Central Asia may use India’s good offices for water sharing architecture in region
Central Asia faces water scarcity, rising tensions and uneven distribution, affecting the agricultural and hydropower sectors. This has led to the need for a local water management framework rather than an architecture imposed by another institution. Despite US efforts, the Uzbekistan model of effective border management and water distribution has yielded positive results, with last year’s approval of two key agreements with neighbour Kyrgyzsta ..
Water scarcity is a global problem that is particularly acute in Central Asia. In addition, water resources in the region are unevenly distributed and used for different purposes.
The water-rich countries Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, situated on the upper reaches of the major rivers Syr Darya and Amu Darya, use water predominantly for hydropower production in winter. On the other hand, the downstream countries Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, mainly use water for irrigating crops in summer.
The region needs a local water management formula, framework and architecture rather than an architecture imposed by any state or institution from outside Eurasia. A US initiative launched in 2021 through Tajikistan via USAID has not yielded any significant result. There are fears that the water management formula imposed from abroad may even get used in Afghanistan leading to scarcity and tensions in Central Asia.
Uzbekistan under the current President has initiated effective border management with all neighbours and effective water distribution formula.
Last year the Uzbek Senate approved agreements with Kyrgyzstan on border demarcation and jointly managing the Kempir-Abad water reservoir, an issue of contention between the two neighbors. The documents will help to solve longtime issues between the two nations.
The Uzbek parliament’s lower chamber approved the agreements on November 14, while Kyrgyz lawmakers gave them the green light. The Kempir-Abad reservoir, known in Uzbekistan as the Andijon reservoir, was built in 1983. It is located in the fertile Ferghana Valley and represents a vital regional water source.
Last November the president of Uzbekistan signed laws ratifying two key agreements with neighboring Kyrgyzstan on their mutual border and management of water resources in the Andijan (Kempir-Abad) reservoir.
During Soviet times, water and energy exchange between the five Central Asian republics were centrally planned, where water rich upstream countries (Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic or SSR and Kyrgyz SSR) would exchange water with energy rich downstream countries (Turkmen SSR, Uzbek SSR, and Kazakh SSR).
The Uzbek-Kyrgyz deal can provide a template for the region to initiate cross-border water management architecture. India’s experience in South Asia vis a vis Nepal and Bangladesh can alsobe applied in the region. India and Bangladesh share over 50 common rivers. India and Nepal have also put in place effective understanding on cross-border rivers. India has goodwill with all Central Asian states and its good offices can be utilized for putting in place an architecture for cross-border water management.
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