Friday, May 12, 2023

Now the Ural River is Dying, Exacerbating Relations between Russia and Kazakhstan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 9 – The death of the Aral Sea has attracted international attention, but the death of other waterways in Central Asia has not. However, these are rapidly intensifying and may soon lead to a serious increase in international tensions given that some countries are already suffering from serious water shortages as a result.

            The country that is currently most at risk in the region is Kazakhstan which has seen the inflow of water from China and Russia decline over the last several decades. Moscow has played up the Chinese angle ( and But the Russian one may prove more important.

            Because of climate change, population growth and irresponsible water use patterns in Russia, the Ural River, the third longest river in Europe is silting up; and the flow of water is declining, having a serious impact on downstream countries, including in the first instance Kazakhstan.

            Kazakh officials are furious at their Russian counterparts for promising to do something and then not carrying through, and protests by the population in western portions of Kazakhstan and along the Kazakhstan-Russian borders about the shortage of water is intensifying ( and

            Both Kazakh and Russian activists and experts are describing the situation as a catastrophe and warning that conflicts over water in this area could prove more explosive than ethnic or religious ones (

            But Russian officials are alarmed that the water problem has now become part of the Kazakhstan government’s agenda and that Astana is increasingly focusing on Russia rather than China and discussing it “under anti-Russian mantras” (


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