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Water in Central Asia: A Prospect of Conflict or Cooperation?

Author(s): Mosello, Beatrice

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Abstract: Water is the central resource involved in one of the world’s greatest human-induced ecological disasters: the desiccation of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. Increasing demand and declining supplies of water have been compounded by rising nationalism and competition among the five Central Asian states, which, in turn, has hampered the possibility of finding a viable regional approach to replace the Soviet system of water management. This paper analyses the root causes of this issue and argues that tensions over water have “spilled-over” in Central Asia, creating an uneasy political climate that has slowed down cooperation. In particular, Central Asian states have tended to securitize water-related issues, motivated by national concerns over eco nomic development, the need to control ethnic tensions and social uprisings, as well as the desire to manage environmental degradation and population growth. This work also explores the reasons why regional institutions and agreements, typically proposed as useful instruments for inducing cooperation, have not been successful in the Central Asian case. In conclusion, some recommendations for improving water management policy in the region are suggested, including the possibility of using the legacy of the Aral Sea problem to reverse classical upstream/ downstream dynamics.
Publication Date: 2008
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Journal of Public and International Affairs
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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