Central Asia Could Go To War Over Water – Business Insider

Posted: October 6, 2012 in Confrontation, Economy and Resources, Environment, Geography, Health, History, Human Rights, International, Tajikistan

Earlier this week, President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan indicated that efforts by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to build hydroelectric power stations on rivers that flowed into Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan could “spark war.”

Water wars are a hot topic right now, with conflicts or potential conflicts brewing literally all over the world. US policy makers seem most concerned with conflicts in Yemen and Pakistan, in times at the expense of seeing water wars in the broader context of their respective regions. A report drawn up for the Committee of Foreign Relations warns about the danger of narrow focus, saying:

“While the focus of the United States is appropriately directed toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is important to recognize that our water-related activities in the region are almost exclusively confined within the borders of these two countries. We pay too little attention to the waters shared by their Indian and Central Asian neighbors—Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. For example, in 2009 the United States provided approximately $46.8 million in assistance for water-related activities to Afghanistan and Pakistan compared with $3.7 million shared among all five Central Asian countries for these efforts.”

‘Water wars’ refers to the idea that some countries, which hold enough water to be able to export it, control headwaters of a river, or hold reservoirs/large sources of water, have an extremely strong source of leverage over water-scarce countries. At times, this causes water to be thought of in simplistic terms as a commodity, rather than a basic building block of life, access to which is detailed in several international human rights conventions, but not explicitly recognized as a self-standing human right in international treaties. When countries deny other states water or imply they might use water as leverage for political gain, this is water conflict, and it’s brewing in Central Asia.

Within the context of Central Asia, to simplify, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have it, and Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan need more of it. The latter two are very nervous about the resource imbalance. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are upstream of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, giving them control of two trans-border rivers.

Eurasianet points out that one of the central issues facing the five Central Asian republics is that leaders there are more known for rivalry than cooperation, which could greatly complicate any resolution on water scarcity in the overall region.


This precedent of water being used as leverage bodes poorly for water being seen as external to political gain, or as simply a human right. The leaders of Central Asia are already deeply suspicious of each other, and border skirmishes are a common occurrence. With Karimov already warning about water wars between the Central Asian countries, and the coming reverberations of the NATO pullout from Afghanistan, there is the looming possibility of more instability in Central Asia.

via Central Asia Could Go To War Over Water – Business Insider.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s