Water becomes commodity
  • Wed, 09/08/2010 - 12:00

Voice of Russia
Svetlana Andreyeva
Sep 6, 2010 14:28 Moscow Time

Water shortage is becoming one of the biggest problems of the 21st century. Each year the number of countries suffering from the lack of water is increasing. Control over water has already become a source of conflict in the countries of Central Asia. The presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan have arrived in Ust-Kamenogorsk (Kazakhstan) today to take part in the 7th forum of interregional cooperation, where water crisis is one of the top issues on the agenda.

Amu Darya and Syr Darya are foremost rivers in Central Asia, their flows are being controlled by Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Though these two countries are economically weaker than their neighbors, they are intended to build hydro power stations to develop this sector of industry. Accumulation of water will certainly alter river levels, which will bring problems to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Until recently, the countries of the region used to pay for water either cash or use the system of barter payments, for example, by exchanging gas for water or energy. The question is whether this system remains active now that new hydro power stations are going to be built. Mr. Azhdar Kurtov, expert for the Strategic Research Institute comments:

"The Kyrgyz want to build big hydro power stations on their rivers, which will mean less water flowing in the neighboring Kazakhstan. In view of this, the country already has to spend huge sums on water reservoirs."

The Irtysh River, which originates in China and flows to Russia via Kazakhstan, is also about to become a bone of contention. China has already wasted much of the Irtysh water to meet its agricultural needs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which resulted in less water flowing in the neighboring countries. Rational use of water remains a pressing issue in many other regions worldwide. Water crisis has long broken out in South Asia and Africa.

Like oil and gas, water is becoming a serious issue shaping the relations between states. Obviously, certain measures should be taken- first of all, by the countries enjoying bigger control of the resources, to avoid conflicts over water. The participants of the forum in Ust-Kamenogorsk are expected to find a kind of a solution to the problem.