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UN Calls For More Water Cooperation In Central Asia

The Kokaral dam in the North Aral Sea

The Kokaral dam in the North Aral Sea

The UN says more cooperation among Central Asian states sharing the shores of a key river could be the key to future peace and security in the region.

In a fresh report, the UN Environmental Program, or UNEP, said the Amu Darya river is being taxed by big hydropower projects upstream and demand for irrigated agriculture downstream, leading to "major natural resource challenges" for Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The report notes the Aral Sea -- which relies in part from water from the Amu Darya -- has seen water levels drop by 26 meters and the shoreline recede by several hundred kilometers.

It also said pollution from mining, metals, petroleum and chemical activities along the river and air pollution in the form of dust and salt from dried out parts of the Aral Sea are challenges to human health.

"From a security perspective climate change, water, energy and agriculture constitute the main areas of interest for this report as they reveal the potential for increasing instability and even confrontation as more flows are impounded upstream reducing those water availability and quality downstream," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

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