Tajikistan Is Thirsty

by Joshua Foust on 1/7/2008 · 1 comment

One of the rolling problems facing Tajikistan is the role of water—both as a power source and as a regular old resource. The Nurek hydroelectric power plant has been the subject of much attention thanks to its importance in addressing Tajikistan’s endemic electricity shortages (Nurek is but one of several hydropower plants under construction).

Tajikistan's Water Table

At the same time, there is increasing worry that climate change will melt Tajikistan’s glaciers, with the possibility of ruining high-altitude agriculture and fomenting a drought for the entire region: the Amu Darya, which waters several countries (including Uzbekistan’s ever-hungry cotton fields) is fed by the Vaksh and Panj Rivers, both of which begin in the high mountains that host these glaciers.

Naturally, all of these issues have converged into a perfect storm, in which Tajikistan’s rather ambitious desire for hydropower, with its subsequent reduction in downstream availability for Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, has created much tension over water rights. These sorts of disputes are important for Central Asia, but they also represent what many climate change experts believe will be a permanent fixture of the international community as a changing climate dramatically alters water systems: angry fights over access to water.

This will not even be limited to fairly poor countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The relatively wealthy Kazakhstan is the midst of its own burgeoning water dispute with China, over the penultimate fate of the very polluted Lake Balkhash. Indeed, most countries in the region will be facing serious choices when it comes to managing their water supplies, whether to utilize wherever possible potentially sustainable hydroelectric power generation or whether diverting it for human or agricultural use—especially as international waterways become constricted in output.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

Gordon April 29, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Just came across this. TJ government asking companies to fork over half of employees’ salaries to pay for the new dam.


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