Central Asia: Water Scarcity Likely Within Two Decades

Via New Europe, an article on the impending water stress likely to be realized in Central Asia in the years ahead:

The water of the Caspian Sea shore some 50 kilometres north of Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. | |EPA/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE

Rivers crossing the territories of several countries must become a source of peace rather than discord, experts said, adding that countries in the region can use the experience of the EU in order to solve disputes involving of water consumption. At present, the problem of water consumption is not as acute for the countries of the Central Asian region as it is, for example, in Africa, according to the Regional Adviser of the project Water Management in Central Asia, Iskandar Abdullayev. “Today, about 60m people live in our region of Central Asia. By 2030, when the population reaches more than 80m, we can face the problem of water scarcity,” he said.

There are a few factors for such a course of events. First of all, Central Asia already has an environmental problem with the shrinking of the Aral Sea. Secondly, it is also a region of potential economic growth, with the availability of rich mineral deposits. Thirdly, there are also active developments of oil and gas projects. All this will require large consumption of water. 

“Water withdrawals per capita in Central Asian countries are more than three thousand cubic meters. The lowest figure in Kazakhstan is about 2,383 cubic meters of water”, Abdullaev said. According to him, in 20 years issue of water consumption from transboundary rivers in Central Asia will be acute, and European countries that have already gained experience in resolving such issues, are ready to help Central Asia. For the third year, the foreign ministry of Germany, with financial support of the European Union, provides advice to those skilled in this area from Central Asian republics. “Our initiative is a project, Management of Border Rivers in Central Asia, aimed at use of the already gained experience in Europe for water management in the region,” said the director of the project, Volker Frobat. According to him, there are three important components of the program proposed by Germany.

“The first is to promote regional co-operation. The second is strengthening of transboundary river resources management. The third is implementation of national pilot projects related to improving the management of water resources”, he said. But the question of whether or not Kazakhstan can apply international laws, developed by European experts for China, to resolve water disputes.

China has long stated its plans to build a dam on the Irtysh River. In this regard, both Kazakhstan and Russia through which the river flows, may be fully water-dependent on China.

But China has not joined the international convention on the cross-border use of rivers, which is why European laws cannot be applied. Negotiations between Kazakhstan, Russia and China have already been ongoing for many years. “Although negotiations are slow, they are still going. And we hope that China will take into account the wishes of their neighbours, and will adhere to the principle of good neighbourliness,” Abdullayev said

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