Uzbekistan can face acute shortage of water. Will there be a power shortage in Tajikistan again?
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When Tajikistan last summer helped its neighbors with water, many, including experts, said that because of that a power rationing had been introduced in Tajikistan itself.
Uzbek media reports, citing the Minister of Water Resources of Uzbekistan, say Uzbekistan can face the same acute water shortage in the irrigation season that affected the country in 2008.
The forecast was reportedly made on the basis of data obtained from the analysis of the hydrometeorological situation in the country.
Water levels are expected to dramatically decrease in transboundary rivers of Amu Darya and Syr Darya during the vegetation season (from April through September).
Currently, the reservoirs in Uzbekistan are reportedly being stored with water, however, the water levels in reservoirs are already lower than in previous years.
Specialists of the Uzbek Ministry of Water Resources hope for torrential rains in March and accumulation of a sufficient amount of water to save the agrarian sector of the country, which reportedly forms a fifth of Uzbekistan’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Meanwhile, Tajikistan, which is home to some 1,300 lakes and over 900 natural rivers and streams, accounts for about 60% of Central Asia's water resources.
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 electrical 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.
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, deputy prime ministers of Tajikistan (Davlatali Said) and Uzbekistan (Sardor Umurzakov) held a virtual meeting on February 15. They reportedly, in particular, agreed to expand cooperation on modernization of a number of hydraulic facilities by attracting financial and technical assistance from international financial institutions and donors. The parties also discussed issues of working out a mechanism to ensure the stable and timely supply of water to Uzbekistan from reservoirs in Tajikistan.
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.