v15_2004b - The Aral Sea Basin Crisis and Sustainable Water...

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1 The Aral Sea Basin Crisis and Sustainable Water Resource Management in Central Asia 7 1 Everett J. Peachey is a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University ([email protected]). T HE A RAL S EA B ASIN C RISIS AND S USTAINABLE W ATER R ESOURCE M ANAGEMENT IN C ENTRAL A SIA Everett J. Peachey This article traces the historical development of water resource management in Central Asia, focusing on the causes of the cur- rent Aral Sea Basin crisis. It examines the obstacles facing the Central Asian republics in addressing this problem and offers predictions regarding the future state of the region’s ecology, economy, and stability, as well as the health of the region’s people. The article also explains how existing plans of action have been largely ineffective and why restoring the Aral Sea to its original state is an impossible task. Finally, it provides feasible policy recommendations on how to prevent the further mismanagement of the region’s water while maintaining viable levels of economic development and population growth. “That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed on it” (Aristotle, Politics , Book II, Chapter 3). The ±ve Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are facing a nearly unsolvable crisis in the Aral Sea Basin, the site of an environmental and human catastrophe. Given economic and time constraints, the mitigation of the catastrophe, rather than the reconstruction of the Basin’s original ecosystem, is the only viable Journal of Public and International Affairs, Volume 15/Spring 2004 Copyright © 2004, the Trustees of Princeton University http://www.princeton.edu/~jpia
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2 Everett J. Peachey approach to the problem. Damage control must be the course of action for the Central Asian community. It is necessary that the republics work together in a highly integrated and cooperative manner to manage the limited water resources in the region in an equitable and sustainable way. Without such an approach, the region is destined for an unprecedented economic, social, and humanitarian crisis. The value, productivity, and measure of land in Central Asia have always been inextricably linked to its access to water. As a result, a high degree of sociopolitical organization developed to maintain, monitor, and secure water resources in these “hydraulic societies” (Gleason 1991, 11; Wittfogel 1957). The Aral Sea, once the world’s fourth largest inland body of water, is at the very heart of the region, measuring some 67,000 square kilometers (Weinthal 2002, 5). Prior to Soviet interference, the Aral Sea Basin supported 75 percent of Central Asia’s population, contained nearly 90 percent of its surface water, and acted as a cultural, economic, and geographical core for the region (Allison and Jonson 2001, 70). In ad- dition, the deltas of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya (two rivers) supported
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v15_2004b - The Aral Sea Basin Crisis and Sustainable Water...

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