Sunday, March 3, 2024

‘Water Surplus’ Kyrgyzstan Increasingly No Longer Is

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 29 – It has long been customary to discuss water problems in Central Asia between the supposedly “water surplus” countries of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan from which water flows downstream to the “water deficit” countries of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

            But a combination of global warming and increased human use of water means that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are increasingly suffering from water shortages and the impact these have on their populations and economies that are already hitting the populations and economies of the downstream countries.

            There has been some attention to this development in the past and to its consequences for regional cooperation and conflict ( and

            But the situation in Tajikistan is intensifying so quickly that it is now sparking concern there that a shortage of water in what many still call a “water surplus” country may lead to disasters, including but not limited to food shortages (

            Kyrgystan has been losing glacial cover rapidly, the primary source of water in that country; and last year, shortages of water for agriculture there because of declining glacial supplies meant that the country’s farmers harvested 250,000 tons of food crops and especially wheat than they did only a year earlier.

            Officials there are pressing for new laws that might slow the decline in glaciation and increase the efficiency of irrigation systems. But they face an uphill battle, and food shortages are likely to become a reality soon, leading to outmigration and either expanded conflict or cooperation with neighboring states.

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