Opinions / Kazakhstan / Kyrgyzstan / Tajikistan / Turkmenistan / Uzbekistan

International environmental experts encourage Central Asian states to resolve the looming water crisis together

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18-04-2017, 11:59
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Some 1.5 million people die every year because of the deteriorating environment in Europe and Central Asia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) official data. People are dying from the air pollution and difficult access to drinking water. Fourteen people die every day, the organization said, due to water shortage.

 

International environmental experts encourage Central Asian states to resolve the looming water crisis together

Some 1.5 million people die every year because of the deteriorating environment in Europe and Central Asia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) official data. People are dying from the air pollution and difficult access to drinking water. Fourteen people die every day, the organization said, due to water shortage.

This shouldn’t sound surprising but the Central Asian countries have had the water shortage problem on their agenda for decades.

In the Soviet times, the five Central Asian republics – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan enjoyed a fruitful cooperation. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have water, the other three have electricity. The “water” republics preserved the water in the winter to send it downstream to the “dry” republics – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – in the summer, and as a consequence remained without electricity for the whole winter season. In turn, the “dry” republics supplied the “water” states with electricity. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union the system was halted, thus edging the five states into the resource struggle.

So what are the “dry” states undertaking to prevent the looming water crisis?

Uzbekistan, for instance, mostly depends on the cotton industry that, in turn, directly depends on the water supply. The country has already started building dozens of water reservoirs in an attempt to prepare for a possible water crisis in the region. Turkmenistan, in spite of showing little concern to the neighbors, is also building water reservoirs and improving the irrigation infrastructure. Kazakhstan, though largely dependent on the resources of the Syr Darya basin like its neighbors, has been trying to not just preserve the water arteries and but restore them.

While the “water” states are building their own dams to become completely independent from the “dry” states.

The Rogun dam in Tajikistan has been under construction since 1976. Experts note that once completed the dam could add up to the existing problems in the region. Furthermore, Kyrgyzstan is building the Kambarata hydroelectric power station. Together these two constructions were called “construction sites of the century.” The Kambarata hydro power plant will be the most powerful in the country and will provide enough electricity for the whole country and even for export. Hence, these two projects would pose problems to the “dry” states, luckily for them, neither Kyrgyzstan not Tajikistan have enough finances to complete their projects, just yet.

Needless to say all five countries have been trying to find the win-win situation, yet each looking out for own benefit, however, in the bigger picture there is another inevitable problem – water shortage due to the rapid melting of glaciers in the mountains of Central Asia.

Numerous international experts have already labelled this issue as a global catastrophe, not just for the Central Asian region. This problem, they say, can play a key role in the water crisis in Central Asia. The increase of the water flow in rivers is forecasted in the medium term but in the long run it is quite possible that the water level in rivers might drop.

International experts believe the transboundary river issue is a regional and must be addressed by all the five of the Central Asian countries together before it is too late.

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