Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Military Clashes in Central Asia Over Water Likely to Grow in Number and Intensity, Kazantsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 19 – The military conflict between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan was in the first instance about the lack of agreement between the two countries over control of water flows. That conflict cost 55 dead and about 300 wounded and forced tens of thousands of people to leave their homes.

            Conflicts over water like this one are likely to grow in number and intensity in the coming months, Andrey Kazantsev, a specialist on the region at MGIMO, unless the countries of the region are able to agree on an equitable sharing of water, something that they have not been able to do and that is increasingly difficult to achieve.

            That is because as the death of the Aral Sea has shown demands for water across the region are far outpacing supply and sparking social, economic and political problems because the water is not equally divided among the five, with two water-surplus countries confronted by three water-short ones.

            But increasingly, the water-surplus countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, have far less extra water than they had and are less inclined to share it with anyone else as the fight between the two of them in May shows. And the water-short countries are more short than usual because of drought (stem-lab.az/article/defitsit-vody-mozhet-stat-prichinoi-novyx-voin-v-srednei-azii---143).

                As a result, he says, “there is a great probability that conflicts like the one which took place between the Kyrgyz and the Tajiks this spring will intensify since the climate is changing, the glaciers which fed the Central Asian Amudarya and Syrdarya are retreating, and demand for water to the contrary is increasing since the population is growing.”

            Other experts, like Jennifer Sehring of the Central Asian Water Resources journal and Uzbekistan analyst Baktiyor Alimdzhanov, agree. Indeed, they are if anything even more pessimistic than the Moscow expert, although there are some outside specialists like Stanislav Pritchin who believe that the problem won’t explode in that way.

            But even he agrees that the problems are spreading. They no longer involve only Uzbekistan in conflicts with its neighbors but all the states of the region in disputes with theirs. That multiplication of disputes by its very nature makes it harder for any collection of these states to reach agreement and more likely that disputes will take on a military dimension.

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