Delinquency or Deviation?

Special Report: Networks and Borders: Geopolitics (II)
Uzbekistan’s Failure to Comply with the Treaty to Share Water Resources from the Syr Darya
By Raphaël Jozan

Since the demise of the USSR, the international community has emphasized the role of water in order to tackle general development issues in post-Soviet Central Asia, and has been promoting regional cooperation in this field. Four hydro-economic models have been created to optimize the sharing of water resources stored in the Toktogul dam, the biggest hydro-power plant of the basin, built in 1976 in Kyrgyzstan to supply downstream irrigation with water. On 17 March 1998, riparian states entered into a long term framework agreement, that explicitly recognized that irrigation water storage would be compensated through a barter exchange of electricity and fossil fuels or in cash. The barter exchange is a win-win strategy proved by the models. But, almost ten years after the agreement was adopted, the implementation proves unsatisfactory: Uzbekistan, the major water consumer that was supposed to benefit the most from the agreement, is not involved anymore in the barter exchange.
The paper focuses on the rationality of the Uzbek position and demonstrates that Uzbekistan’s current strategy is not an opportunistic deviation from the equitable regime. In fact, Uzbekistan doesn’t need the water stored in Toktogul for two reasons. To some extent, Uzbekistan is also an upstream country, considering the basin’s storage infrastructures. Moreover, water is not the main limiting factor of Uzbek agriculture, the main water consumer in the basin. For soil fertility issues, Uzbekistan has restricted agricultural production and has actually decreased its demand for water. We conclude that the so-called “nonconformity” of Uzbek strategy cannot be analyzed as an Uzbek delinquent behavior but rather reflects the model’s deviance from the reality.

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