Aral Sea Catastrophe:
Case for National, Regional
and International Cooperation

Bakhtior A. Islamov

Copyright (c) 1998 by the Slavic Research Center. All rights reserved.

Why have I made up my mind to contribute a paper on this topic? Within the last 15 years of my being employed by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Academy of Sciences and United Nations Development Program (U.N.D.P.) in Uzbekistan, I have visited Khorezm and Karakalpakstan on various occasions, but mainly accompanying foreign delegations of different levels.
I saw with my own eyes the most dramatic changes in the Aral Sea, and know about the sufferings of people around the Aral, not only through books, articles, documentaries, materials of many conferences, but also from my own experience based on personal exchanges of views with long-suffering and patient local people, as well as with stunned but outspoken foreign visitors.
The less the water flowed to the Aral, the more papers were published. Democratization (Glasnost) in the second half of the 1980s, and especially the independence of the Central Asian republics after the break up of the former Soviet Union (FSU), made public a lot of information in various academic and mass media publications.
Why, then, is one more paper needed?
1. Despite a lot of talks about Aral, the real scale of tragedy (catastrophe) and its consequences is still internationally known only for a small group of people who have been involved in Soviet (mainly Central Asian) Studies and foreign experts who have participated in technical assistance.
2. There is an opinion that the Aral Sea Problem, after so many discussions could not give new aspects to research to sociologists, and that the problem has become an object of exploration mainly for natural and engineering scholars. This is true to large extent.
However, the latest 6 years have shown that there is a huge need not only for geological, mechanical, geophysical, environmental and engineering feasibility studies; sometimes it has been more difficult to find political, diplomatic, economic and social solutions. The Aral Sea problem today requires us not only to deal with the consequences of dozens of years of neglect of the laws of Nature, but also to restore the balance between Nature and people, to reconsider strategies for social and economic development, to sustain environment and to provide solutions to the problems of current generations of people in the Aral Sea Basin without increasing the ecological and cultural damage for future generations. Therefore, an inter- and multi-disciplinary approach is needed.
3. After the dissolution of the FSU, the Aral Sea has become an international problem from the viewpoint of the new geopolitics, and requires interstate cooperation among the 5 newly independent countries of Central Asia. Ethnic and inter-ethnic aspects of the region have become national and international issues. The sudden division of the region into separate states made it more difficult to address the environmental catastrophe in an integrated manner. New approaches and legal framework are needed for the prevention of potential conflicts, for the resolution of domestic and regional problems connected with trans-boundary rivers and the Aral itself.
4. On the other hand, there is a hope among Central Asians now, after independence, that they should do everything at least to keep the Aral as it is today, and not to let the Aral Sea disappear.
All this is new for the area and requires the joint efforts of sociologists, lawyers, economists, political and natural scientists.
The disintegration of the FSU, economic transformation and the shocks connected with these processes made it enormously difficult and limited the capacity of each of the newly independent states of Central Asia to address the situation effectively alone. And the nature and scale of the problems also requires proper cooperation. In this respect they need to find ways of strengthening both their own national and regional efforts as well as the respective coordination of their activities with the international community. Some progress has already been made, but more needs to be done. As it was emphasized in Nukus Conference, "Aral is a common sore" and it needs a joint effort to cure it.*1
In this paper, the author attempts to make his modest contribution by analyzing the origin, the scale, the causes and the consequences of the Aral Sea Catastrophe, as well as the first results of regional and international cooperation aimed at solving urgent problems of the Aral Sea Basin.
Attention will be given to the most current projects developed by the Central Asian states with the assistance of the World Bank, U.N.D.P. and other aid-giving institutions. Implications for keeping national, ethnic and interethnic peace and stability in the area of the catastrophe will also be considered.
1. Aral Catastrophe: Origin, Scales and Consequences

At the end of 1950s the Aral Sea, in surface area, was the second largest inland body of water in the Soviet Union, behind the Caspian Sea, and the fourth largest in the world lagging behind only two more other lakes, i.e. Lake Superior, and Lake Victoria. This terminal (with no outlets) saline lake, surrounded by the Karakum (Black Sands) and Kyzylkum (Red Sands) deserts, and the Usturt Plateau, because of its size and significance was regarded by people from ancient times as a sea.
Its water supply has been replenished by two major rivers of Central Asia: the Amudarya (2,540 km) and the Syrdarya (3,019 km). The Amudarya, the largest river in the area regarding its basin, starts in the Hindu Kush mountains and flows through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan (forming border with Afganistan), Turkmenistan, again Uzbekistan and then into the Aral Sea. The Syrdarya begins in the central Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan and flows through Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and then into the Aral Sea.
Therefore, though the Aral Sea itself lies between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, all five newly independent states of Central Asia share the Aral Sea basin, an area of 690,000 square km. They are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
(A small portion of the Aral Sea Basin's headwaters is located in China and Iran. Afganistan directly shares the Amudarya river, which forming a border between it and Uzbekistan, partially Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. However, so far contribution of countries outside the FSU, including Afganistan, was not tangible. Perhaps, in the future after the establishment of real peace in Afganistan and before the enlargement of its economic activities, especially irrigation, in northern arable lands, it will be vitally important to involve into the legal framework of fair allocation of the region's precious water resources here as well).
Since both the causes and the consequences of the Aral Sea catastrophe today are mainly connected with Post-Soviet Central Asia, this paper will concentrate on the five above-mentioned newly independent states.
The fertile arable land between the two Central Asian rivers is an ancient settlement area with a history of approximately 3500 years. Archaeological discoveries have revealed irrigation systems that provided water for millions of hectares.
However, modern hydrotechnology, mechanization and chemical application used in unreasonably high scales in the second half of 20th century has adversely affected the Aral Sea Basin. Until about 1960, the volume of the Aral was more or less in equilibrium, with evaporation from the surface being counterbalanced by inflow from rivers, groundwater and rainfall.
In 1960 the mean level of the Aral Sea was measured at 53.4 m, its surface area at 66,000 square km, and its salinity at about 10 grams per liter. About 90 per cent of the water in the sea was drawn from the two rivers, prior 1960 the contribution of the Amudarya was about 73 cubic km and the Syrdarya about 37 cubic km per year on average.
Since then its level has dropped drastically by more than 13-17m and now it is only about 35-39m deep (the 1980s saw the most dramatic falls, when the loss was about 90 cm a year). The surface decreased by more than two times and the volume more than 4 times, its salinity increased more than 3 times*2 (reaching almost the same levels of a seawater in the open ocean, for example the Arctic ocean).
The combined flow of these two rivers diminished from about 60 mln. cubic m in 1959 to 42.9 in 1961-1970, and 16.1 for 1971-1980, and lowered to 4.2 mln. cubic m in 1981-1985 per year on average. The Syrdarya ceased flowing in 1978-1984, and the Amudarya supplies only a minimal and ever diminishing volume of its water (see Table 1). (Since the construction of the 1,200-km Karakum canal in Turkmenistan beginning in 1954 and diversion of water to this largest Central Asian man-made "river" in the Karakum desert was more than the entire stream flow of the upper portion for the Syrdarya. The Canal flows directly over loose sand, and overall losses through filtration are estimated at one third of all water used for irrigation in Turkmenistan).*3
By the time of the almost total diversion of inflowing water, the excessive use of agricultural chemicals (more than ten times of average former Soviet Union (FSU) or the U.S.A.) together with industrial and municipal pollution had already extremely degraded the quality of the water.
The desiccation and degradation of water resulted in the destruction of the ecosystem of the Aral Sea, with the deltas and the basin of its two main rivers suffering most.
Wetlands are now deserts, biodiversity is decimated and wind blows salts and pesticides from the exposed sea bed over crops, which is leading to a desertification of the surrounding area.
The dried up sea bottom now covers an area more than 33,000 square km. The shore line has retreated by 60-80 km.*4 The exposure of over three mln. hectares of dried up sea bed covered with polluted salt is a source of salt, and dust storms arising from its surface now carry some 75 mln. tons and can move in belts as broad as 40 km, damaging soil thousands of km away.*5
The large scale drying up of the Aral Sea has decreased the sea's warming effect in winter time and its cooling effect in summer time. The increased contrast of temperatures at the land-sea boundary has contributed to increased wind velocity and dust storms. Aral Sea deposits, as research has shown, are now reaching as far away as the Himalayan Peaks, and the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.*6
Formation of dunes in the exposed river deltas and the wind erosion processes intensify desertification. Salt-laden sand dust destroys up to 15,000 hectares of pasture land every year, and soil productivity has plummeted. The sharp changes in the environment affected the wild life in the area: the number of mammals and birds has been reduced by half.*7 There are no fish in the Aral; today it is biologically dead because of over-mineralization and poisoning of its water by fertilizers and pesticides. All these, having altered nature on a large scale, have drastically and adversely affected the lives of 35 mln. people in the Aral Sea basin, especially the more than 3mln. people who live in the immediate zone of the calamity.*8
2. Zone of Calamity

Peoples especially in Karakalpakstan Republic and Khorezm region (Uzbekistan), and Dashkhovuz (former Tashauz) region (Turkmenistan), Kyzyl-Orda region (Kazakhstan) who live within the zone of real calamity in direct contact with the sea or very close to it, downstream of the two rivers have been suffering most of all. These are mostly the poorest parts of the respective republics, which aggravates the situation to an even greater extent.
The environmental degradation intertwined with both poverty and the weak social and economic development in the area has considerably deteriorated the health of the area's population. High infant mortality and morbidity rates, sharp increases in esophageal cancers, typhoid, outbreaks of viral hepatitis, gastrointestinal problems, high rates of congenital deformation, increased anemia among children and women and the contamination of breast milk. All these are from the shortest list of devastating impacts of the Aral's catastrophe on human health.
Waterborne diseases have been mushrooming because of the contamination of the drinking water. Due to a lack of drinking water distribution and water treatment systems, inhabitants of the lower reaches of the main rivers have been receiving highly polluted water, containing chemicals and organic matter up to 10 times the maximum permissible concentration. Over half the water centrally supplied to the rural areas in the four regions of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan nearest the Sea did not meet bacteriological and chemical standards. Local concentrations of polluted water in drainage channels were often much higher.
The quality of water supplied to homes in the zone of calamity was also of great concern. While inhabitants in rural areas in the regions bordering the Aral Sea received only one third of the recommended level per person per day. Often piped water is provided for only a few hours a day, jeopardizing sanitation and hygiene levels.

Karakalpakstan, the motherland of Karakalpaks, (the indigenous ethnic people living around the Aral on the East, South and West sides in the North Western part of Uzbekistan with the biggest coastal area, and with capital Nukus situated on the Amudarya not far from its mouth (delta)) has become the epicenter of catastrophe. About 1.5 mln. Karakalpaks, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Turkmens, and others living in the 164.900 square km. (this is more than one third of the Uzbek territory) has been the most seriously affected.
Mineralization of drinking water stands at 2 to 4 grams per liter, and the bacteria content exceeds the maximum permissible concentration by 5 to 10 times. 60% of those examined (children and adults) have serious health problems, 80% of pregnant women suffer from anemia. In 1991 the infant mortality rate was 51, which was more than double the average FSU rate. The maternal death rates are also roughly double those in the rest of Uzbekistan.*9 Muinak -Karakalpakstan's key seaport and the largest fishing industry town in Uzbekistan -is now 60 km inland from the coast of Aral. 60,000 workers in the fishing industry today have no permanent jobs and are dependent on unstable supplies of small and expensive imports of fish. Deltaic regions of the Amudarya are also now unfit for fishing, hunting, as well as feeding base for live stock.*10
If before the catastrophe, the area was good not only for these economic activities but also famous for recreational activities, today one could see only a lifeless white expanse, like a snow-covered, salty plain steppe from horizon to horizon. The Khorezm region of Uzbekistan, situated downstream on the Amudarya, along its left bank, to the south-east of Karakalpakstan and to the north of Turkmenistan, shares all sufferings from ecological disaster. The region covers an area of 6,300 square km, which was an ancient part of the Amudarya delta and until recently had the most productive and fertile land, with the best conditions for growing cotton, rice, melons, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables.
Today, the soil of one of the most prominent oases and cultural hearths of Central Asia, and the health of its 1.2 mln. talented and industrious and hospitable people have been rapidly degradating. The quality of drinking water, especially in rural areas with more than 75% of the population of Khorezm region, is inadequate.
Like the whole Khorezm region, Khiva -a 2,000 year-old silk road city (one of the most attractive places for tourists from all over the world, as prominent as Bukhara and Samarkand), with its distinctive historical memorials and its well-known contribution to the science and culture of mankind (the motherland of such scholars, as Al Beruni -known as alive encyclopedia, Al Khorezmi -founder of Algebra, both were among the most prominent representatives of oriental renaissance) is now in deadly danger.
Salty winds and storms easily reaching the region affecting human and material resources, including its unique architecture, damaging the normal day-to-day life of the citizens, the economic potential and prospects for tourism.
Both Karakalpakstan and Khorezm has been affected by the poor quality of potable drinking water. By the mid 1960s, potable water quality and quantity in the Aral Sea area had decreased to such an extent that alternative water sources were needed. A dam was built about 400km upstream from the Aral Sea where the Amudarya flows through Turkmenistan. The dam (Tuyamuyun) serves as a hydroelectric power plant and has a reservoir of 2,340 million cubic meters which provides water for irrigation and drinking. Two treatment plants filter and chlorinate the water prior to pumping it to the principal towns in western Uzbekistan situated very close to the Aral Sea. Pumping costs are high (about 55 percent of total costs) given the long distance, the lack of intermediate pumping stations, and the 310 m increase in altitude. About 85 percent of the potable water for the area comes from the Tuyamuyun reservoir.*11
At the end of the 1980s, and the beginning of the 1990s, shortages of funds led to inadequate maintenance and a lack of essential operating supplies such as chlorine. Water availability is limited to several hours a day in many areas. In the larger distribution networks, system pressures are roughly half the optimal pressure. The distribution systems in the urban areas are old and corroded. Even at half pressure, the major region of the project area had an average 6.1 breaks per km in 1995.*12
There are approximately 2.7 million inhabitants in the area of whom more than 40 percent have no access to piped water systems. In rural areas, the most common form of water supply is the hand pump, but both coverage and quality are inadequate. A recent Social Assessment Study found that an average of 59 people share a single hand pump. The ground water in many areas is high in salt. Several hundred rural areas have their own water desalinization units but an increasing lack of spare parts and training have hampered their utility.
Dashkhovuz, among five administrative regions, "vilayets", of Turkmenistan, is the poorest one. Due to its downstream location along the left bank of the Amudarya, having borders both with Karakalpakstan Republic and Khorezm region (Uzbekistan), it is also badly affected by the environmental degradation of the Aral Sea basin.
890,000 Turkmens, Uzbeks and other peoples, of Turkmenistan's 4 million population (22.2 % of total), live in the Dashkhovuz region. The urban population living in Dashkhovuz city and towns of 8 districts, "etraps", forms 32 %. The majority (68%) of the region's population lives in rural areas.
Dashkhovuz city, the district centers, and some of the collective farms have centralized water supply systems which extract water from boreholes adjacent to irrigation canals; pump it to reservoirs; and repump it into a distribution system that delivers the water to street standpipes. The only treatment is chlorination but the disinfection systems are usually inoperative due to broken equipment or lack of chlorine. For those not served by a piped system, multiple water sources are used (including hand-dug wells, handpumps connected to shallow wells, water from irrigation canals, and water from other sources delivered by tanker trucks). These alternatives are also regularly used by those on the piped system to augment supplies. Water distribution is intermittent, with three two-hour periods of delivery scheduled per day. When water is available, it runs continually because taps have been broken or destroyed. Like other basic utilities, drinking water is free of charge throughout the country. The most immediate water quality problem from a health perspective is bacteriological contamination, since disinfection of drinking water is virtually non-existent in Dashkhovuz. Other pollutants posing health risks which have been found periodically are lindane, lead, cadmium, and phenols. Salinity is often in excess of the national standards.
There is only one sewerage and wastewater treatment system and that is in Dashkhovuz city. The system is in very poor condition and only serves 60 percent of the population. The rest of the population use on site systems, usually rudimentary pit latrines for sanitation.*13

Insufficient access to safe drinking water, poor sanitation system combined with salty poisonous winds from the Aral contributed to the high rate of infectious diseases in Dashkhovuz. Diarrhoea, hepatitis, and typhoid have increased in the past fifteen years in Dashkhovuz, and these diseases have a significant impact on general health indices.*14

The Kyzyl-Orda region (Kazakhstan) is also among those areas hardest hit by the environmental catastrophe. The northern half of the Aral Sea, including the lower portion of the Syrdaryia, lies within Kazakstan's Kyzyl-Orda region. Extensive irrigation work, mainly for the cultivation of cotton in the south of Kazakhstan as well as in other cotton-sewing Central Asian republics, and intensive agriculture over the past 30 years, with excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, have caused pollution of the groundwater, extensive salinization of soil and, as a result, a reduction in agricultural yield. Previously important local food crops such as rice can no longer be grown effectively, which has resulted in a dramatic decline in economic activity. The most adversely affected regions in Kazakhstan are the Aralsk and Kazalinsk districts in the Kyzyl-Orda region.
Economic losses of the Kyzyl-Orda region only due to the Aral Sea crisis in the past 30 years are estimated at U.S.$3 billion, mainly as a result of the decline in natural resources and the subsequent loss of employment. Commercial fishing and shipping in the Aral Sea was abandoned in the mid-1980s, while the region's two major factories (fish-producing and pulp paper) had to switch to more expensive, imported raw materials of inputs, after the disappearance of local fish and reeds.*15 Half the population (mainly non-indigenous) left the region.
The water supply in the area depends on the Syrdarya and its system of irrigation canals, artesian groundwater, highly saline shallow groundwater wells, and springs. Surface water from the Syrdarya is partially treated in the Kazalinsk Water Treatment Plant. Inadequate maintenance of the system, high levels of leakage, the rapid deterioration of water quality from existing wells, and harsh climatic conditions have all contributed to the severe deterioration of the existing piped water supply system.

Despite of all these hardships, the indigenous population of the zone of calamity under consideration is very attached to the places they are born, being considerably stable with little tendency towards out migration. In the 1980s when the situation worsened sharply, the Soviet government, unable to deal with the problems in the Aral sea area, tried to encourage people to migrate to those areas outside Central Asia which were in need of workers. Few Uzbeks, Karakalpaks, Kazakhs, or Turkmens opted to leave the homeland of their forefathers.

3. Man-made Disaster

According to a 1992 U.N.D.P.'s study, the destruction of the Aral Sea is one of the most staggering disasters of the twentieth century.
Major rivers of the Middle East: the Nile, the Jordan, the Tigers and the Euphrates are also in trouble but none could be compared in scale and impact with the Syrdarya and the Amudarya of the Aral Sea Basin.
A healthy Aral, within short period of time (about 30 years), has become deadly ill and could die not only biologically, it could also physically disappear. According to the latest estimates with some adjustments of slight improvement of water use, especially after 1991, by the year 2015 Aral's surface could diminish up to the one eighth of its initial size.*16
In the life of the Aral were different periods (cycles) and, of course, it is necessary to examine in detail its long cycles, as A. Ergashev suggests in his article,*18
It is true also, that several years (1970, 1974-75) were marked with strong droughts, which reduced the average flow of the rivers to the sea. However, according to Uzbek and American scholars who have been involved with the study of the conditions in the Aral Sea for many years, even in those drought years the volume of diverted water from the rivers either grew (in Syrdarya) or stayed approximately at the same level (in Amudarya).*19
All these factors aggravated the situation in the Aral. However, the main cause, according to almost all and diverse publications on the subject, was the increased irrigation usage of the river flow, which diverted the lion's share of water from the Aral Sea. As it is officially stated in the Nukus Declaration, signed by five Heads of Central Asia in September 1995: "The Aral crisis is the result of a shortsighted policy towards environment and natural resources. The main cause is the excessive use of water from the Amudarya and the Syrdarya for irrigation needs. This led to a drying up of the Aral Sea and is unprecedented in its scale of impact on the ecology of the Central Asian region and neighboring republics."*20
The amount of water taken from the Syrdarya has sharply increased and its inflow to the Sea dropped from 21 cubic kilometers in 1960 to 0 in 1980, the Amudarya flow within the same period has been reduced by about the 30 cubic kilometers. The excessive diversions of water from the Amudarya and the Syrdarya were designated for an expansion of cotton production. The diversion of water has drastically increased, especially from 1965 to 1988, when the consumption of water tripled to meet the needs of the increasing agriculture and population (see Table 1).
The irrigated land expanded from 2.9 million in 1950 to 7.2 million hectares by the end of 1980s. The precious water went to waste, due to the inefficient distribution systems and very high water application rates on the farms. While cotton plants need 8-10,000 cubic meters of water per hectare, the average withdrawals in Central Asia were almost double that. One of the reasons is the heavy salinization of soils in the region, which necessitated intensive leaching (washing) of fields newly under irrigation, and periodic leaching of almost all irrigated land. Water used for irrigation or leaching drained from upstream fields has increased natural salinity and rendered much land infertile. Since fields required more leaching with water, which at some point started to add more minerals than it carried away. All these resulted in vicious circle impossible to breakthrough within the Soviet system.*21
Starting with Lenin's Decree on irrigation of Golodnaya ("Hunger") Steppe in 1919 and on the achievement of a policy of self-sufficiency in cotton, followed by a collectivization campaign and centrally imposed rigidity to crop structure in Stalin's era and afterwards, has resulted in the creation of a cotton monoculture in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, southern Kazakhstan and south-western Kyrgyzstan.
Soviet regimes, from Khrushchev to Gorbachev, first neglected the environmental issues and then failed to suggest any practical solution to them. Environmental, and the accompanying social (especially poverty and health) problems have been neglected for too many years.
The conflict between the goal of achieving cotton independence, to sharply increase cotton production by the expansion of irrigation and its ecological consequences for the Aral Sea Basin has been resolved by the Soviet State at the expense of the environment and people.
Dozens of years of economic mismanagement associated with Soviet strategy of unbalanced growth were accompanied in Central Asia not only by large water diversions, but also by poor irrigation construction and maintenance, technology that was wasteful of water, and poor land use planning.
Starting with the building of the Kairakum canal under Khrushchev in the mid1950s, diversion gained large scale momentum in 1960s and 1970s.
A key component in the promotion of further expansion of irrigation in the Aral Sea Basin in the1970s and early 1980s was the promise of Brezhnev's administration of additional water sources from Siberia. The Siberian River Diversion Project, was to provide a 50% increase in irrigated lands in the Aral Sea Basin by the end of century. It was again a new "grandiose" project which would mean not only the cure of the Aral and relief to the people suffering around it, but, more importantly, a new increase of agricultural production.
Nevertheless, the people and governments of the Central Asian republics believed up to the end of the Soviet era, that it could compensate years of water loss by the Aral, could help to fix the situation and restore the broken balance between nature and people because of Soviet production goals.
Under Gorbachev a joint resolution of the C.P.S.U.'s Central Committee and Soviet Government, adopted in August 1986 and postponed the proposed diversion of Siberian rivers. Afterwards, in late 1980s under pressure of the governments and public opinion of Central Asian republics, the Aral Sea situation was publicly acknowledged to be a catastrophe. However, the problem was just more openly discussed, a new resolution, dated 30 September 1988 was passed,*22 new governmental bodies were created, action programs were adopted, but they were never implemented.
Promised radical measures for the restoration of the destruction of the region's ecological balance and the preservation of the Aral Sea was never fulfilled.
On June 23, 1990, the leaders of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, signed a joint declaration emphasizing that the growing deficit and pollution of the water resources put the Aral Sea Basin on the edge of ecological devastation and made the last attempt to appeal to Moscow, asking it to declare the Aral region as a national calamity and provide real support.
The meeting of the leaders of the Central Asian Republics of 23 June 1990 opened a new page in the history of the region. Within the dying Soviet System, the foundation of a new regional cooperation appeared. Agreement on a broad range of economic, scientific, technical and cultural environmental issues was reached, as it was stated between "equal and sovereign republics". To implement this regional cooperation a coordinating council with a permanent staff was founded. In addition, an inter-republic commission to unite regional efforts for the restoration of the Aral Sea, and a fund for the people of the Aral region were both established. The suggested mechanism of urgent measures, combined with the creation of regional and national ecological funds, real actions to save the Aral were also linked with international cooperation, especially with U.N. experts and technical assistance.*23
It was clear that to stop the catastrophe, urgent and coordinated measures were to be taken. However, Gorbachev's government was obsessed with its own continiously aggravated problems, and the idea of a meeting to coordinate national, regional and international efforts was neglected. They laid a foundation for a new Aral Sea strategy only after the break-up of the U.S.S.R. and the independence of Central Asian Republics.

4. Regional Cooperation

In 1991 the Soviet Union was dissolved and the republics of Central Asia became independent with full responsibility for their respective territories and the Aral Sea catastrophe to deal with. The situation obtained a new dimension: it grew from a regional to an international problem.
Within the former U.S.S.R. the Aral was a domestic problem which affected all five Central Asian republics of the same country. The final decisions on all issues connected with the development of the area, including water and land use depended on the central government in Moscow.
Though, in late Perestroika years more autonomy was obtained by the republics and due to their regional efforts since 1989 the Aral started to receive a steady and increasing flow of water from the two major rivers.
Afterwards, all five became independent with real, not quasi, sovereignty with their own national interests. Now decisions are made in 5 different capitals: Tashkent, Almaty, Bishkek, Dushanbe and Ashgabad, and a greater role to Karakalpakstan Republic within Uzbekistan, and more autonomy to the regions concerned in Kazakhstan, and other republics are given.
It also grew from a regional to a global environmental problem not only because of its speed of development, but also because these newly independent states became members of such international organizations, as the U.N., the World Bank, and the I.M.F. The national states established diplomatic relations, opened themselves for cooperation, bilateral and multilateral official development assistance. And they were recognized by the world community.
On the other hand, a sharp disruption of traditional ties, huge decline of output problems connected with transition to market economy (first of all hyperinflation), aggravated situation elsewhere of the FSU, but especially in Central Asia and most of all in the Aral Sea Area.
However, natural calamity has not grown to national (ethnic) and international (inter-ethnic) conflicts, on the basis of struggle (wars) for water, as was warned by many Western researchers of the problem.
This was due to the proper national and regional policies of the respective states, which tried to resolve all issues peacefully and by proper negotiations.
Existing literature, not only by outsiders but insiders as well, witnessing that there are indeed some disputes over water use from Amudarya between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan on the Amu-Karshi and Amu-Bukhara Canals; between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on the Northern and Great Fergana Canals, and the Nurek water storage reservoir; between Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan over water use in the Karakul canal and the Toktogul water reservior.*24
It is also worth noting, that the environmental costs not only of irrigation but also of hydro-power development with profound economic costs, has not received adequate attention in the past. Energy was developed as part of the central FSU's plan, but was poorly integrated into the republic and regional economies. This was the case not only with Nurek in Tadjikistan, but also with Toktogul in Kyrgyzstan and many other hydroelectric power plants built upstream from the Aral Sea Basin's rivers.
For example, more than thirteen thousand hectares of fertile soils were flooded by the Toktogul Reservoir. In addition to constricting the downstream water supply to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and eventually to the Aral, the dam destroyed the fragile ecological balance within the region and the once beautiful area surrounding the reservoir was transformed into a desert.
Potential damage from earthquakes is perhaps the most important environmental liability of development, where quake activity may reach magnitudes of 9 to 11. The damage from the dam system failure and the resulting floods could be catastrophic in one of the densely populated parts of Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Uzbekistan. Comprehensive watershed plans should be developed within the context of regional ecology, social and security systems.*25
In addition, the Toktogul dam causes low releases during summer and high releases during winter. This leads to water shortages in the Syrdarya basin during summer but during winter it necessitates overflows to Chardara in Kazakhstan and then to Arnasai in Uzbekistan, where water is subject to evaporation. These spills can not be diverted to the delta and the Aral Sea, due to the insufficient carrying capacity of the Syrdarya, caused by bottlenecks such as under-designed weirs, pontoon bridges and low flood dykes.
An interstate agreement between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan signed in 1996, stipulating compensation for Kyrgyzstan for not fully utilizing its hydro-power potential during winter and allowing increased water releases during summer.*26 On the other hand, the internationally agreed water allocation for Kazakhstan is 12.4 cubic km per year. However, during the past 20 years, an annual average of 14.8 cubic km was received in to the Chardara reservoir.*27
After independence, under the umbrella of the Interstate Aral Sea Basin Program it was agreed to promote projects which would: (i) increase the flow of water in the Syrdarya below the Chardara dam; (ii) provide adequate carrying capacity through the river and its hydraulic structures between Chardara and the Aral Sea; (iii) restore the ecological balance of the Aral Sea disaster zone; (iv) restore and promote economic activity in the Syrdarya delta; and (v) provide additional amounts of water for the delta and the Aral Sea. Two complimentary projects in Kazakhstan have been combined to form the Syrdarya Control and the Northern Aral Sea Project (S.Y.N.A.S.).
In the short-term after implementing the project this differential flow of 2.4 km3 would contribute to the filling and maintenance of the Northern Aral Sea (N.A.S.). In the short-term the project would have to offset measures in Kazakhstan to improve irrigation efficiencies, reduce further spills to Arnasai and losses due to flooding along the river, to be achieved through the implementation of the proposed long-term development plan. It is observed, that there could be some negative implications for the neighboring regions of Uzbekistan and the Southern Aral Sea (see below, section 6.2). According to the World Bank, Uzbekistan is aware of the projects and has so far voiced no objections.*28
The old problems, that appeared in the FSU, and new projects regarding water distribution have not become a foundation for conflicts and have not violated national and regional security-this achievement has not yet been studied properly.
However, one can see that Interstate Cooperation in the region contributed a lot to it. Of course, it requires much more time to create a solid legal basis with the help of international organizations and in full conformity with international law on the use of boundary and trans-boundary rivers, as well as to enable proper potential conflict resolution between the neighboring republics.
In response to the severe environmental catastrophe in the Aral Sea Basin, the five Newly independent Central Asian states has been developing their national and regional strategies to save the Sea and the people of the riparian regions from ecocide (ecological suicide).
Special emphasis was given to the zones of calamity in the respective republics, to provide real support for the people suffering from environmental disaster most of all.

Practical projects and day to day help in meeting the urgent needs of the people and preventing conflicts on the socioeconomic basis between the different ethnic groups in the zone of ecological catastrophe has become the main approach.
The opportunity to give massive immediate help to restore the ecological equilibrium, was lost by the Soviet Government. Now only a combination of local efforts at regional, national, and international levels is the way to meet the challenge, to diminish negative consequences, and to lay the basis for more radical measures.
Since June 1990, in the years immediately following independence, the leaders of the Central Asian states held regular meetings, which have produced comprehensive basis for joint efforts.
In March 1993, in Kyzyl-Orda (Kazakhstan), "The Agreement on Joint Actions to Solve the Aral Sea Crisis" was signed. The Interstate Coordinating Water Management Council and its Executive Committee were established. In January 1994, in Nukus (Uzbekistan), "The Program of Specific Measures to Improve the Ecological, Social and Economic Situation in the Aral Sea Basin for 3-5 Years" was adopted. It is now known as the Aral Sea Basin Program. In March 1994, in Dashkhovuz (Turkmenistan) annual report of Interstate Coordinating Water Management Council was approved and new measures to implement the Aral Sea Basin Program were considered by the 5 leaders of the Central Asian states. In February 1997 the fourth Summit meeting on the Aral Sea took place in Almaty (Kazakhstan). The Program on Rehabilitation of the Aral Sea and on the Priority Measures prepared jointly with the World Bank was approved; decisions concerning the reorganization of the Interstate Council and the International Aral Sea Fund were taken, the President of Uzbekistan was elected as chairman of the Fund, and the size of the each Central Asian state's contribution to the Fund was established at the level of 0.3 % of the their budgets; the Almaty Declaration, announcing Central Asia as a non-nuclear region and 1998 as year of Environmental Protection under UN auspices, was adopted.*29
Within the past three years the Central Asian Republics financed US$1.5 billion worth of projects related to the liquidation of the negative consequences of the Aral Sea catastrophe.*30 The joint efforts gave some positive results: the drop of the Sea level was slowed down. However, immersed areas continue to dry up. It was clear that the environmental and social problems reached an extent which was beyond the capacity of Central Asian states alone to fix. The assistance of International community was requested.

5. International Support for Regional and National Efforts

In response to the severe environmental catastrophe in the Aral Sea Basin, the five Central Asian republics have made joint efforts to save the Aral and people around it. U.N.D.P., U.N.E.P., and the World Bank in cooperation with bilateral donors, have responded to requests for assistance with the Aral Sea Program, which was prepared in 1993 and approved by the Heads of States in January 1994.
The Program has four major goals: -stabilize the environment of the Aral Sea Basin,
-rehabilitate the calamity zone around the Sea,
-develop joint management of trans-boundary water, and
-build regional institutions to realize objectives.
The first stage of the Program, which is jointly funded by the countries and external donors, focuses on the immediate and most urgent needs of the region. In accordance with four above-mentioned goals, specific projects have been developed within the republics.
In addition, the Central Asian newly independent states are assisted in adopting national macroeconomic and sectorial policies which support sustainable land, water and other natural resource development.
Stage One has seven areas of focus:
1. Preparation of a regional water resource management strategy;
2. Development of a regional environmental monitoring system which tracks water availability and consumption;
3. Reduction of agricultural, industrial and municipal water pollution;
4. Research and selection of engineering options for environmental restoration projects;
5. Design and implementation of regional public education programs on environment and health;
6. Integrated land and water management in the upper watersheds;
7. Institutional capacity building for regional environmental management.
U.N. agencies and the World Bank in order to promote sustainable development are helping to find proper solutions balancing global and national interests with the requirements of ecological preservation.
On June 22-24, 1994 ( symbolically, exactly the same days, 4 years after the first meeting of Central Asian leaders) the Paris meeting on the Aral Sea Basin was hosted by the World Bank, the U.N.D.P. and the U.N.E.P. It brought together Central Asian republics government officials, representatives of international institutions and non-governmental donor organizations of foreign countries. The meeting supported the program of action, which was aimed at the practical improvement of the ecological situation in the Aral Sea Basin.
On 18-20 September 1995, the International Conference on Sustainable Development of the Aral Sea Basin, sponsored by the Interstate Council and the U.N.D.P., took place in Karakalpakstan. Heads of five riparian states signed Nukus Declaration. The sides to the Declaration defined their responsibilities to contribute to the solution of the Aral Sea Crisis and expressed their commitment to principles of sustainable human development (Rio Declaration, 1992 and World Charter of Nature) and International Conventions (on Desertification, Global Climate, Biodiversity, Trans-boundary Waters).
Showing their resolution to continue comprehensive cooperation on the basis of equality, mutual respect, good-neighboring relations and a resolution to work together to overcome the negative consequences of the Aral Sea Catastrophe and its impact on nature and people, the Central Asian states confirmed that they will continue their support of regional development institutions (Aral Sea Interstate Council and its Executive Committee with a new position of an appointed chairman, as well as a Commission on Sustainable Development).
Measures on water and other natural resources management were identified, and new initiatives on sustainable human development in the Aral Sea Basin were promoted. Among them U.N. projects: against desertification and land degradation; on urgent human needs of the people in the zone of calamity; and environmental monitoring (including health monitoring). The World Bank emphasized both small scale and larger investment projects, connected with the improvement of potable water, and water used in agriculture, as well as the increase of water inflow to the Aral Sea.*31
On the 28 February, 1997 the vice-president of World Bank supported the Almaty Declaration and announced that, "the Bank is planning to launch U.S.$380 million worth projects to finance the Aral Sea Rehabilitation Program and priority measures within the coming 5 years".*32
Thus, new steps forward in regional cooperation received the full understanding and support of the international community in Paris meeting, the Nukus Conference and the Almaty Summit meeting. Concurrently U.N. (U.N.D.P., U.N.E.P., U.N.E.S.C.O., U.N.I.C.E.F., W.H.O.), World Bank and some bilateral official aid organizations are actively involved in technical assistance developing and implementing urgent and important projects in cooperation with the independent states of Central Asia.

6. Practical Steps and Country-Based Projects

6.1. Uzbekistan

The Government of Uzbekistan, according to international recognition provides the most comprehensive support to the people of Karakalpakstan and Khorezm living in the area the most affected by the Aral Sea catastrophe. It has already allocated approximately 30% of the piped water program budget to this area, committing approximately U.S.$130 million over 5 years.*33
In addition, the Government of Uzbekistan has been making large efforts to increase cooperation regionally and internationally to diminish negative consequences of the ecological disaster around the Aral Sea.
In September 1996, the World Bank approved a U.S.$5 million equivalent loan to Uzbekistan to help to finance a Pilot Water Supply Engineering Project in Karakalpakstan and Khorezm.*34
The Pilot Water Supply Engineering Project's main objectives are to improve the design and implementation arrangements for the full scale project through a "learning-by-doing" approach and by incorporating community participation into the planning and implementation process of water supply and distribution. The pilot project will also accelerate the implementation of the full scale project through early completion of detailed engineering design and preparation of bidding documents. Furthermore, it will develop and test joint financing and cost recovery schemes, on a pilot basis, in order to improve the financial viability of the Vodocanals (operators of the water supply and treatment facilities) and sustainability of investments.
The project contains the following two components.
1. The Water Supply Pilot Project Component, which consists of:

-pumping water from the Tuyamuyun-Nukus main pipeline in the Republic of Karakalpakstan through a secondary main to the highest point of the settlement, where it will connect with an existing tertiary distribution system, supplying approximately 25,000 people in the poorly served middle and eastern settlements;

-connecting the main pipeline with a new network of tertiary distribution pipelines to be constructed under the pilot project to serve the approximately 2,100 people, who have been relocated from villages near the Aral Sea;

-testing on a pilot basis and with community approval, a lower water consumption design standard in water distribution networks in order to reduce investment and operating costs.

2. The Technical Assistance Component, which consists of:

-engineering design and supervision of the pilot and full scale projects, including the preparation of detailed engineering designs and tender documents;

-arranging local and international tenders for the procurement of goods and works according to the World Bank guidelines and the Government of Uzbekistan's requirements;

-assisting in the selection of successful bidders and in negotiating contracts;

-supervising construction to ensure overall quality control;

-assisting in mobilizing communities to set up Water User Associations to collect community funds and arrange in-kind contributions for investments;

-operating the Project Implementation Unit (P.I.U.) until the start up of the full scale project.

The project will be implemented by the P.I.U. which has already been established under the Goskomprognostat with initial financing from the Dutch Consultants' Trust Fund (D.C.T.F.) of the World Bank. The P.I.U. will have three offices, one in Tashkent, one in Nukus and one in Urgench. The office in Nukus will be jointly operated by the Executive Committee of the Aral Sea. Office equipment for the Tashkent and the Urgench offices have been provided by D.C.T.F.
Total project costs are estimated at $5.41 million. The Bank loan of $5 million will finance 92.5 percent of total costs. The Bank's loan will have a maturity of 20 years, including a 5 year grace period at the Bank's standard variable interest rate.*35
Uzbekistan's full scale Water Supply, Sanitation and Health Project has two objectives. The first is the provision of safe drinking water. The second objective is to strengthen institutional capacity for management, operation and financial performance of the regional water supply and sanitation utilities as well as the regional Centers of Health and Sanitary Epidemiological Services.
The proposed project comprises four main components: (1) water supply and distribution; (2) sanitation, health and hygiene; (3) technical assistance; and (4) project management, design and supervision.
1. Water Supply and Distribution Component (U.S.$ 68.2 million or 68 percent of total base cost). This component has four main subcomponents:
(a) Main Pipeline Supply System (U.S.$ 8 million).
(b) Development of Local Water Supply and Distribution Systems (U.S.$. 21.0 million).
(c) Water Demand Management and Loss Reduction (U.S.$ 3.3 million) (metering water usage, leakage reduction).
(d) Equipment for Operation and Maintenance (U.S.$ 5.2 million).
2. Sanitation Health and Hygiene Component (U.S.$ 11.2 million or 11 percent of the total base cost). This component has three subcomponents:
(a) Rural Sanitation (U.S.$ 2.0 million).
(b) Health Promotion and Hygiene Education (U.S.$ 4.0 million).
(c) Water Quality Monitoring and Strengthening of Sanitary Epidemiological Services (S.E.S.) (U.S.$ 5.2 million).
3. Technical Assistance Component (U.S.$ 8.2 million or 8 percent of total base cost). This component has three subcomponents:
(a) Institutional Strengthening of Water Utilities and Bulk Providers (U.S.$ 6.7 million).
(b) Water and sewerage Tariff Study (U.S.$ 0.6 million).
(c) Refinancing of Feasibility Study (U.S.$ 0.8 million). This subcomponent would refinance the Kuwait Fund's Project Feasibility Study.
4. Project Management, Design and Supervision Component (U.S. $8.4 million or 8.1 percent of total base cost).
Refinancing the Pilot Water Supply Engineering Project Component (U.S. $5.0 million or around 5 percent of total base cost). The Pilot Project funded the construction of a self-managed water supply scheme in the urban areas of Nukus (the largest city, capital of Karakalpakstan) and the preparation of detail designs and bid documents for the proposed project. The Pilot Project components would be refinanced by the proposed project as agreed with the Government of Uzbekistan in the Pilot Project Loan Agreement. Upon the effectiveness of the proposed project, the Bank would withdraw from the Loan Account and pay to itself the amount required for repayment of the Pilot Project Loan. The Pilot Project Loan would then be canceled.
The immediate impact of the project would be a safe and reliable water supply services for about 1.46 million people. The project would also directly benefit about 25,000 inhabitants with improved sanitation facilities.*36
Construction of secondary and tertiary piped water distribution systems, pumping stations, storage reservoirs and upgrading of potable water treatment plants are foreseen. The project has a sanitation component consistent with the water supply improvements to handle any increase in sewage flow. The project includes an environmental monitoring system which would perform basic bacteriological and chemical analyses of surface and ground water in the project area as well as collecting health and sanitation data. This monitoring data would be integrated into a computer-based geographic information system (G.I.S.) and made available to government ministries and other projects. The G.I.S. would allow tracking of the quality of surface and ground water on a longer-term basis and help identify health problem areas. The project would also create an inter-sectorial committee for Water, Sanitation and Health comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Health, local N.G.O.s, and members of the Project Implementation Unit. The committee would act as a forum for environmental and health concerns and coordinate the dissemination of information regarding the health and environmental impact of the project.

6.2 Kazakhstan

The World Bank on the December 23, 1996 approved a U.S $7 million loan for a Pilot Water Supply Project. The loan will help to finance the project in the Aralsk and Kazalinsk districts of the Kyzyl Orda Region in Kazakhstan's section of the calamity zone, along the northern part of the Aral Sea.
The Pilot Project represents an initial learning phase of the full-scale Aral Sea Community Rehabilitation Project, the main goals of the latter are: to improve the health of the urban and rural population of the two districts by providing safe drinking water and the improvement of hygiene education and sanitation facilities; and by strengthening the management, operation and by financial performance of the regional water supply and sanitation utilities, thereby ensuring their long-term viability.
Within the Pilot project such objectives as gaining experience in developing operational methodologies and capabilities in all aspects, including international procurement and contracting, and in project management and implementation, will be pursued. Thus, its role is to speed up the implementation of the full-scale project through early completion of its preparation activities.
The pilot project consists of two components:
A small scale investment component (U.S. $6.273 million) will:

-Rehabilitate a section of the Aralsk-Sarbulak pipeline, which suffers from poor initial construction practices, and has experienced a large number of leaks. (This rehabilitation program will include the replacement and rehabilitation of damaged concrete pressure pipes approximately 7 km long and 800 mm and 1,000 mm in diameter.)

-Complete an unfinished Pumping Station in Novokazalinsk, thus allowing water distribution in the city.

-Improve the most corroded sections of water distribution networks in the cities of Novokazalinsk and Aralsk (approximately 6 km of networks in each city).

A technical assistance component (U.S. $727,000) will finance:

-Pilot project engineering, including the review and revision of detailed engineering designs for the pilot project, preparation of the documents, and arranging local and international tenders for the procurement of goods and works according to the requirements of the World Bank and the Government of Kazakhstan.

-Assistance for the selection of successful bidders, negotiating contracts, supervising construction to ensure overall quality control, providing management for project implementation, coordinating financing arrangements, supervision construction to ensure overall quality control, and monitoring and reporting on the implementation progress.

-Operation of the Project Implementation Unit until the start-up of the full-scale project.

Kazakhstan's State Committee for Water Resources is responsible for the implementation of the project.
The total project cost is U.S. $7.388 million. The Bank's loan of U.S.$7 million will finance 94.7 percent of the total project cost. The government will contribute U.S. $388,000, financing 5.3 percent of the total project cost. The loan will have a maturity of 20 years, including a five year grace period at the Bank's standard variable interest rate.*37
Kazakhstan's Syrdarya Control and Northern Aral Sea Project (S.Y.N.A.S.) is a full scale investment project. It would be the first phase in a long-term development plan, aimed at: (i) sustaining and increasing the agricultural production in the Syrdarya basin; and (ii) securing the existence of the Northern Aral Sea and improving the ecological conditions in the delta and around the Northern Aral Sea. S.Y.N.A.S. would eliminate serious flow restrictions in the river and increase the carrying capacity of the Syrdarya to enable more water to reach the Aral Sea and to create a freshwater Northern Aral Sea.
Project Components are:
-Rehabilitation of Aitek weir / enlargement of Aitek main canal: Aitek weir diverts water to the 17,000 ha Aitek irrigation scheme. The structure is under-designed, appears to be unsafe and complete failure seems to be a real possibility. Either a new weir would be constructed or the 46 km long right bank canal from Kyzyl-Orda weir to Aitek irrigation scheme would be enlarged and extended. During preparation studies the feasibility of both options would be considered.
-Terenozek bridge: a new, high level bridge would be constructed at Terenozek near Kyzyl-Orda, to replace the pontoon bridge.
-Delta infrastructure: Amanotkel and Aklak structures are located in the Syrdarya delta. The Amanotkel weir is important for the diversion of water to Kamiyshlibash lake and other small lakes. This free-flowing weir has a small capacity and other is damaged and out of use. Aklak structure is located not far from the Aral Sea shoreline and diverts water to small lakes. The structure is danger of collapse. Permanent weirs with flood protection dikes would be constructed at Amanotkel and Aklak. They would control the distribution of water to 20 lakes, with a total area of approximately 44,000 ha, through both newly constructed and rehabilitated channels of 63 km in total.
To improve the ecological conditions on the Northern Aral Sea (N.A.S.) Kazakhstan, with the assistance of the World Bank, is also considering a dike construction which separates the N.A.S. from the Larger Aral Sea (L.A.S.). The level of the dike would depend on the availability of water and the results of the environmental studies. Initial calculations reveal that with an annual inflow of around 3 cubic km a water level of 40m could be sustained. A spillway would be incorporated to release excess water into the L.A.S. and for flushing purposes to control mineralization.
A preliminary assessment of the project costs is U.S. $90 million and the Bank loan is tentatively planned to be U.S. $50 million. The government's contribution is yet to be defined. Participation of co-financiers would be considered. The main categories of expenditure would be civil works and technical assistance.*38
There are no other investment projects with similar scope in the Central Asia region.
Assurance of adequate and timely availability of funds from the national and local governments is needed.
Riparian issues should be resolved before the start of the project in order to minimize the risks of disagreements and delays after implementation has begun.
Government should develop a partnership with and meet the wishes of the local population to ensure a successful project.
An important lesson should be learned from available experience. In July 1992, a stream channel was finished and a low dike was constructed by the Committee of Water Resources of Kazakhstan to stop the flow of water from the N.A.S. to the L.A.S. Unexpected high winter inflows caused a quick rise in the water level of the N.A.S. and due to the absence of an overflow structure the dike breached in March 1993. Despite its short existence, this attempt to close the N.A.S. showed the positive effects such a project could have, and the impact on the L.A.S. was observed.
The proposed project would improve existing major infrastructure in the Syrdarya and dam the N.A.S. to create a freshwater reservoir. All project components would be designed for positive environmental impacts within the immediate project areas. There would, however, be some negative impacts on the surrounding areas, especially the L.A.S.
Potential positive environmental impacts in and around the N.A.S. and the Syrdarya delta would include: (i) the creation of a freshwater reservoir; (ii) the filling of lagoons and delta lakes; (iii) an increase in wetlands; (iv) a reduction in salt and dust storms; (v) the restoration if biological diversity; and (vi) an improved ecological system. On the other hand, the project would result in additional lowering of the L.A.S., as well as small increase in its water salinity level. The actual impact would depend on the design water level in the N.A.S. Major potential social, resettlement and cultural heritage issues are not foreseen.
Part of the current spills into the Arnasai depression would be released into the Syrdarya, once its hydraulic capacity has been increased under the project. Therefore there would be some impact on the Arnasai depression, which could be either adverse or positive (for example, reduction in the total area affected by flooding along the Syrdarya could decrease expenditure to provide and maintain annual flood protection along certain stretches of the Syrdarya).
Since the proposed project is located in an environmentally sensitive area and has potentially negative impacts, a full environmental assessment is warranted, in order to scrutinize all environmental issues and arrive at a project that would be environmentally and politically acceptable.
Careful analysis of all impacts and benefits should take place during later stages of the project preparation and information on it needs to be shared with other riparian states before its final endorsement.

6.3 Turkmenistan's Water Supply and Sanitation Project
The objectives of the proposed project will be to: (i) Improve water supply and sanitation in district (etrap) centers and selected collective farms in Dashkhovuz region; and (ii) Initiate institutional changes in the water and sanitation sectors to improve financial and technical sustainability.
The proposed project would include seven of the eight etrap centers in the region and ten selected collective farms located throughout the region (one etrap, Turkmenbashi, is the site of a $3 million U.S.A.I.D. water supply and sanitation project). The beneficiaries would total about 250,000 (150,000 represented in the etrap centers and 100,000 in the selected rural locations).*39 The project components would include:
(a) Rehabilitation, upgrading extension of water supply systems for etrap centers and selected collective farms. This will include physical improvements to the water system including well rehabilitation, pumping station upgrades, reservoir and other storage facility repairs, disinfection system installation or repairs, rehabilitation and expansion of the distribution network, and installation of taps and metering or flow measurement devices as appropriate. It will also include strengthening of operation and maintenance facilities, and laboratory and water quality monitoring programs.
(b) Household and communal sanitation facilities accompanied by hygiene and health education activities. This will include improved household latrines (designed to use locally available materials) and communal latrines with basic handwashing facilities. It would also include a public health education program; upgrading of public health laboratories; training of trainers to deliver health and hygiene education messages; and upgrading of monitoring and surveillance systems.
(c) Institutional strengthening. This will include technical assistance, staff training (including study tours), equipment and supplies.
Project preparation will include three rapidly implementable demonstration projects; (i) installation of suitable taps on public standpipes in a selected community; (ii) an artificial rechange experiment; and (iii) a school sanitation demonstration in two schools. Projects (i) and (iii) include substantial community participation. A social needs assessment will be conducted during preparation to identify community participation components to the water supply and sanitation improvements.
Total project costs are estimated at U.S.$ 30 million.*40
Investments in the water sector at present are not financially sustainable. There is a significant willingness to pay for water. The issue of financial sustainability will be addressed as part of the design.
The proposed project would be implemented over five years with the Ministry of Water Resources as the lead agency. A Project Implementation Unit (P.I.U.) has been established in the Cabinet of Ministers for the implementation functions.
The project is expected to have a positive impact on the environment through the improvement of drinking water quality and sanitation facilities. The proposed project would make a direct contribution to better environmentally sustainable development by improving financial and technical sustainability.

6.4 Kyrgyzstan
The country is neither a major drain nor major polluter of the Aral Sea. In compliance with inter-republic water allocation agreements Kyrgyzstan uses only 4% of the total flow of the Amudarya and Syrdarya. It also produces less than one percent of the cotton (major water consumer) grown in the region.*41
Nevertheless, it is situated in the upstream activities and the republic could have a significant impact on environmental conditions and activities downstream.
Kyrgyzstan like all other republics of Central Asia has been also suffering from an unsustainable use of natural resources. There are five key areas of ecological concern:
-inefficient water resource management,
-land degradation, mainly due to overgrazing,
-overexploitation of fragile forest resources,
-inefficient mining and refining practices, and
-threat of irreversible loss of biodiversity.
All these problems are connected with the topic under consideration and had a direct or indirect impact not only for the environment and people of Kyrgyzstan, but other republics of the Aral Sea Basin as well.
Erosion due to deforestation and overgrazing is severe, altering water regimes and degrading water quality. Poorly planned and managed irrigation systems loose or contaminate many thousands of cubic meters of water. Mining, industrial, and municipal pollution also flows into the Basin.
The Republic's water resources, of course, are the most critical for the Aral and peoples of Central Asian states, which suffer from ineffecient distribution, and are not adequately protected from chemical and biological contaminants. Elements of the problem also include inappropriately designed and aging infrastructure, and insufficient regulation and enforcement of waste emissions near water sources.
Waste management in general is not well-developed. However, in the mining industry where the presence of toxics (uranium, mercury, and other hazardous heavy metals) in the waste, makes good waste management of grave importance. The quality of environmental controls had been at best inconsistent and at worst critically negligent.
42 uranium tailings sites inherited from the former Soviet Union at the Haidarkan Mercury Combinat and Kyrgyz Mining and Metallurgical Combinat (heavy metals), are the most dangerous hazard to human health not only in Kyrgyzstan but also in all the other republics of the Basin, because of their location and closeness to the upstream of the two rivers. Several cases of radon leakage to water and air and their contamination has taken place. This was the worst part of heritage from the FSU received by Kyrgyzstan.*42
The Government of the newly independent state of Kyrgyzstan, despite financial constraints and difficulties of transition period, actively participated in all regional initiatives connected with the Aral Sea and in 1995, assisted by the World Bank, prepared a National Environmental Action Plan.
Three types of environmental actions were identified as priorities:
(1) rehabilitation, operation and maintenance of rapidly deteriorating (in particular, water and sanitation) infrastructure,
(2) investments targeted to natural resource based enterprise development,
(3) enhancement of the environmental regulatory framework, including training and support for staff in the environmental institutions.
A number of specific projects: Water Management; Water Quality Strategies; Improving the Efficiency and Operation of Dams; and Sustainability of Dams and Reservoirs have been considered as the most urgent, and could be beneficial for the whole region of the Aral Sea Basin.

6.5 Tajikistan
The Republic of Tajikistan is situated in the South-East of Central Asia and borders Uzbekistan in the west, Kyrgyzstan in the north, China in the east, and Afganistan in the south. Its territory of 143,100 square kilometers, with 93% occupied by mountains of Tien Shan ("Heavenly Mountains", from the Chinese), Hissar-Alay and Pamir (containing the highest mountain in the former U.S.S.R., the "Peak of Communism" at 7,495 meters) and with highly seismic zone of 80% of its land.
Settlement is mainly in the oases and along the upstream of the Amudarya and the Syrdarya, as well as on a transitional piedmont zones between mountains and part of Fergana, Zarafshan, Vaksh, Hissar valleys.
The climate is dry continental. In the valleys with arable land (up to 500 meters) there is only 150-300 millimeters precipitation per year. Therefore agriculture relies chiefly on irrigation system, which extends over two thirds of arable land, and consists to large extent of cotton, but also some grains, fruits and vegetables. The growing season is long, up to 204-288 days.*43
The meltwater from permanent snowfields, and glaciers (among which famous Fedchenko and Zarafshan) fed the rivers. Flood seasons in spring (April-May) from snow melting and in summer (June-July) from glacial melting. Both of which are very favorable periods for irrigation. So, these conditions are excellent for growing cotton and other crops, if the land is properly irrigated.
The country is rich in water. The total water runoff from the mountains is approximately 55-62 cubic km annually of which only 20% is used for the needs of the republic. The majority of Tajikistan's rivers belong to the Amudarya Basin. The Syrdarya has only a small catchment area in the north. Although Tajikistan covers only 5.7 % of the total Aral Sea basin area, it would be instrumental in any regional solution as 44% of the average annual of the basin is formed within its borders.*44 Because of Tajikistan's location in the upstream of the Amudarya and Syrdarya, the volume and efficiency of water use and management could affect other Central Asian Republics situated in the downstream of these rivers.
In 1980s in Tajikistan huge amounts of pesticides as well as of industrial and municipal wastes have been dumped into the rivers for lack of purification facilities. Water pollution became the main cause of high rates of typhoid, hepatitis and other intestinal infections in the republic. Water quality being severely compromised in the upstream of the basin rivers, has been leaving little hope for users downstream to clean water access.
In 1990s, Tajikistan's economy, apart from shocks of disruption of FSU and transition to market, has suffered from both political instability followed its independence in September 1991, civil war (1992-1993) and heavy floods and mud slides in the spring 1992 and 1993. As a result in the end of 1993, net material product was, in real terms, less than half of its 1988 level. Cotton production declined from 900,000 tons on average during the period 1985-1991 to around 500,000 tons in 1992 and 1993. All cotton-growing areas are irrigated, therefore decline in cotton production meant less water use and its less pollution. The war and disruption in inter-republic trade affected industrial production as well, which fell by about 4% in 1991, 24% in 1992, and by a further 20% in 1993. The Aluminum industry, with one of the largest smelters (514,000 tons per year) in the world, consuming nearly 40% of countries electricity and at full capacity Tajikistan produced 10-15% of total aluminum in the FSU, situated on the bank of the river, was among major environmental concerns.*45 The plant annually emitted 193 tons of fluorides, 1,306 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 28,900 tons of carbon monoxide. The hydrogen fluoride emissions have been the source of significant adverse health effects, both to the residents of Tursunzade in Tajikistan and the bordering communities in Uzbekistan. Livestock were losing their teeth and dying, and the teeth of local children have been found to be discolored.*46
After 1991 the disruption of imported supplies, including energy, spare parts, bauxite, and other inputs contributed to declining cotton and aluminum production, with a subsequent less negative impact on the environment, and the volume and water quality. However, on the other hand, with the decline in energy imports, and sharp increase of prices, the rural population has been driven to use firewood for heating and cooking. This has resulted in widespread deforestation of the relatively barren countryside, increased land erosion, and an increased likelihood of flooding and landslides.
In the first half of the 1990s, because of political and natural calamities, economic decline and hardships Tajikistan contributed much less to the pollution of the two rivers. However, with normalization and economic stabilization, and recovery, with potential growth of major tradable goods: cotton and aluminum, the situation could change. And it will be vitally important to prepare national environmental action plan, like in Kyrgyzstan, and start practical implementation of the projects, oriented for more efficient water use with less pollution and more balanced growth and sustainable economic development.

7. What Development Economists Could Recommend to the Aral Sea Problem
Development Economics assessing the causes of ecological disasters, emphasizes that in almost all cases up to now, the role of prices in resource conservation and environment protection has been ignored. Specifically concerning the Aral Sea Catastrophe the authors of Economics of Development state, that: "Sadly, virtually none of the dozen or so schemes discussed in publications by western and Soviet scientists to preserve the Aral Sea make any mention of the role that higher prices for irrigation water might play in water conservation."*47
To what extent could the newly independent states of Central Asia put greater stress on the role of prices in policies and programs connected with problems of the Aral Sea basin: environment and sustainable human development.
According to K. Griffin, the objective must be to create a well functioning market for water as soon as possible. For that the policy should be, as a minimum, to cover the full costs of operation of the system. And in future water charges should also cover the capital costs of the system. Incentives should be created to use the existing irrigation system more intensively and to maintain the system in good repair. The physical capital embodied in the irrigation system should not be treated as a free good. Finally, the revenues from water charges can make a useful contribution to the budget compensating in part for the decline in agricultural quotas and the rise in procurement prices.*48
These recommendations are good under the assumption, that agricultural incomes should soon begin to rise significantly, so water charges are a good way to tax these rising incomes and help finance essential public services.
However, transition to the market in this area has been so far accompanied with a decline of production and income. In many parts of the Aral Sea basin, especially in rural areas, up to 90% of household cash income today is used to buy food. If, under the present conditions of raising water tariffs to, say, 5% of household income, the outcome could be that there are not enough savings for the state budgets, and that many poor families would be further marginalized. Moreover, it could lead to an increase in social tensions.
Therefore, the political will to significantly increase water tariffs for domestic customers is not yet present. It might take some time until the current government practice in the region of using tax revenues (mainly from cotton exports) to fund the large operating deficit of the water sector would give way to more sustainable operating principles.
A program to increase domestic tariffs should be tested on an area-by-area basis. The first results of the survey under the World Bank's Pilot Project among the residents of Kizketken (a community of some 30,000 people in Uzbekistan), were that they agreed to an increase in water tariffs in exchange for improved service and larger say, in the running of the local water utility.
However, various categories of risks, could be though associated with the implementation of such project. The population, as a whole, as well as large customers and government agencies currently lack the capacity to pay for the improved services. Therefore, a timely payment of water bills will not be easy to achieve.
Assessing all these considerations the government of Uzbekistan has begun to respond to this deplorable situation and has decided that water charges will be introduced step by step. And the first target to achieve is to recover at least 50% of the operating cost.*49
Of course, more emphasis in sustainable development strategy of the Aral Sea basin is to be paid to the real sectors of economy and urgent human needs. Among which: to diminish negative impact of domestic and external shocks on employment and incomes within the process of systematic transformation; to generate additional resources for poverty alleviation, especially in the zone of calamity; to facilitate the implementation of job-creating projects (small and medium enterprise development, employment guarantee schemes, self-employment); to promote joint-ventures with foreign investment; and to encourage sustainable human development at all levels (local, national, regional).

"Water is life", "Save the Water and keep it clean" -these are common wisdoms for Central Asian people for thousands years of life in area of irrigated arable land. For a short period, under pressure from the administrative-command system, the laws of nature and rich traditions in irrigated agriculture has been neglected. Large-scale irrigation, mechanization and chemicalization of agriculture with cotton monoculture, especially intensified in1950-1980s completely ruined the balance between people and nature, between economy and ecology. In the 1990s the situation was aggravated by the difficulties of disruption of the FSU and socioeconomic hardships of the transition to a market economy.
Now the Aral Sea catastrophe has become one of the biggest ecological disasters of the twentieth century, so to save the drying up and dying Aral and to overcome the catastrophic consequences of it, both emergency and long-term measures are needed. Both causes and consequences of the problem should be addressed simultaneously. The Newly independent States of Central Asia with the assistance of international community (multinational organizations, like the World Bank, U.N.D.P., U.N.E.P.) and bilateral development assistance organizations of industrialized and developing countries (U.S., Japan, Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Kuwait and others) prepared a set of projects to implement the Aral Sea Basin Program. The main areas of present and nearest future concerns are:
1. Water
a) drinking water projects and improvement of sanitation system in the zone of calamity (both small, short-term projects and long-term investment and development projects are approved or under consideration now);
b) increase of inflow of the water to the Aral Sea and measures on bringing more water to deltaic areas of the Amudarya and the Syrdarya as well as to drying up zones of the Aral in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan;
c) rational water use and the protection of water resources elsewhere in the Aral Sea Basin, including watershed improvement in the upstream of the two rivers in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan;
d) improvement of water quality for agricultural use and a more balanced system of agriculture, especially in major cotton-sewing areas in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Southern Kazakhstan and South-Western Kyrgyzstan;
e) a regional system of monitoring of water use and exchange of data by national monitoring systems of riparian states;
f) strengthening of legal basis of trans-boundary and boundary water use problems in the Aral Sea Basin, harmonization of ecological standards and laws of national states on the basis of international laws and specific agreements on water use in the Aral Sea Basin.
2. Sustainable Human Development
a) urgent humanitarian aid measures to the people living in the zone of calamity (U.N.D.P./U.N.I.C.E.F. together with the international donor community);
b) health monitoring as a part of ecological monitoring (U.N.D.P., W.H.O.);
c) promotion of a long-term approach of water and land use, and progressive economic and agro-technical methods.
d) projects to stop land degradation and desertification (U.N.D.P., U.N.C.O.)
e) promotion of projects to provide basic needs in the Aral Sea Basin (World Bank , U.N.D.P.), and projects on cultural heritage (U.N.E.S.C.O.) and promotion of tourism (W.T.O./U.N.D.P.)
All these and other measures and projects are possible to implement only under continuing national, regional, ethnic and interethnic peace and stability; regional and international cooperation, and the good will of riparian states to solve old and new problems connected with the Aral Sea Catastrophe on the basis of equality, good-neighbor relations, peaceful coexistence, as well as international law and agreements.
It is also obvious, that some decisions will not be easy and will require scholars and practitioners, government officials and local communities to find imaginative ways of achieving regional, national and local consensus, to compromise short-term goals for long-term interests of sustainable development, considering the needs of current and future generations of the Aral Sea Basin.


  1. И.Каримов. Приветственная речь Президента Республики Узбекистан. Международная конференция по устойчивому развитию бассейна Аральского моря. Окончательный отчёт. Нукус, 18-20 сентября 1995, ПРООН, стр. 32.
  2. Uzbekistan: Human Development Report, 1995; Tashkent, UNDP, 1995, p. 55. Kazakhstan: Human Development Report, 1995; Almaty, UNDP, 1995, p. 42.
  3. The Aral in Crisis, Tashkent, UNDP, 1995, p. 5.
  4. Uzbekistan: HDR, 1995, p. 55.
  5. Peter Sinnot, The Physical Geography of Soviet Central Asia and the Aral Sea Problem, in Geographic Perspectives on Soviet Central Asia, Ed. by Robert A. Lewis, London and New York, Routledge, 1992, p. 86.
  6. The Aral in Crisis, p. 3.
  7. Uzbekistan: HDR, p. 56.
  8. Окончательный отчёт, Международная конференциЯ по устойчивому развитию бассейна Аральского моря, стр. 33.
  9. Ibid., p. 76.
  10. World Bank's Project Document: Uzbekistan Water Supply, Sanitation and Health, 1997, p. 1.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid., p. 2.
  13. World Bank, Turkmenistan -Proposed Water Supply and Sanitation Project, 1997, p. 1.
  14. Ibid., p. 2.
  15. World Bank Helps to Improve Kazakhstan's Water Supply, News Release #97/1222 ECA, Washington D.C., December 23, 1996.
  16. Окончательный отчёт, стр. 21.
  17. А.Эргашев. Оазисы надо беречь. Ташкент, Узбекистан, 1996 (mimeo), стр. 2-5.
  18. М.Ю. Морозова. Аральский кризис:История, реальность, переспективы. ‚осток, 1994, No 6, стр. 78.
  19. А. Акрамов, А.Рафиков. Орол мадад сурайди.Шарк Юлдузи, 1986, No 6, 167 б.
    Philip Micklin, The Status of the Soviet Unions North-South water transfer Projects before their abandonment in 1985-1986, Soviet Geography XXVII, 1986, # 5 (May), p. 346.
  20. Окончательный отчёт,стр. 21.
  21. The Aral in Crisis, p. 5.
  22. Правда, 30 сентября, 1988, стр. 1, 3.
  23. Правда ‚остока, 24 июня, 1990.
  24. Развитие экономики “збекистана в переходный период. €нститут стратегических и региональных исследований при Президенте Республики Узбекистан. IDE, Tokyo, Japan, 1997, p. 103.
  25. Kyrgyz Republic. National Environmental Action Plan, World Bank, Washington D.C., May 2, 1995, p. 121.
  26. World Bank, Kazakhstan-Syrdarya Control and Northern Aral Sea Project, p. 6.
  27. Ibid., p. 3.
  28. Ibid., p. 4.
  29. Правда Востока, 4 марта, 1997.
  30. Правда Востока, 30 маЯ, 1997.
  31. ончательный отчЮт, стр. 18, 42-43.
  32. Правда Востока, 4 марта, 1997.
  33. World Bank Supports Water Supply Project Near Aral Sea Disaster Zone in Uzbekistan, News Release # 97/1119 ECA, Washington D.C., September 12, 1996, p. 1.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Ibid., p. 3.
  36. World Bank, Uzbekistan ... Project, p. 5-7.
  37. World Bank, News Release # 97/1222 ECA, p. 2.
  38. World Bank, Kazakhstan-Syrdarya Control and Northern Aral Sea Project, p. 3.
  39. World Bank, Turkmenistan -Proposed Water Supply Project, p. 2.
  40. Ibid.
  41. Kyrgyz Republic. National Environmental Action Plan, p. 24.
  42. Кыргызстан. Отчёт о человеческом развитии. Бишкек, ПРООН, 1995, стр. 42.
  43. Окружающая среда в Содружестве Независимых Государств. Статистический сборник. Межгосударственный статистический комитет СНГ, Москва, 1996, стр 19-20.
  44. Tajikistan. World Bank Country Study, World Bank, Washington D.C., November 1994, p. 184-185.
  45. Tajikistan. IMF Economic Reviews 14, 1994. IMF, Washington D.C., November, 1994, p. 1, 5-6.
  46. Tajikistan. World Bank, 1994, p. 188.
  47. Economics of Development, M. Gillis, D. Perkins, M. Roemer, D. Snodgrass, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, London, 1992, p. 550.
  48. Social Policy and Economic Transformation in Uzbekistan, Ed. by K. Griffin, UNDP/ILO, Geneva, April 1995, p. 31.
  49. Ibid.

Table 1
Inflow into the Aral Sea (in cubic kilometers)

Sources: А.Рафиков. Куплар хакида йиллар. фан ва Турмуш, 1986, No 6 (июнь), 11 бет. Развитие экономики Узбекистана в переходный период. Институт стратегических и межрегиональных исследований при Президенте республики Узбекистан (Р.Сайфуллин, Я.Муслимов, М.Фазылова, В.Тен, Р.Алимов, М.Адинаева, М.Пикулина, С.Русс), Institute of Developing Economies, Tokyo, Japan, 1997, No. 3, p. 113.

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