Water Management in Central Asia

by Misha on 11/27/2009 · 10 comments

The recent post on Jatrophetic prompted me to post this news about glacial retreat in Kyrgyzstan. Geologists have recently brought to attention the significant melting of Kyrgyz glaciers Adigene and Petrova. This story is only one in a series of warnings surrounding global glacial retreat in countries around the world. From Kilamanjaro to the Himalayas, we are seeing a threat to water supply across the board.

As in the case of the Kyrgyz glaciers, many countries may depend on one country’s glacier, or maybe the mountain borders more than one country. Many of these countries that share borders and water supply may at best have differing political interests, and at worst, have ethnic conflicts to add to the mix.

Given this global climate (no pun intended) of ethnic and religious tensions, it’s important to keep watch on how resources are managed. Kyrgyzstan is well endowed with fresh water, the majority of which can be attributed to their glaciers. Uzbekistan, on the other hand, is not, and relies on basins which connect to river systems in both Kyrgystan and Tajikistan. Glacial melting aside, the entire central asian region is plagued with poor water management, leading to contamination, improper irrigation, and uneven distribution of existing water resources.

While the neighboring countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan may have more pressing concerns politically, socially, and economically, the melting of Kyrgyz glaciers is cause for concern as water scarcity becomes an imminent reality, and may very well become a deciding factor in political/military decisions in the next 20 years.

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Toaf November 27, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I believe that there have been some disputes in the past concerning water management in the region. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are able to control water flow to downstream nations, impacting hydro power generation and agriculture.

Misha November 27, 2009 at 7:40 pm

This is true. The issue with the glacial retreat is, if the glaciers melt too early, and take longer to re-freeze because summers are longer, those downstream reservoirs are filled with water that will evaporate before being used.

Central Asia Travel November 29, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Yeah with water we have a big problem in Central Asia in future ((

Dafydd November 30, 2009 at 6:15 am

It is extremely difficult to see how Cantral Asians will manage their water supply without some level of conflict.

So far as I am aware Uzbekistan is really short of water, and cotton as a cash crop does not help.

Misha November 30, 2009 at 10:29 pm

looks like this might be happening sooner than i thought!


energy crisis, ho!

Ahad_Abdurahmon November 30, 2009 at 7:11 pm

I don’t understand one thing, countries like EU, Japan, etc spend millions of dollars in foreign aid in CA to create a benign image of themselves. Uzbekistan is at the heart of it and what is wrong with just sharing its resources with less fortunate neighbors just for the sake carrying Turkistan’s burden?
It is myopic to enter into competition and tit for tat style relations with its fellow Turkistanians!

Ahad_Abdurahmon November 30, 2009 at 7:14 pm

all kyrgyz and tajik want is some gas and electricity, give them that freaking gas and electricity, be real good friends with them, integrate with their economy, cooperate in security and foreign policy, have some freaking respect to each other!!!

Fabius Maximus December 2, 2009 at 1:39 am

While many of these reports of glacial retreat are correct (after all, the Little Ice Age ended 2 centuries ago), they are often exaggerated. Such as your reference to the Himalayan glaciers. See this new report from the Government of India:

Himalayan Glaciers: A State-of-Art Review of Glacial Studies, Glacial Retreat and Climate Change“, Vijay Kumar Raina, Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, 12 November 2009.

For a brief review of the report see “No Sign Yet of Himalayan Meltdown, Indian Report Finds“, Pallava Bagla, Science, 13 November 2009 (subscription only; pirate copy here).

Misha December 2, 2009 at 2:47 am

Thanks for the links. It’s true that when it comes to climate science and global warming, the science is often distilled for the public and the media–the danger in this is the possibility of exaggeration and sensationalizing. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of stagnation on the policy side of things, as we’ve seen in the debate surrounding global warming over the past few years.

sufi December 3, 2009 at 3:58 am

check the DAWN article on the Siachen Talks between Pakistan and India:


Especially: ” …Indian suggestion to demilitarise the region was ‘an indirect admission that the melting of glaciers was because of its military presence’.” How exactly does that happen?

On the other side Pervez Ashraf (then Pak Energy Minister) claimed in May 2008 that the increased loadshedding in the country was because of a serious lack of electricity “because of less water in rivers and slower melting of snow”. (http://www.dawn.com/2008/05/15/top1.htm)

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