“The water crisis in Central Asia is due to the way water has been allocated and managed; it is not a crisis of quantity but of distribution,” asserts Jeremy Allouche, a visiting fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies, in “The governance of Central Asian waters: national interests versus regional cooperation
,” available in the latest issue of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research’s Disarmament Forum
The shrinking of the Aral Sea, which began in the 1960s, first drew international attention to the region’s water issues. The Aral Sea has been an ecological disaster, but Central Asia now has another, equally serious hydrological problem: how to divide the region’s limited water among competing countries that need it for irrigation, hydropower, and other uses. Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Krygystan have had largely hostile relations over water distribution since they achieved independence in 1992, and these tensions could boil over into violent conflict unless the countries can implement a functional regional water agreement.
Allouche offers a concise, lucid overview of the challenges of the region’s post-independence water governance system, including analyses of how the water policies of Central Asia’s major players (which also include Afghanistan, China, and Russia) affect regional tensions over water.