The Central Asiatic countries are gradually understanding the severity of the region’s food problem, which needs to be settled together. The creation of such a system had already started in the Soviet era. For example, large water reservoirs were created in Kirgizia for neighboring countries to increase the cultivation areas by millions of hectares. Besides cotton, which is as we all know not an edible product, rice, wheat, and vegetables were grown on the new acres.
The budget of the Soviet Union provided for a compensation to Kirgizia for the loss of the lands turned into the bottoms of the water reservoirs and for technical maintenance of the republic’s hydro installations. Formally, the principle has been preserved even after the creation of independent states instead of the former Soviet republics. But in fact, the newly-created countries started settling their problems on their own and took no account of their neighbors’ interests. Numerous documents on the rational usage of the water and energy resources have been signed over this period,but none of the countries want to share its own earnings. Moreover, agreements on fuel supplies to Kirgizia, the country that provided water to the whole region, always went wrong. The situation has become really drastic over the last two years. The period has been rather arid, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Kirgizia has no coal and gas supplies and had to use the spare water reserves to heat houses. As a result, the water volume on the other side of the dam of the Toktogulsky hydroelectric power plant on the Naryn river in Kirgizia hardly covers the bottom. A real threat to the stoppage of the turbine and complete cessation of the watering has arose. Now, it is not a fantastic prospect that the fertile territories of Fergana and the south of Kirgizia may turn into deserts. Moreover, the awful example of the Aral Sea is well known to everyone. The lake, named a sea by the natives, has turned into a dried pool, whose fumes destroy the nature within a radius of several hundreds of kilometers.
The real destruction threat of the Toktogulsky dam pond and indifference of the neighbors to the problem made Kirgizia introduce payment for the water. A rather strict schedule for water distribution will be introduced by the spring. It is not ruled out that the schedule will not meet the requirements of the neighbors.
To tell the truth, the decision of the deputies to sell water is not approved by everyone in Kirgizia. The only alternative to the decision, as the deputies think, may become a traditional, tested scheme of joint usage of the water resources and hydro installations. The problem is to be considered at a summit of the region’s countries that is to take place within the nearest time. It is said, the problem is serious enough and can be solved only on the presidential level.
The presidents are positively inclined to settle the problem. Kazakhstan has already ratified an agreement on the joint usage of the hydro installations on the rivers Chu and Talas with Bishkek. Kazakhstan will participate in the exploitation, repairing, and reconstruction of the dams, channels and pumping plants. The moot point of payment for the water is no longer relevant in this case. Experts expect other countries of the region to join the agreement later.
Yury Razgulyayev PRAVDA.Ru Bishkek Kirgizia
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/02/01/36466.html