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Fresh Water Supply and Demand: Literature Review

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Literature Review:

Although water is most abundant substance that find on earth surface but amount of global fresh water only accounts for 3%. This small amount of fresh water underpins life and vegetation on the earth surface. Out of this 3%, the main share about 68.7% is found in Polar Regions and glaciers as ice and 30.1% as ground water. The thin share about 0.3% water of total global fresh water is found as fresh surface water which is available in lakes (87%), Swamps (11%) and rivers (2%) (Gupta 2012)[1]. In addition to that water is unequally distributed on earth and population growth varies on every continent. If we look into history before the industrial revolution, it was possible to withdraw and consume water to everyone’s satisfaction. However times changed in the last few decades the last three centuries, with increased demographic pressure and quest for development and modernization, no longer allows management of water resources without cooperation among countries. Thus water, the need of life, is likely to pose the greatest challenge on account of an increased demand with population rise and economic development, and shrinking supplies due to over-exploitation and pollution.

This has caught the attention of many scholars who had written lot about water management, water security and water scarcity. However while doing literature review, a selective approach has been adopted and only those works has been picked that are related to hydro politics, water conflicts, water politics and diplomacy, water security, water competition and challenges; which are succinctly discussed in following paragraphs.

First category of literature that is discussed is related to hydro politics which emerged in late 1970’s. John Waterbury (1979) used the word ‘hydro-politics’ first time in 1979 and followed by other writers such as Allan, Coskun, Earle and Howe. Waterbury (1979) attempted to show how the politics and water overlap and intersect each other and affect the use of water resource in Nile Valley. He basically focussed on the Egypt and Sudanese relations from 19th century to 20th century. Egypt knows it vulnerabilities being a downstream country and vied to annex Sudan insisted on the ‘Unity of Nile Valley while Sudan never wants to come under the new imperialism of Egypt. He depicted that by end of 20th century there will be shortage of water in Nile valley as both countries reaching outer limits of what water storage facilities could provide. Allan (2002) argued that the potentiality of water scarcity is very big issue in the global politics and Middle East. Middle East is the region that suffers from this problem more than any other region in the world. The problem of water scarcity is become very critical in Middle East after 1970. He highlighted that this problem is very much correlated the security of the region. In the upcoming decades the problem of water and food will become very serious in the region and this not only affects the Middle East region but also the whole global politics. Coskun (2004) analysed that after independence from former Soviet Union, the water management of transboundary Rivers become very complicated and the tension over water resources increased drastically among the central Asian countries. He argued that disputes over water resources become big threat for the Central Asian security with increase in quests for meeting national interests. He also tried to explore the role of external and internal dynamics in building the cooperation for water regime. Earle (2005) discussed the hydro politics in Southern Africa and chances of peaceful development for sharing of water resources. He illustrated that the region has started to experience economic development with industrial and intensive agricultural growth by going beyond from past history of conflicts. He argued that the climate change can affect the region that has arid climate and prone to climatic changes. This climate change in Southern Africa is also a matter of concern at global level like many other parts of the world. The combination of above factors made the region hydro politically vulnerable but put forward that direct conflicts are not possible over water resources because of economic factors and benefits of co-operation and sharing. He justified his view about chances of co-operation with the statements of Kofi Annan (former UN general secretary) and Ismael Serageadin (former vice president of World Bank) is that the next war in the world will be fought on water not oil. Howe (2010) discussed hydro politics of the Nile River basin and highlights the chances of conflict and future course of policy making. She told that the Nile River basin is one of those regions in the world that is suffering with the problem of water scarcity. The Nile river basin is shared by ten countries i.e. Sudan, Egypt, Democratic Republic of the Congo Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Ethiopia. She argued that water is main reason for conflict between the countries of the basin. The high growth of urbanization and population and the difference in interests between the riparian countries create many problems like sanitation, shortage of food, power and water for irrigation etc. She correlated the water with other problems of the region especially security of the region.

The second category of literature is about water diplomacy and hydro diplomacy including the competition and challenges related to water. This includes the works of Karaev, Renner Roul and Chellaney.

Karaev (2005) depicted the water diplomacy in Central Asia. He argued that after the independence from Soviet rule the rivers of Central Asia become international and became one of the main causes of conflicts between all the five countries of central Asia. In the time of Soviet rule all these rivers are managed by a central agency that is in the Moscow, all the decision is taken by this agency. But after the collapse of USSR this system is also broken management of these rivers become politicized. He discussed the main historical and geopolitical cause of conflicts in the Central Asia region. He also illustrated the policies of all Central Asian countries about the different issues among them.

Renner (2009) highlights the water challenges in Central and South Asia that emerged due to issues of water and role played by them as both the region faced the same problems of water shortage and poor management of water resources. He also through light on changing climate in the form of melting glaciers, rising temperature, change in monsoon cycle and droughts that increases the water scarcity in both the regions. The wastage of water is very big problem in regions, but it is many times higher in Central Asian countries then the countries of world like Egypt, Spain, Israel, and Turkey etc. He cautioned that the hydro-power projects in Central Asia for irrigation needs could lead to transboundary water disputes in the Failure of absence of regional agreement. Izqzierdo et al. (2010) analysed the water crisis in Central Asia and discussed the key challenges and opportunities related to it. He explained the political, socio- economic, climatic and environmental causes of water disputes in Central Asian region which made the situation very critical. They highlighted that before the independence from the rule of the USSR, there is not any problem related to sharing of water among five new countries. The downstream countries supply energy resources to upstream countries in winter season when the demand of energy resources at the peak and the upstream countries supply water to downstream counties when they need water for the irrigation of cotton crops. But after independence this system is broken. Due to the rise of nationalism and increasing mistrust on each other is very major cause of conflicts between the countries of Central Asia region. They also discuss about the mismanagement of water resources in the region and wastage of water. They also discussed the geopolitical role of Russia, China and Iran and also warned about the impacts that will have to face by Central Asian countries when Afghanistan demands its share from rivers waters. Roul (2013) discussed the hydro diplomacy related to transboundary rivers in Central Asia and highlights the relationship and difference in dependency on rivers among the upstream (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) and downstream countries (Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) countries. He put forward that upstream countries need water for hydro power to meet their domestic energy demands while downstream countries need water for irrigation of agriculture fields. Thus geographical positions of countries increased the difficulties in solving the disputes related transboundary rivers. He argued that in Central Asian region all the international laws, framework, treaties and declaration related to transboundary or international rivers are negligible due to economic and geographical difficulties faced by respective countries. Chellaney (2014) examined the relationship between water and power and competition emerged in Asia due to it. He argued that pressure on water resources emerged as one of the most serious challenge especially in the rapidly growing economy of Asian continent. The scarcity of water resources and increasing competition for fresh water resources is became a very serious problem and increased the tension among the countries in the Asia. He illustrated that Central Asia is one of the most volatile regions in the world where rising nationalism and competition over water resources increasing every passing day. He put forward that Central Asian region is an example of how water resources are used for geopolitical gains by poor upstream and rich downstream countries.

Third category includes the literature on water related conflicts. This includes the works of Wolf (1998), International Crisis Group (ICG, 2002) Olmstead (2005) Kraemer 2012.

Wolf (1998) analysed the major water treaties among transboundary Rivers on the basis of FAO’s collected data. He illustrated the conflict and cooperation along international waterways and studied the problem of upstream- downstream country issue, water sharing issue; economic issues. He argued that Institutional resiliency is the main causes of conflicts among nations. His analysis about world stood same for the situation of Central Asia. Here the issues of water are much co-related like the other issues such as economic, geopolitical and social etc. Water Conflicts in Central Asia: In the report by International Crisis Group “Central Asia: Water and Conflict” (2002) explore that in Central Asia region competition for fresh water is increasing at a very fast rate. The main source of employment is agriculture in region and played very important role in economy of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The cotton is the main crop of the region that required intensive irrigation. Water use has increased rapidly since the Central Asian states became independent in 1991 and is now at an unsustainable level. This report explores the political, environmental and socio- economic causes of water conflicts between the upstream and downstream countries of the region. This report also identifies the main areas that fuel tension in Central Asia region that are, mismanagement of water resources, failure of barter, Non-implemented and untimely barter agreements and payments, insecurity about future plans of water infrastructure like Rogan dam, Kambarata-1, Golden Age Century lake etc.

Olmstead (2005) explores the ways in which economic development and local-level violent and non-violent conflict in the Ferghana Valley, Uzbekistan interact, using water scarcity as an instrumental variable for economic growth. Analysis shows significant negative correlation between rural incomes and the likelihood of local-level conflict. The importance to rural GDP of the release of water in the vegetative season, it seems that Uzbekistan should have a greater incentive to provide energy resources to upstream water producers (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) in order to insure properly timed water transfers. Currently, the negotiation process among the five Central Asian Republics that occurs year after year with regards to water allocation is highly contentious and Uzbekistan is generally unwilling to pay for water.

Kreamer (2012) in his article, “Past, Present, Future of Water Conflicts and International Security” told that stress and scarcity of water has affected the stability of societies and it will continue to affect. An indication of worldwide water security challenges point out reflective problems and potential of crises. All over the world, there are many examples of struggles for water and how water is used as a strategic tool by different countries in the world. Water has also been an instrument of religious, ethnic conflicts and has recently been used in local and regional clashes.

Fourth category focused on literature that illustrates the importance of water and geopolitical and political risk emerging because of water. (Allouche, 2004) Ruziev (2004), Chellaney (2012), Kraak, 2012),” Kushkumbayev and Kushkumbayev (2013),

(Allouche, 2004) in his article, “A source of regional tension in Central Asia: The case of water” explained historical and hydrological factors of the current water crisis in central Asia. He argued that water crisis between the countries of Central Asia is largely by the former Soviet Union’s plans in central Asia. The water conflicts in Central Asia region should not be separated from other issues of the region like ethnic tensions, territorial delimitation, nationalism, and political Islam etc. All these issues are many times responsible for water conflicts in the region especially in Farghana valley.

Ramses Ruziev (2004), in his article, “Economic, Environmental, and Political Aspects of Hydropower Infrastructure Expansion in Central Asia” analysed the economic, environment and political aspects of developments of hydropower infrastructure development in the region. He examines that at the time of former USSR, the water and irrigation systems were managed by a centralized agency, based on Moscow, but after the independence the situation is changed regarding the allocation of water resources allocation. Before independence the upstream and downstream countries shared their resources (the downstream countries provided energy resources ex. Coal, oil and gas and upstream countries provided them water of irrigation). But after independence this system was collapsed. The upstream countries started store water in reservoir in summer season for making electricity in winter season, but downstream countries needed water in summer season for irrigation. He also mentioned the possible consequences of development of hydropower on the up and down streaming countries. Chellaney (2012), in his article, “From Arms Racing to “Dam Racing” in Asia: How to Contain the Geopolitical Risks of the Dam-Building Competition” examined that Asia’s economy is most fast growing economy in the world. The Race of dam is a major geopolitical issue in Asia continent and is also known for the brut lest competition for natural resources, particularly water and energy resources. The building of dams on international Rivers is the main problem between inter-riparian in Asia continent. In this article also explained how arising geopolitical risks with building of dams on transboundary Rivers. He examines the four different zones where this geopolitical risk is very high: these 4 regions are South Asia, Southeast Asia; China and its neighbouring countries; and Central Asia region, especially between the five “stans” nations — Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Kraak, 2012), in his article, “Geopolitics of hydropower in Central Asia: The Syr Darya”, told about the geopolitics of hydropower between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan on Syr Darya river. He examined that the main cause of current dispute between them is on the construction of Kambarta-1 hydro project and tried to examine the Russia’s diplomacy in Central Asian water by obtaining major share in hydro projects in Kyrgyzstan by providing funds of construction of hydro projects, Uzbekistan blamed that with this Russia want virtual control of Central Asia rivers water. Kushkumbayev and Kushkumbayev (2013), in their article, “Water and Energy Issues in the Context of International and Political Dispute in Central Asia” argued that water is increasingly became scarce resources in the Central Asia region. The disagreements of downstream countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan) are increasing rapidly with the upstream (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan) countries on the water resources issues. The downstream countries have abundance of hydrocarbon resources, while on the other hand, the upstream countries suffer a deficiency of non- water resources. So, the upstream countries started think about their transboundary Rivers as resources of hydropower generations. The downstream countries need water for irrigation purposes but upstream want water for producing hydroelectricity and they declared river water commodity as gas and oil. Thus the difference in needs becomes a major cause of conflicts between downstream and upstream states in the Central Asia.


[1] Gupta R. C. (2012). Energy, Environment and Management in Metallurgical Industries. New Delhi: PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd.


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