Kazakhstan will provide Tajikistan with technical support and fuels in exchange for water to irrigate rice, Kazakh Deputy Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources, Serik Kozhaniyazov, told reporters in Astana on June 9.

Due to shortage of water in Syr Darya, farmers in Kazakhstan’s Kyzylorda region have be forced to reduce lands under rice by 5,000 hectares  - from 89,400 hectares in 2020 to 84,400 hectares this year.   

“Not only Kazakhstan, but also Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan “noticed” a water shortage in Syr Darya,” Kozhaniyazov said.  

According to him, the problem is being solved at the state level; authorities are developing government-to-government agreements and programs.  

Kazakh official noted that one of the measures is barter with neighboring countries.  

“Thus, in exchange for 370 million cubic meters of water Kyrgyzstan will receive 370 million kWh of electricity and Uzbekistan will receive 250 million kWh of electricity,” Kazakh official said.

Kozhaniyazov noted that Kazakhstan is also conducting negotiations with Tajikistan.

“Providing them with technical support and fuels, we will have an opportunity to have additional 300-400 million cubic meters of water,” Kozhaniyazov added. 

Recall, Tajikistan last week agreed to divert 315 million cubic meters of water from its Bahri Tojik reservoir, which powers the Qairoqqum hydropower plant in the northern Sughd province, to Kazakhstan, and thereby, supplying its neighbor to the north with crucial irrigation water in the hot months of summer. 

The deal was reportedly reached after a meeting in Dushanbe between Tajik Minister of energy and Water Resources Daler Juma and Kazakhstan’s Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources Minister Magzum Mirzagaliyev. 

Kazakhstan, in turn, is expected to provide Tajikistan with material and technical support in the event of negative consequences from the depletion of the Bahri Tojik reservoir.

The water is expected to be delivered to Kazakhstan’s Turkestan and Kyzylorda regions via Kyrgyzstan from June to August.

Meanwhile, Tajikistan shared irrigation water with Uzbekistan last summer and residents of rural areas were faced with a rigid power rationing in the autumn-winter period.  70 percent of Tajikistan’s population lives in rural areas.  

Uzbekistan is a double landlocked and semi-arid country.  The nation has less than 10 percent arable lands concentrated in river valleys and oases while the rest is covered by deserts and mountains.  While Uzbekistan is among the top countries in water withdrawal per capita, the country has few internal freshwater resources.  Given its geography, Uzbekistan is dependent on neighboring countries for a huge share of the water it consumes.

Uzbekistan’s economy continues to rely heavily on cotton, which is a very water intensive crop. Uzbekistan’s cotton fields are largely irrigated by inefficient and outdated canal networks constructed in the Soviet period.

Recall, the tragic failure of the Sardoba dam in Uzbekistan has sparked fresh debate around water conflicts and the need for cooperation between Central Asia’s countries.

At 5.55 am on May 1, 2020, after five days of severe storms, a dam wall at the Sardoba reservoir in Uzbekistan’s Syr-Darya oblast collapsed and water poured through a breach onto cotton fields and villages.  To reduce water pressure on the walls of the reservoir and prevent further collapse of dam walls, its gates were opened.  Water spilled into the Southern Golodnostepsky Canal and its offshoots, with the intention of sending it to the Aydar-Arnasay lakes – a wetland of international ecological importance.  The capacity of the canal was overwhelmed, and the flood expanded.  According to some sources, the volume of water lost could exceed 500 million m3 of the 922 million m3 the reservoir was designed to hold. 

According to the latest data, water resources of the transboundary rivers of Amy Darya and Syr Darya  are distributed among the countries of the region as follows: Syr Darya flow: Uzbekistan – 505.5 percent; Kazakhstan – 42 percent; Tajikistan – 7.0 percent; and Kyrgyzstan – 0.5 percent; Amu Darya flow: Uzbekistan – 42.2 percent; Turkmenistan – 42.3 percent; Tajikistan – 15.2 percent; and Kyrgyzstan – 0.3 percent.

According to data from the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan, the country actually uses only 17-20 percent of water resources that are formed in its territory. 

Tajikistan consumes insignificant amounts of water resources for agricultural purposes, because 93 percent of Tajikistan is mountainous. 

Tajikistan needs water mainly for generation of electric power.  Hydropower plants’ reservoirs store water in spring-supper period in order to use it for generation of electricity during autumn-winter period. 

These accumulations of water are made exclusively at the expense of the water withdrawal quota, which is annually determined by the Central Asian Interstate Commission for Water Coordination.