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Date: Mon, 8 Dec 1997 07:52:52 -0600
Reply-To: "Daene C. McKinney" <daene_mckinney@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU>
Sender: Former Soviet Republic - Central Asia Political Discussion List <CENASIA@VM1.MCGILL.CA>
From: "Daene C. McKinney" <daene_mckinney@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU>
Subject: In Asia, Water Is Worth Blood
To: Multiple recipients of list CENASIA <CENASIA@VM1.MCGILL.CA>

In Asia, Water Is Worth Blood

Focus Central Asia, No.52, 21–22 November 1997

In October, Askar Akaev, the President of Kyrgyzstan, sighed an edict, "On ground of the external policy of the Kyrgyz Republic for the use of water resources of the rivers forming in Kyrgyzstan and flowing on the territories of the related countries."

The edict clearly states: "Water is necessary, particularly in the Asian region." The Kyrgyz Republic states that it has the right to use water resources from rivers within its territories for maximum benefit.

This is a reverse turn in Central Asia. Kazakhstan is filled with oil, Uzbekistan has cotton and gold, and now, Kyrgyzstan has acquired a new currency, water, which is worth gold.

Kyrgyzstan comprises over 198,000 square kilometres, 85% of it being mountain ranges in which rivers of all sizes originate. The total amount of water flowing from these rivers is more than the total volume from 35,000 pipes.


The total flow of water resources forming within the territory of Kyrgyzstan comprise approximately 51 billion cubic metres per year. Only 20 % of this is used by the republic; 80% is consumed by the neighbouring republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tadjikistan.

Kyrgyzstan is rich with resources of underground fresh water whose reserves comprise 9.7 billion cubic metres per day (if pumped out non-stop).

Thus, Kyrgyzstan's tremendous reserve of fresh water makes it one of the richest states in the world for such natural resources.


The question of Kyrgyzstan's water right was raised by the parliament's deputies, headed by T. Usubaliev who, in Soviet times, was the leader of the republic for fifteen years. They bases their questioning on the following reasons. Since 1991, Kyrgyzstan has been an independent state and thus, concerning relations to the other Central Asian states, must conduct its own water policy based on its Constitution, in which paragraph S.4 provides that the "earth, bowels of the earth, water resources, air space, forests, vegetables and animal worlds, and all natural riches are the state's property."

Seemingly, the government of Kyrgyzstan has a legal right to exclusively distribute its natural resources.

However, Kyrgyzstan does not invoke this constitutional right completely because of an operating stereotype inherited from the state Plan of the U.S.S.R. The plan gave priority to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in the use of Kyrgyzstan's water resources to develop cotton and rice-growing industries. As a result, 80% of the water resources of Kyrgyzstan has been gratuitously used by its neighbouring states for years.

This principle, which stripped Kyrgyzstan of its power over its water resources still suite its neighbours. Proponents of this principle in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan say that water resources within Central Asian countries are common property of all Central Asian countries. In connection with this, the creation of a single body responsible for the governing of all water resources of the region was suggested. Regardless, in the opinion of the Kyrgyz parliamentarians, its neighbours rob Kyrgyzstan.

A managing body, to be headquartered in Tashkent, will be established to deal with all the questions of water governing and distribution, licences' granting, accounting, and control for the use and protection of water resources of Kyrgyzstan, to include its reservoirs, lakes, icebergs, inflows of all the rivers, and water protective lines. But this is not all. Kyrgyzstan wishes to end water-use principles, set up in 1981 by the Ministry of Water Economy an d the State Plan of the U.S.S.R., in 2010.

This matter continually contravenes the constitution of Kyrgyzstan as well as the Law on Water. International laws, providing that water resources which are formed on a particular territory are the property of that particular state, are ignored.


On February 18, 1992, an agreement was signed between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan pledging co-operation in the joint management for the use and protection of all water resources of the region. Section 1 of this agreement states: "Admitting the community and unity of water resources of the region, the parties have equal rights for the use [of water resources,] and hold responsibility for the provision of rational use and protection."

This agreement is a trump card for the neighbouring states, as it creates unlimited rights for the governing of all water resources in Kyrgyzstan. This agreement has been criticised by Kyrgyzstan as a frustrating the republic's interests and pre-emptying its sovereignty.

Legislative Council Zhogorku Kenesh insists that the governments of the neighbouring countries revise the agreement and make amendment to its text. Kyrgyzstan does not completely agree that water drains of the republic should be called international. The republic protests the idea of a single Central Asia managing body. The current position of Kyrgyzstan is to revise the international agreement and to base its text on the Constitution and laws on waters of the Central Asian states. Moreover, the Ministry of Water economy of the Kyrgyz Republic did not have authority to sign the international agreement, in addition to its not being adopted by the government. The law of the Kyrgyz Republic on Water was breached. Section 5 and section 10 of the law provides that, "The right of property for the water fund on all the territory of the republic is conducted by Zhogorku Kenesh."

All the articles of the law "On water" were ignored when the international agreement was signed in 1992. It has still not been ratified by the republic's parliament and is not enforced in Kyrgyzstan. Thus, it is inoperative.


For many years, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tadjikistan used 80% of the water resources of the republic without reimbursement. To serve the water demands of neighbouring countries, seven large hydroelectric and irrigation facilities were built in Kyrgyzstan. The U.S.S.R. spent 900 million roubles from its budget for the construction of the Toktogulski, Kurpsaiski, Tash-Kumyrski, Shamaldysaiski and Uch-Kurganski hydro-electric and irrigation facilities. International reservoir were built as well, including facilities in Andizhanskoe, Papanskoe, Kirkidonskoe, Kasansaiskoe, Kirovskoe, and Orto-Tokoiskoe. Their total volume comprises 22.978 cubic metres ,7% of which is used by Kyrgyzstan.

What were the economic benefits from the aforementioned irrigation facilities to the neighbouring states? According to official data, in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, Toktogulski knot provided water for 400 thousand hectares of irrigating lands and increased water provisions of assimilated lands for 918 hectares.

For twenty years between 1967 to 1987, irrigation in Uzbekistan increased by 1,364 hectares at the expenses of Kyrgyz irrigation facilities. The amount of irrigated land in Kazakhstan increased as well. As for Kyrgyzstan, within the same period, the area of the irrigated lands of Kyrgyzstan grew to 186,000 hectares, taking into account that all the land which could be used for agricultural purposes equalled 2 million hectares. This is beyond comparison with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

In the region around the Naryn river, the primary main river flowing into the Syrdaya, destructive floods have occurred of ten. Irrigation in this area within Kazakhstan and Tadjikistan was fuelled by flood waters. To provide a productive output of the flood waters, antiflood installations were constructed. The early stages of operation of the Low Naryn hydro-energy erections and Andizhan reservoir excluded the completion of antiflood measures in the basin of the river Syrdarya.

The Uch-Kurganskaya HES began operations in 1962 with the reservoir's volume at 52 million cubic metres. It improve the water fence of irrigation systems in the Fergan valley and irrigated over 45,000 new hectares in Uzbekistan. Thirty years have passed and this new area has proven valuable.

The Andizhan reservoir built in Kyrgyzstan fills the Karadaria river and its inflows which are used primarily by Uzbekistan.

In total, the Uzbek cotton sow area increased from 1,450 thousand hectares in 1960 to 2,108 thousand hectars in 1987. The gross collection of raw state cotton comprised 2,949 and 4,848 thousand tonnes, respectively; rice collection was 58.2 and 532 thousand tonnes, respetively; while the gross total of rice collection in Kazakhstan was 23.1 and 654 thousand tonnes.

The Papanski hydro knot was built on the Kyrgyz Akbura river.

Of the 700 million cubic metres volume of anual flow from this river, 260 million cubic meters end up in the Papanskoe reservoir annually. Five hundred and twenty cubic meters flow into Uzbekistan.

In 1975, the Kirovskoe reservoir on the Kyrgyz river Talas began operating. The projected volume of te wate was 550 million cubic metres.

The damp which created the Orto-Tokoiskoe reservoir, with a volume of 470 million cubic metres, was built at the expense of the Kyrgyz republic. The source of the Big Chuiski channel, with a length of 148 kilometres, orginates from the reservoir. These irrigation facilities are utilised promarily by the economy of the Dzhambul oblast in Kazakhstan.


Kyrgyzstan has incurrred large osses by providing neighbouring countries with water. The picturesque Ketmen-Tyubinsk valley, with over 31,00 square hectares, was usedfor the creation of the Toktogulsk hydro knot. Twelv thousand hectares of the valley's irrigation area were used for the reservoir's construction. According to estimations of the Ministry of Water Economy, Minisitry of Agriculture and stae Land Inspection, in 1993. The annual damage to Kyrgyzstan equalled $33.9 million. Six hundred and seventy-eight million dollars of the damage result from the operation of the Toktogul hydro knot.

Before the U.S.S.R. collapsed, the Toktogul hydro knot was used for irrigatiton and energy purposes. The energy output was transferred to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan totalling 2.4 million kilo-watt hours hours per year in the summertime. Now, these republic do not consume such a large amount of energy. Federal authorities in the republics state that it is Kyrgyzstan's problem how it spends its energy.

In the autumn and winter, Toktogul HES does not produce electric energy because of the need to use the water in the reservoir for the irrigatin of agricultural areas in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Until 1991, because of th lack of electric energy produced by Toktogul HES, Kyrgyzstan acquired close to 1 billion cubic meters of gas from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, nearly 1 million tonnes of coal, and 400,000 tonnes of fuel oil as payment for water which was used from the reservoir. This is reasonable and equal economic co-opeeration. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan now sells gas, coal and fuel oil to Kyrgyzstan for dollars according to the market prices. Meanwhile, for the p[ast six years, over 50 billlion cubic of water has been transferred to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan from the Toktogul hydro knot.

The Toktogul reservoir is used primarily for irrigation and almost all the water received is transferred to irrigated ares within the neighbouring contries during the vegetation period. The situation deteriorates in winter time. According to data given by specialist, the reduction of water pass in summer time to even 2.9 billion cubic metres would give an additional 2.1 kilo-watt hours in winter which would equal almost 650,000 tonnes of conventional fuel. However, Kyrgyzstan does not reduce the amount of water because of the irrigation water demands from the neighbour countries. Annual damage from incomplete production of energy on the cascade of Low Naryn HES during winter totals $61.5 million.


Problems concerning the water economy, which significantly increased following independence, have not been completely solved. Uzbekistan was compensated for land area lost during construction of the Kampyr-Ravat reservoir, returning 5,751 hactares of the land .

The obligations incurred with the construction of the left-bank Kampyr-Ravat channel were not fulfilled; the revision of the border did not occur as well.

Kyrgyzstan was compensated for only 2,400 hectares.

Forty-seven thousand hectares were flooded for the construction of the reservoir built within the territory of Kyrgyzstan. According to estimations of spesialists from the Ministry of Agriculture, the damage totalled 129,5 million soms annually according to1995 prices. For the past thirty-three years, the total amount of damage comprised 4,275.2 million soms. There is a Kyrgyz law govering the question of the use of the water resources. President Askar Akaev has never signed nor prolonged any agreement with Uzbekistan. Kyrgystan now raisesthe question of revising of number of provisions related to water and land use between the neighbouring states on the basis of mutual profits achieved earlier. Kyrgyzstan intends to negotiate with Uzbekistan on the following two matters: contractual duties on construction of the left-bank Kampyr-Ravat channel and the Sohski reservoir and compensation for non-use of irrigated water from the Andizhan reservoir by the Osh oblast for the last seventeen years (227 million cubic metres per year).


Kyrgyzstan annually gives 35 billion cubic metres of water to the other republics. Annual profits that could be aquired by the republic from the sale of irrigated water from the reservoirs could cover all the expenses of Kyrgyzstan concerning the payment for Uzbek gas and Kazakhstani coal.

According to data from the Ministry of External Trade and Industry, in 1996, Kyrgyzstan purchuased 998,958 cubic metres of Uzbek gas , paing from $55 to $65 per one cubic metre , for a total of $62,163,840. Inthe past year, 847,000 tonnes of .Kazakstani and Uzbek coal was imported with over $18 million being paid. Mean-While, in 1996, Kyrgyzener-goholding sold 2061.3 thousand kilo watt-hours in 1996.

However, Kyrgystan cannot hide its riches and sell only water if no one is paying.


One of the claimed responsibilities of Kyrgyzstan is water allocation for Aral Sea. It is reported that the Aral Sea lost 850 cubic metres of water from 1960 to 1996. Only 2.8% of this volume was used by Kyrgyzstan. Almost the entire flow of the Naryn river and other water sources have gone to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. This water fills the territories of these states.

Kazakhstani irrigation systems comprise over 1.6 million hectares. Large engineering rise systems were built on the Syrdaria the Chardarin reservoir with 5.7 billion cubic meters volume was built in Kyzylkum. As a result of the aforementioned irrigation facilities constraction, the sea lost water. However, water from the Syrdaria fills the rice-growing area of 20.000 hectares within the Shymkent oblast (Kyzylkum) and 70.000 hectares in the Kzyl-Orda oblast. The rest of the water has gone to the natural drop Arnasai.

The total area for irrigation in Uzbekistan comprises over 4.5 million square hectares. The largest irrigation systems were createdin the Golodnaya, Dzhizak and Karshin steppes, in central Fergan, on the Sherabad and Chirchik-Anger massifs, and in the lower reaches of the Amurdaria and Zeravansh rivers. The Golodnaya and Dzhizak steppes are situated between the Tashkent and Samarkand oases; the massifs with over 1 million square hectares are connected with the Syrdaria from the north to the Orient. In 1939, the Big Fergan channel (named after Usman Yusulov) was built with much Kyrgyz land falling under its channel.

There was a further extention of the irrigation area in the Fergan valley when the Andizhan reservoir, with a capacity of 1.75 billion cubic metres , was constructed.

The Karakum channel (named after Lenin), 1,300 kilometres long, was built in Turkmenistan. Its head water expense equals 550 cubic metres per second . The Tihiatash and Tuyamayun hydro knots, with a reservoir of 8.5 billion cubic metres, built in Uzbekistan, increased irrigation for a large area in Turkmenia.

Water flow from the Naryn river and other Kyrgyz rivers, as well as from the Amurdaria (previously meant to fill the Aral sea), are now distributed between Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan for agricultural needs and to fill many reservoir and hydro knots in addition to lakes such as the Sarykamysh and Arnasai. Kyrgyzstan is not guilty for the diminishing of the Aral Sea. Five hundred and twenty million dollars are required to reconstruct the Kara-Ozek damp for the purpose of renewing the capacity of the source for the Syrdaria to give water to the Aral Sea. Expenses related to the construction of the new channel are to be borne by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Kyrgystan now has a new economic situation where Uzbek cotton Kazakh grain depend on Kyrgyz water.

Paid use of water is normal procedure in many countries. In the United States, on the Salt river in Arisona, the average price of one cubic metre of water for irrigationof lucerne costs 4 cents; grain, 7 cents; cotton, 10 cents; carrot, 40 cents; and potatoes, 90 centes. The United States buys drinking water from Canada for 5 cents per one cubic metre.

The same thing might occur within Central Asia in the near future. The "waterleader" of the region may soon dictate economic and political realties.