Fresh water crisis in Kazakhstan: A turn to Russia or a hope for US?

Fresh water crisis puts Kazakhstan between Russia or USA

Kazakhstan faces a shortage of drinking water. Russia could solve this problem, but the position of the Kazakhstan administration does not make it possible.

Russia will give Kazakhstan water, USA will enrich elites

According to, the situation with drinking water supplies in Kazakhstan has reached a critical level. In the future, the shortage will only increase. According to ecologists, the shortage of drinking water is exacerbated by intense pollution of rivers.

Serikkali Brekeshev, Minister of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources said that by 2030, the shortage of water resources could amount to 23.2 cubic kilometers, which is comparable to the total annual water intake (consumed by population and economic sectors).

The problem exists in all regions of the country, including in cities. Droughts and disputes between the countries of the region about the distribution of the flow of transboundary rivers, especially in the Syrdarya river basin make the problem even worse.

The question is whom to save first, the Kazakh newspaper wrote.

There are rescue projects, but one needs to negotiate with Russia

Meanwhile, there is the Irtysh-Karaganda canal in Kazakhstan. The canal was built in 1968 as part of a Soviet project called "On the prospects for the development of land reclamation, regulation and redistribution of river flow in 1971-1985." The canal ensures drinking water supplies not only to the capital.

This is part of an ambitious project to deliver Siberian waters to Central Asia that never materialised. In 2020, the government of Kazakhstan planned to deliver water from the canal (i.e. from the Irtysh river) to the bed of the Yesil River to supply the capital. The idea was voiced by then Prime Minister Askar Mamin.

It was supposed to contain the flow to prevent water from flowing to Russia. For the same purpose, it was planned to contain the flow of the Tobol River. However, both rivers cross-border with Russia, so one needs to negotiate anyway.

Hydrology experts interviewed by Pravda.Ru said that there were no such negotiations happening.

"Everything got stuck on the question of who is going to invest in construction. Central Asia needs it, but Russia doesn't seem to need it much. One may come across ideas to revisit the water delivery project, but such discussions never develop into real action. This is a costly project, and its environmental consequences are not very clear. The economic feasibility is not completely clear either," Doctor of Technical Sciences Mikhail Bolgov of the Surface Water Modeling Laboratory of the Institute of Water Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Pravda.Ru.

Kazakhstan must make geopolitical choice

Vladimir Lepekhin, the Director General of the EAEU Institute, denies a possibility of implementing such a project. He believes that Kazakhstan should first make a geopolitical choice, and then "Russia will think."

"The problem of water shortage in Kazakhstan is a problem of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan starts eyeing Turkey pushing relations with Russia into the background," the expert noted for Pravda.Ru.

"If they (in Kazakhstan) want to solve this problem, let them change their foreign policy towards the Russian Federation and come up with proposals that are of interest to the Russian Federation," the expert added.

Russia needs to help Kazakhstan make a choice

The statements that Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has made recently indicate that Kazakhstan is happy with the status quo, which is called multi-vector attitude.

Kazakhstan diminishes Russia's role in suppressing the coup attempt in Kazakhstan. When USA imposes sanctions on Russia, Kazakhstan does not hesitate to implement them. Kazakhstan does not intend to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. Kazakh President Tokayev designated them as quasi-states. At the same time, Tokayev pays first priority attention to the United States and believes that his nation has a "friendly and predictable" relationship with Washington.

Taking into consideration the fact that Western sanctions against the Russian Federation can hardly be lifted (if they can ever be lifted at all), a policy in the wake of American policy does not imply a multi-vector approach among Russia's allies in the near future.

Kazakhstan may grow to become another Ukraine near Russia's borders

Therefore, Moscow should help Kazakhstan make a choice. Fresh water is the most important factor in the development of any economy. There are desalination technologies, but the quantity and quality of such water limit economy. There is another way out — American investments in the oil and gas industry and more money in the wallet. Kazakhstan will have to decide which is more important. Above all, it should be taken into account that the lack of drinking water is a strong protest factor in Kazakhstan that is too far from being calm to carry on.

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Author`s name Lyuba Lulko
Editor Dmitry Sudakov