Staunton, Jan. 13 – With the collapse of the USSR, the countries of Central Asia faced the challenge of allocating water resources among them without the existence of a single center to do that. Until about five years ago, that task became the most important source of conflicts between the two with water surpluses and the other three with water shortages.
Those tensions have not disappeared, Stanislav Pritchin of Moscow State University says; but they have eased in recent years, not because more water has become available or even because the five countries are using water that much more efficiently (ia-centr.ru/experts/stanislav-pritchin/kak-reshit-problemu-nekhvatki-vody-v-tsentralnoy-azii/).
Instead, facing an increasing crisis and seeing the consequences of not finding a way out in the death of the Aral Sea, the countries of the region have begun to work more closely together not to restore a single power in the region but rather an institution that will allow them to find solutions without turning to the use of force.
Pritchin sees this trend not only in the efforts of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to address common water problems, but especially the steps taken earlier this month by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to agree on the construction of a new hydroelectric dam on the Naryn river, a project that can begin only with an agreement on the division of water resources.
Whether the two accords the Moscow scholar points to will be sufficient to usher in a new era of regional cooperation on water remains to be seen; but they are an indication that water alone is unlikely to be the generator of inter-state conflict in Central Asia that it was over the last three decades.
If they are, it will reduce the possibilities for meddling by Moscow; if they aren't, then those chances will increase.