The Vital Resource: Water Management in Central Asia
Water management remains a key issue for Central Asia and one which is crucial for maintaining regional stability and energy security. Central Asia’s heavy reliance on agriculture and water-intensive crops requires an integrated and coordinated approach to the distribution of water resources among upstream countries Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and their downstream neighbors Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Uneven distribution of regional water and energy resources, poor infrastructure inherited from the Soviet Union, inefficient water use and irrigation practices, as well as growing concerns over climate change and its adverse effects on water levels put additional strain on the region’s already precarious water resources.
As a result, it is of critical importance for Central Asian governments to strengthen their regional water cooperation and align their national interests with common regional objectives. Adoption of better irrigation technologies, diversification of agricultural production as well as more active bilateral and multilateral engagement are all effective ways to improve the water management in the region. Rather than water management continuing to function as a recurring problem for Central Asia, the issue can be used to spur intra-regional cooperation and economic development through agriculture.