Central Asians Move Closer on Water Dispute
A series of meetings between Central Asian leaders reflects a new drive to move forward on the vexed issues of energy and water use in the region.
During a March 16-17 visit to the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Kazakstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev said he was backing Uzbekistan’s demand that before new hydroelectric dams currently under construction in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are completed, they must be the subject of an international study to assess their likely environmental impact on the wider region.
The Kazak leader said that before visiting
If Bakiev and Rahmon state this publicly, it will represent a significant breakthrough. So far the Central Asian states have been deeply divided on the dam issue.
The Tajiks and Kyrgyz insist they have the right to complete the Roghun and Kambarata hydropower schemes to alleviate their chronic energy shortages.
Following his talks with President Islam Karimov, Nazarbaev also held out an olive branch to
Meanwhile, Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov also discussed water issues on a visit to
NBCentral Asia experts say the regional dispute has reached critical point, and if
“This amounts to rational decision-making, although it’s been happening at different top-level meetings and has been articulated by various government officials – and now during Nazarbayev’s visit to Tashkent,” said a political analyst in Uzbekistan, “These neighbouring countries have realised they need to be able to reach agreement.
In the current environment, he said, national leaders needed to curb their ambitions for primacy in the region and instead look for negotiated settlements that suited everyone. “Otherwise,” he added, “a third party may intervene and then conflict will be inevitable”.
Tashpulat Yoldashev, an Uzbek political analyst based in the United States, believes the only reason the Kyrgyz and Tajik leaders agreed to a region-wide environmental study was that it would show up problems in Uzbekistan like the drying up of the Aral Sea and the heavy saline content in soil, which they could argue had a greater direct impact than the construction of new dams.
On the question of
“Uzbek and Kazak participation in a consortium constructing the new dams would also mean they would have a role in how they operate,” he explained. “That means