Volume 28, Issue 3

September 2012
Special Issue on Water and Security in Central Asia: Solving a Rubik’s Cube

Introduction »

Water and Security in Central Asia-Solving a Rubik’s Cube

Virpi Stucki, Kai Wegerich, Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman and Olli Varis

Research Article

Nouns and Numbers of the Water–Energy–Security Nexus in Central Asia

Virpi Stucki and Suvi Sojamo
Water and Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland

Contact: Virpi Stucki | Email: virpi.stucki@gmail.com


Water, energy, and security form a complicated nexus in Central Asia, where domestic, regional, and international interests intertwine in numerous ways. A relatively large amount of literature exists on these three issues, either separately or in different combinations, yet it is difficult to see how the three intertwine and what their macro-level impacts might be on sustainable development, security, and the five Central Asian countries. This paper aims to understand what constitutes the water–energy–security nexus in Central Asia on the basis of definitions, indicators, and data. The nexus is also examined in the context of the broader global political economy, and gaps in current knowledge and suggestions for future research are pointed out.

Pages: 399-418


Research Article

Regional Options for Addressing the Water, Energy and Food Nexus in Central Asia and the Aral Sea Basin

Jakob Granita, Anders Jägerskoga, Andreas Lindströma, Gunilla Björklundb, Andrew Bullockc, Rebecca Löfgrenc, George de Gooijerc and Stuart Pettigrewc
aStockholm International Water Institute, Stockholm, Sweden; bGeWA Consulting, Uppsala, Sweden; cStockholm International Water Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Contact: Jakob Granit | Email: jakob.granit@siwi.org


This article explores the water, energy and food nexus in Central Asia as an avenue to seek regional solutions to common challenges. A benefit-sharing scheme was in place between the countries in the Central Asia in the Soviet Union era, but since independence unilateral action has been the norm. It is concluded that a regional integrative approach would be beneficial in the water, energy and food nexus. Collaborative options include exploring existing regional frameworks with a focus on additional investment in hydropower power generation, regional power market development, irrigation reforms, and addressing regional environmental public goods such as water flows and quality.

Pages: 419-432


Research Article

The Major Central Asian River Basins: An Assessment of Vulnerability

Olli Varis and Matti Kummu
Water and Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland

Contact: Olli Varis | Email: olli.varis@aalto.fi


Central Asia’s hydrological systems and environment have undergone incomparable changes during recent decades. By using various geospatial and national databases, the socioeconomic-environmental vulnerability of the region’s major river basins with regard to stress factors related to governance, economy, social issues, environment, hazards, and water scarcity was assessed. A vulnerability profile for each basin was produced and compared with those of the Asia- Pacific’s 10 major river basins. Each of the factors appeared quite important for the overall vulnerability. It is thus crucial to focus attention holistically on all the analyzed sectors when trying to solve the challenges in Central Asian waters.

Pages: 433-452


Research Article

The Role of Virtual Water Flows in Physical Water Scarcity: The Case of Central Asia

Miina Porkkaa, Matti Kummua, Stefan Siebertand Martina Flörkec
aWater and Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland; bInstitute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation (INRES), University of Bonn, Germany; cCentre for Environmental Systems Research (CESR), University of Kassel, Germany

Contact: Miina Porkka | Email: miina.porkka@aalto.fi


Water scarcity in Central Asia was analyzed by using two water scarcity indices at the scale of sub-basin areas (SBAs): water stress index (consumption-to-availability ratio) and water shortage index (water availability per capita). These indices were calculated for a baseline scenario that included virtual water flows, and again for a scenario where international trade was eliminated, thus assessing the role of virtual water flows in water scarcity. Over 80% of the study area population suffers from water stress and approximately 50% from water shortage as well. Removing virtual water flows considerably decreased water scarcity for approximately half the population. Reducing the exports of water-intensive products could thus be an option, along with other more traditional measures, for alleviating water scarcity in Central Asia.

Pages: 453-474


Research Article

Principles of Transboundary Water Resources Management and Water-related Agreements in Central Asia: An Analysis

Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman
Water and Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland

Contact: Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman | Email: rahamanmm@gmail.com


This paper analyzes the use of transboundary water resources management principles in two key regional water-related agreements in Central Asia: the Agreement on Cooperation in Joint Management, Use and Protection of Interstate Sources of Water Resources (1992) and the Statute of the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination of Central Asia (2008). These agreements incorporate several internationally recognized transboundary water resources management principles, though there are also some weaknesses. The presence of such principles in these regional agreements offers plenty of hope for the promotion of sustainable water resources management in Central Asia.

Pages: 475-491


Research Article

Water Quantity and Quality in the Zerafshan River Basin: Only an Upstream Riparian Problem?

Oliver Olssona, Kai Wegerichand Firdavs Kabilovb
aInstitute of Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry, Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Germany and Water Resources Management Group, Institute of Water Quality and Waste Management, Leibniz Universitat Hannover, Germany, bInternational Water Management Institute, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Contact: Oliver Olsson | Email: oliver.olsson@leuphana.de


In discussing the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention, McCaffrey (1998) gave a theoretical example of the late-developer problem. This paper complements that theoretical example with a real case study of the Zerafshan basin in Central Asia. While McCaffrey addressed the water quantity issue in his example, the focus here also includes water pollution. The aim of the paper is to analyze some of the provisions of the mechanisms in the field of international water law—the Helsinki Rules and the UN Watercourses Convention—for water quantity and quality aspects, as well as to provide an insight into the basin regarding these two aspects.

Pages: 493-505


Research Article

A Programme Theory Approach in Measuring Impacts of Irrigation  Management Transfer Interventions: The Case of Central Asia

Murat Yakubov
International Water Management Institute, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Contact: Murat Yakubov | Email: m.yakubov@cgiar.org


Irrigation management transfer (IMT) reforms in most transition economies of Central Asia have largely relied on the funding and expertise of multiple international aid providers. Such reforms are aimed at the establishment of water users associations; however, progress has remained slow and patchy due to poor aid coordination and poor knowledge regarding what works and what does not. This paper argues that a sector-wide impact study is needed to better inform and consolidate local IMT reform. Placing the discourse within the larger domain of evaluation research, this article looks into the approaches, tools, and practical implications of such an impact study.

Pages: 507-523


Research Article

Meso-level Cooperation on Transboundary Tributaries and Infrastructure in the Ferghana Valley

Kai Wegerich, Jusipbek Kazbekov, Firdavs Kabilov and Nozilakhon Mukhamedova
International Water Management Institute, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Contact: Kai Wegerich | Email: k.wegerich@cgiar.org


The river basin management approach in the Syr Darya basin fragmented after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. However, this approach had already created dependencies between riparian states, such as transboundary water control infrastructure. At the national level, these states hardly cooperate, but at the province and district level, especially in the Ferghana Valley, which is shared by Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, cooperation continues. This paper analyzes transboundary cooperation in the Ferghana Valley. On the periphery, conflict and cooperation still take place on both water management infrastructure and water sharing. The greatest hindrance to cooperation—border control—is outside the realm of water management, but is key given the property rights to water management infrastructure in the neighbouring riparian states.

Pages: 525-543


Research Article

Is It Possible to Shift to Hydrological Boundaries? The Ferghana Valley Meshed System 

Kai Wegerich, Jusipbek Kazbekov, Nozilakhon Mukhamedova and Sardorbek Musayev
International Water Management Institute, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Contact: Kai Wegerich | Email: k.wegerich@cgiar.org


The management of water resources according to hydrological boundaries at different implementation levels (river basin, irrigation system, or water user association) is promoted internationally. This approach to water management, especially for the basin, is starting to be challenged from different perspectives: representation within basins, appropriateness for basins in the south, and the challenges of merging boundaries for surface and groundwater sources. It has been challenged only recently in relation to its appropriateness for indigenously constructed (informal) irrigation systems. To these critiques, this paper adds the historical development and originally intended purpose of engineered irrigation systems and therefore calls into question whether it is always possible to introduce hydrological boundary management in the formal systems in Central Asia.

Pages: 545-564


Research Article

Challenges and Opportunities for Transboundary Water Cooperation in Central Asia: Findings from UNECE’s Regional Assessment and Project Work

Bo Libert and Annukka Lipponen
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Geneva, Switzerland

Contact: Annukka Lipponen | Email: annukka.lipponen@unece.org


This paper provides an overview of topical issues and problems related to transboundary water resources in Central Asia and their management in the light of the Second Assessment carried out under the UNECE Water Convention (2009–2011) as well as experiences from ongoing projects. The conflict between water use for hydropower and for agriculture, land degradation and negatively impacted ecosystems resulting from reduced flows and degraded water quality, poor condition of the hydraulic infrastructure, and the legacy of pollution all have implications for health, economy, and stability in the region. The outdated legal framework for regional cooperation on shared waters requires improvement to help find sustainable long-term solutions for reasonable and equitable use of shared water resources.

Pages: 565-576