In the Central Asian region with the formation of new independent states, there was a division of a single water system of transboundary rivers into national sectors. Because of this, the problem of using water and energy resources, for all its relevance, acquires a new context.
Specialists of the Kazakhstan Institute of Strategic Studies under the President of the country believe that each of the Central Asian countries perceives the occurrence of a shortage of electricity and water as a direct threat to national interests and security. So that the situation does not get out of control, the states of the region need to intensify actions to develop a system of measures reflecting both national and regional interests. This will avoid social and political destabilization in the region. The accumulated conflict potential in Central Asia is due to the attempt to distribute water based on the interests of individual countries of the Syr Darya basin, which means the division of a single water system, which today cannot function in a local territorial regime.
The network of hydraulic structures established in the Syr Darya basin during the Soviet period is based on the mechanism of compensatory energy supply, which allows the Toktogul reservoir in Kyrgyzstan to be used in irrigation. This is the accumulation of water in the reservoir in winter, for subsequent use during the growing season.
After the collapse of the USSR, the states of the region agreed to leave the rules of managing the water resources of the Syr Darya unchanged, but the once integrated water management system does not work in the new conditions. Since 1992, the supply of fossil energy to Kyrgyzstan from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan has decreased dramatically due to the increase in fuel prices to world and payments for it in hard currency. To meet the arising needs, the Toktogul hydroelectric complex was transferred to the energy regime, which changed the situation in the water supply of the Syr Darya basin. According to the Kyrgyz energy sector, losses from the operation of the Toktogul hydroelectric station in the low-energy irrigation mode amount to $ 124 million per year, when 1.3 million hectares are irrigated in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan due to the reservoir. But these republics do not yet compensate Kyrgyzstan for its losses and, according to the estimates of the expert group of the ecological union Tabigat, the total benefit of the agricultural sector of these countries in the Syr Darya basin is estimated at $ 848 million per year.
It is beneficial for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to regard water as an economic commodity, because the main flows of river basins in the region are formed in these countries. Article 4 of the Water Code of Tajikistan states that “in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Tajikistan, internal waters are the exclusive property of the state, are the property of the people and are provided only for use”. Therefore, the republic seeks to use the input-energy potential of its territory as productively as possible.
Problems related to water and energy relationships have already led to several incidents in Central Asia. For example, in 1993, 1998, 2001, 2004–2005, Kyrgyzstan was accused of having drained too little water from the Toktogul reservoir in summer and too much in winter. As a result, there was enough moisture for irrigation in Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan, and in winter, the frozen rivers and canals could not accommodate a large amount of water, leading to a rise in the groundwater level, as was the case around the Kazakh city of Kyzylorda. All this has complicated relations between Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan so much that in dry years to protect the Toktogul reservoir and water discharge systems, the Kyrgyz units of the armed forces were deployed in this area.
The active industrial use of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya began in the middle of the last century. As a result, the decrease in the flows of these rivers led to a global environmental problem - the desiccation of the Aral Sea and its division in 1987 into two parts - the Large and Small Seas, which feed on residual runoff from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya.
Experts of the GEF project (management of water resources and the environment of the Aral Sea basin) state that until 1960 the water level in Aral was about 53 meters above sea level, and its surface area was 66 thousand cubic meters. meters By 2000, the level had dropped to 32 meters, and the area had shrunk more than three times. According to estimates by the World Health Organization, the mineralization of drinking water should be 1 gram of salt per liter of liquid and an ecological imbalance occurs when this figure exceeds 11 grams. By 2002, the salinity of the Aral Sea was 60 g / l, and its dried bottom causes wind erosion, which spreads hundreds of thousands of tons of salts and chemicals throughout the region. Due to the salinity of the soil, the composition of the vegetation changes here, many species of fish have disappeared, and the annual economic losses of the Central Asian states amount to about $ 1750 million. This is 32% of the value of all annually grown agricultural products in the region. And the socio-economic damage inflicted only on the lower reaches of the Syr Darya as a result of pollution of water resources, according to the most conservative estimates, is more than $ 43 million per year. This is the GEF project data.
Turkmenistan is actively considering the prospect of turning the Amu Darya and creating on its territory an artificial Lake of the Golden Age in the Karakum desert. This idea creates more problems in saving the Aral. According to the research of the international program “Environment and Security”, the Turkmen project is one of the water management plans that can affect inter-state relations or lead to conflicts.
The mountains of Central Asia are rich in water. It is believed that the country suffers from a lack of water, if its supply per capita is less than 1 thousand cubic meters. meters per year. According to the rounded data of the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Uzbekistan, internal renewable water resources annually make up 700 cu. meters per capita and 200 - in Turkmenistan, where the situation is clearly critical. However, in Kazakhstan this figure is 4 thousand cubic meters. meters, Kyrgyzstan - 10 thousand and Tajikistan 11 thousand. From this it follows that at present the water resources crisis in Central Asia is not caused by a shortage of water, rather it can be called a crisis of distribution and use.