Saturday, July 20, 2019

Desertification, Already Depressing Central Asian GDPs, Threatens to Make Parts of Region Uninhabitable

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – Rapidly rising temperatures are melting the glaciers that had provided the water that is the lifeblood of Central Asia, depressing the GDPs of the countries there and threatening to make large swaths of the region uninhabitable deserts by the end of this century if current trends continue, experts say. 

            According to the World Bank, regional journalist Nikolay Kucherov says, water shortages caused by global warming and a rapidly growing population are already depressing the GDP of countries there by as much as 1.3 percent and that in the absence of significant change, “more serious problems lie ahead” (

            The glaciers that have provided much of the flow of the two major river systems, the Amu-Darya and the Syr-Darya, have receded or in some cases disappeared entirely, and there is no way that rainfall can make up for those losses.  But there are two reasons why this development is especially serious in Central Asia, Olga Solomina of the Moscow Institute of Geography says.

            On the one hand, the region is surrounded by deserts and prevailing winds are bringing dust from them which allows the warming of mountain heights to increase more than it otherwise would. And on the other, the region’s population is exploded and is currently projected to rise by 30 percent or more before 2050.

            Water shortages, projected to be as much as 10 to 15 percent by that year, will hit the agricultural production on which the region relies, driving down GDP. Still worse, the lower flows will cut into the hydro-electric production that countries like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan rely on. And worst of all, some parts of the region will become uninhabitable deserts.

            Taking the necessary steps to counter these trends, experts say, is especially difficult for three reasons: they require joint efforts, they seem unnecessary given that the trend is not linear and flooding is now a problem in some places, and there is not the political will in many places to make the tough decisions.

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