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Geographical Rescaling After Independence

Independence in the Central Asian republics in 1991 brought about functioning borders, something hitherto unknown. Conflicting interests of independent countries resulted in a multitude of unsolved problems. One was the delineation of international boundaries. In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the

Fig. 9.6 Enclaves and exclaves in the borderlands of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan after independence (Source: modified after Kreutzmann 2013a, p. 18)

Moscow Institute of Political Geography conducted a survey in 1992 and recorded 180 border and territorial disputes among new neighbours (Halbach 1992, p. 5). A few cases illustrate the range of conditions and demands in Central Asia: irredentist movements in Turkmenistan expect Uzbekistan to “return” the territory of the Khanates of Khiva and Khorezm. The long-standing demand of Tajik nationalists has been reiterated that Samarkand and Bukhara as the centres of Tajik culture must be “returned”. The divide of Fergana into three sections is questioned, and the present-day economic and commercial centre of Southern Kyrgyzstan – Osh Oblast' – is claimed by Uzbekistan. A multitude of legal documents about boundary decisions taken in the 1920s concerning territorial issues in Central Asia are archived in Tashkent. The Uzbekistan government blocks access to researchers from neighbouring countries wanting to consult the archival material.

The Fergana and Alai Valleys alone contain seven enclaves and exclaves through which major traffic routes lead and which are valuable resource-rich areas (Fig. 9.6). Regularly, the freedom of travel is affected, especially when diplomatic relations worsen. The inhabitants of these enclaves have become pawns in bilateral negotiations. Some of the border closures have been justified in the aftermath of attacks from Afghanistan-trained rebels, which plundered Tajik and Kyrgyz villages on their way to the Fergana Valley in 1999 and 2000. Territorial rescaling has been one of the major challenges for post-Soviet societies far beyond the unsolved issues of commanding a compact state territory, mutually accepted international boundaries and respective sovereignty.[1]

Following independence, Fergana's water management system faced similar challenges. The irrigation network was implemented at a time when no boundaries affected the decision-making of concerned engineers and politicians. The meshed system of canals and reservoirs had emerged from a genetic expansion of irrigation from Tsarist to Soviet times (Fig. 9.7). Previously, abundant quantities of water were available; post-Soviet management had to cope with the challenges of importing water from neighbours and sharing the network across borders.

The legacy of past decisions and constructions is an in-built factor of the Fergana system that is represented in the structural pattern of the existing meshed system, the incorporation of new additions to the system by sharing the available water and the organisation seasonal shifts in a decentralised balancing of flow characteristics. Kai Wegerich et al. (2012) have analysed the hydrological constraints and its consequences:

In the past, a management regime was implemented that fitted the state objective (expansion of the state order on cotton production) regardless of sources, distances, inter-linkages, and

Fig. 9.7 The present state of Uzbekistan's irrigation network in the three bordering provinces (Viloyat Andijan, Fergana and Namangan) with Kyrgyzstan's share in the East and Tajikistan's share in the West of the Fergana Valley. All major reservoirs are located outside of Uzbekistan's direct control and influence (Source: own design based on management plans displayed in various offices of Uzbekistan's irrigation authorities in the Fergana Valley in 2014)

costs. Obviously, the past objectives are reflected in the current design of the system; consequently, it may not be possible to implement new objectives regarding water management and governance at the sub-catchment and irrigation system levels without adjusting and modifying the original design. (Wegerich et al. 2012, pp. 562–563)

In their opinion any institutional and/or technical restructuring requires a thorough analysis of the complexities of the existing meshed system in order to identify the spatial and organisational units where reforms could be implemented (Wegerich et al. 2012, p. 563). The authors conclude that only a far-reaching reconstruction and adaptation of the water management system would be feasible for smooth future operations. Beyond hydrological considerations, the question of the water source occurs. The Fergana Valley taps most of its irrigation water from the Syrdarya via Toktogul Reservoir and the Kara Darya via the Andijan Reservoir, both of which are located in Kyrgyzstan. Since the Kyrgyz government has adopted its authority over the management of their water resources, the dispute about the allocation of river water is regularly revived when it comes to compensation measures and contribution to the actual costs for providing network maintenance and supply of water. A water treaty was approved by the four Central Asian neighbours in Almaty in 1992 which allocated fixed shares of the Syrdarya water: Kyrgyzstan 1 %, Tajikistan

9.2 %, Kazakhstan 38.1 % and Uzbekistan 51.7 % (Bichsel and Mukhabbatov 2011, pp. 261–263). The water key will need to be renegotiated as Kyrgyzstan is in the process of expanding its energy-producing sector and its irrigated agriculture. The recent signing of the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project (CASA-1000)[2] project treaty and its financing by the World Bank for the transmission of hydroelectricity from Kyrgyzstan's “surplus” production to Afghanistan and Pakistan via Tajikistan affects the weak equilibrium between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and changes the latter's bargaining power. Consequently, the political dimension of negotiating exchange of water for monetary funds or energy will gain momentum in the future. Ecological constraints such as growing water logging and salinisation, as well as disputes in times of scarce seasonal supply, have aggravated the situation between competitors along the Syrdarya (UNEP et al. 2005, p. 24; Bichsel and Mukhabbatov 2011, p. 264). It appears that the quality of water and land in terms of salt content and contaminations is significantly deteriorating, although the quantity of available irrigation water is estimated and projected not to dwindle.

  • [1] The Central Asian republics are facing challenges that are well known from other irrigation networks that had to be divided such as the Indus waters between India and Pakistan in the process of decolonisation (Kreutzmann 2011).
  • [2] See for details and maps
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