s also possible they can be avoided through grassroots methods, which have historically prevented conflict. For his dissertation, Ahmadzai is proposing that we take lessons from traditional conflict mitigation methods, and that we develop a global body to enforce international water laws.
“We need to go in both directions: up from the nation state and down from nation state.”
Researching this important intersection of environment, development, and security has opened doors for him to teach courses on these topics here at RU-N and at Seton Hall. Ahmadzai also teaches a course on understanding terrorism for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and works as an advisor for Zero Poverty Solutions, a development organization he co-created here at RU-N.