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No Water Deal For Central Asia

Central Asia's dire water problems continue, with the failure to come to an agreement on common water usage. The negotiations -- between senior Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek officials -- started at the beginning of the year and there were several attempts to sign, if not quadrilateral, then at least bilateral agreements on common usage. The problem in a nutshell is that mountainous Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have a lot of it and the others don't.

The agreement, which regulates water usage to satisfy the energy and irrigation needs of the four bordering nations, is normally signed every year. Working commissions gathered in April and June in Bishkek and there were a number of bilateral meetings, but no deal.

One of our Central Asian specialists, Bruce Pannier, says this is the hot-button issue for Central Asia in the coming years. Or, as he points out, it always has been. The Osh riots, a particularly brutal spate of clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the Ferghana Valley in 1990, were originally a dispute over water rights. Hundreds died before the Red Army was called in to restore order.

Since then, the problem (although thankfully not the violence) has worsened. More people, more irrigation, and less water doesn't make for good neighborly relations.

-- Luke Allnutt

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