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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[23.09.2OO2] Water Conflicts

British scientists warn that the bloody conflicts over the irrigation water supplies between the Kyrgyz and Tajik in the 90-ies can recur on a greater scale.
Kyrgyzstan increases the load of its hydropower stations attempting to cover for energy shortage caused by the scarcity of Uzbek gas. This might result in an environmental catastrophe in the Fergana Valley. If on the contrary Kyrgyzstan is trying to cut back on water supplies to save them, Kazakh and Uzbek irrigation opportunities shrink in the summer period. This wheel has been balancing in the region for many years.
Lower neighbors, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are very dependent on rivers originating in the Kyrgyz and Tajik mountains. However they do not wish to treat water as an economic good that carries value. As a consequence, water is considered one of the key security factors in the region and might serve as a detonator for the future conflicts in the Central Asian region. This is the ground for the specialists from the British Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Kyrgyzstan to point that if the negative trend in the issue strengthens, bloodsheds can recur in the region on a greater scale.
These days several countries are taking measures in various directions to consider the issue of using the regional water supplies.
The year 2003 will mark the formation of a water and energy consortium that will include Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan as I. Tasmagambetov, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan reported. According to him, the decision to create a consortium was made last week during negotiations with the Kyrgyz Prime Minister N, Tanayev and Tajik Prime Minister A. Akilov. Consortium will settle the water supply and the water prices. I.Tasmagambetov reported: In order not to handle the issue separately and bilaterally we will try to tackle it within the consortium that will include 4 countries, with objectives for each of them. He also added that the Kazakh government offered Kyrgyzstan a deal to hand over to the Kazakhs the part of the gas pipe line that delivers gas from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan and runs through our territory. If the Kyrgyz officials concur with offer, Kazakhstan will provide the republic with gas on a regular basis. In addition it will finance technical maintenance of the pipeline. The line is in a very poor state at the present time. It causes gas leakage and leaves room for gas theft. The Kazakh authorities are planning to set out $ 12 mln. for this project. The Kazakhs have been trying to get control over the Kyrgyz part of the pipeline for three years now.
They have used pressure as well as set high customs rates for the Kyrgyz goods and a transit fee for the trespassing Kyrgyz vehicles. Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have been negotiating over the water issues for 11 years. They still havent reached a consensus. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan refuse to pay Kyrgyzstan for water usage and to treat water as an economic good. At the same time the Uzbek authorities constantly block supply of gas to the Republic. A. Shukputov, the Kazakh Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection thinks that the water decree, signed by the Kyrgyz President and approved by the parliament, stating that one should pay for the of use water, is illegitimate. The Minister pointed out that it is wrong to set water equal to other natural resources such as oil or gas. In the meantime, the Kyrgyz economists and deputies have calculated that the neighboring countries owe us $ 150 mln. in water fees for the past 11 years. They also received a net profit of $ 8 bln. via the available water resources. Local observers report that the water issue can only be settled through an open and patient dialogue
By V.Volkov, Deutche Welle, September 23, 2002

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