“It is quite common to hear high officials in Washington and elsewhere speak of changing the map of the Middle East, as if ancient societies and myriad peoples can be shaken up like so many peanuts in a jar.”

― Edward W. Said

"A developing country that wants to develop its economy must first of all keep natural resources in its own hands."
- Deng Xiaoping

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Water Wars in Central Asia

By David Trilling 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS - August 24, 2016
 
The relations of the five former Soviet Republics in Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—are, more often than not, defined by water. When they were still a part of the Soviet Union, the upstream republics—Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan—which have an abundance of water, would release some from their reservoirs in the spring and summer to generate electricity and nourish crops both on their own land and in the downstream republics, which would return the favor by providing gas and coal each winter.  But since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over a quarter century ago, that system has collapsed. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan now face constant blackouts and hope to build giant dams to provide for their energy needs. Kyrgyzstan completed its Kambarata-2 power station in 2010 and is building a second one, Kambarata-1, with the help of Russia. Although he doesn’t have the funds, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon often speaks zealously about his mission to build a 335-meter dam, Rogun, which has the potential to turn his impoverished statelet into a powerbroker. But there is one glaring issue: the region’s glaciers, the source of huge and once predictable water supplies, are melting at record rates. Every year, it loses about as much water as consumed by a country the size of Switzerland. And the dams stand to limit water supply even further for the downstream countries. This has set them on edge.

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