Politics of Water in Central Asia – In Pictures

Via Time, an interesting collection of stark photographs & commentary detailing the water politics of Central Asia, specifically how four former Soviet Republics fight for control of a precious resource.

Central Asia is rich in water, but 90% of it is concentrated in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, above. In Soviet times, the water was controlled by a central government, so that the lakes and rivers of the two upstream nations serviced the fields and electric needs of the downstream nations, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, these controls have broken down and national self-interests have taken hold.

The lakes of the upstream nations feed several rivers, including the Syr Darya, which the Soviets diverted to irrigate cotton and other crops, thereby diminishing the height of the river by 20 feet in twenty years and turning the area around the Aral Sea, above, into a barren wasteland.

In Soviet times, the irrigation system fueled huge economic growth. At one point, the region exported as much as four million tons of cotton annually. Nowadays, parts of the cotton-producing infrastructure stands derelict and many of the communities devoted to its production have been abandoned.

Meanwhile in Turkmenistan
Despite its enormous lack of water, the former Turkmen President for Life, Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the country until his death in December, 2006, saw fit to develop a lush garden-like setting for his budding capital in Ashgabat.

Symbol of Power
In Kyrgyzstan, five dams control the flow of water on the Naryn River. The electricity that they generate is also coveted by the downstream nations.

The Karakum Desert
Most of the territory of Turkmenistan is like Jerbent, a dusty outpost located on the country’s primary north-south highway….”

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008 at 9:01 am and is filed under Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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