Tajikistan: Asia’s Reservoir of Last Resort?

In view of the current Water Summit and its focus on the fact that many Asia-Pacific countries lack adequate clean water, NewEurasia offered an interesting look at Tajikistan – a nation often considered as a strategically important country which has huge resources of water. The article notes:

“…A lot of people in Tajikistan believe that soon Tajikistan is going to be a water exporting country and it will have such revenues as the OPEC countries have from oil. It means that we are going to live in a prosperous country. Naïve. Water is not oil and even if Tajikistan gains from the export of water, I’m sure it is going to be a small group of people who will enjoy those gains. The rest of the population will live in poverty…”

Intrigued by this piece despite its pessimistic tone, I looked at the Tajikistan State of the Environment Report (2000) to learn more about Tajikistan’s considerable water resources:

“…Tajikistan …. occupies a little more 20% of the total area of the Aral Sea basin (350 thousand km2), [but] the mountain zone gives about 90% of the total surface runoff. On the average, the water flow which is formed in this zone is 115 billions m3 mainly within Amudaria and Sirdaria river basins. More than 51,2 billions m3 of water is formed on the territory of Tajikistan which is equal 44% of all annual drain of the Aral Sea.

Tajikistan’s water resources are mainly formed owing to glacier melting and precipitation. Overall water volume in Tajikistan’s glaciers and snowfields is 500 km3. Their basic part is disposed in the basins of Obihingou, Gunt, and Muksu rivers as well as in the high-mountain areas of the country. Glaciers and snowfields occupy about 6% of total country’s territory. More than 1300 lakes contain 44 km3 of water, including 20 km3 of fresh water and 24 km3 of salty water.

….Being the upper flow of the Aral Sea basin, Tajikistan’s rivers directly influence the state and the level of Aral Sea’s water. The Intergovernmental Aral Sea Rescue Fund and its national branches have already realized a number of agreements, designs and action plans on stabilization and improvement of the state of Aral sea. Those projects are focused both on the increasing of water quality and enhancement of water usage for irrigation and power generation purposes.”

I doubt that water exports are a short-term phenomenon for Tajikistan; however, it is clearly a reservoir of “last resort” and – being an under-developed country – may be pressured to sell its water to the thirsty nations of Asia. We’ll have to watch how this develops in the years ahead.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 6th, 2007 at 11:41 pm and is filed under Aral Basin, China, Tajikistan.  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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