31 May 2010

Strategic Water Resources in Central Asia: in search of a new international legal order

Stephen Hodgson

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The allocation and use of the water resources of Central Asia is one of the most difficult issues to arise out of the break-up of the Soviet Union. How should the waters of the great Central Asian rivers, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya, be used? To generate much needed hydropower electricity in the mountainous countries in which they arise? Or for irrigation in the energy-rich downstream countries? The aim of this paper is to describe the basic problem and the efforts undertaken both by the Central Asian states and the international community, including the EU, to seek a resolution. It traces recent developments relating to the planned construction of dams, the modification of energy supplies and the periodic issue of increasingly bellicose statements from the capitals of the region. Finally it looks into the challenge for establishing a modern international legal order to govern the region’s strategic water resources.