Water management

About 20 million people live in the Syr Darya River basin, of which 73% of the people live in rural areas where agriculture is their primary way of living. Fifty-five percent of the land area is utilized as pastures that support livestock of camels, horses, cattle, sheep, and goats, while eight percent of the land area is utilized for the production of crop. Soils are infertile and thin but it can be used for particular crops with enough irrigation. Climate in the Syr Darya River basin is hot and arid but it is more cool and humid in the mountains.

Major agricultural crops in the Syr Darya Basin include potatoes, wheat and cotton (Savoskul et al. , 2003). A conflict emerged concerning the use and distribution of the waters of the Syr Darya river after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, leaving Central Asian Republics with major political and economic complexities for the region. Kyrgyzstan is responsible for operating the Toktogul Reservoir to enable the production of hydropower. It has a substantive potential for hydropower production, which covers up to 80 percent of its domestic energy requirements.

Exports of hydropower comprise for about ten percent of the region’s total exports with an estimated value of $46. 8 million in 2001. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan extract water from the Syr Darya River to irrigate their cotton fields. Irrigated cotton farming is the prime economic activity in Uzbekistan, which is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world with a market share of about 10 percent. The Syr Darya River has substantive regional value to the Kazakh region, even though it is relatively low in terms of its economic importance to the oil-dominated region (Abbink, Moller & O’Hara, 2005).

The water of the Syr Darya River is described by high turbidity of about 2000 g/cubic meter. Swamps covered by reeds are formed in the estuary areas of the Syr Darya ecoregion during high levels of subsoil waters and long inundations. The native fauna found in the Syr Darya River comprises over forty species originating from nine families. Fishes of the Syr Darya River have adjusted to live in a stable flow of water with high turbidity. Pseudoscaphirhynchus fedtschenkoi shows its capability to adapt to life in turbid water.

However, water in Syr Darya has become much more transparent after the building of river channel reservoirs negatively impacting this species (Bogutskaya). The impact of Uzbek reservoirs on the economies of the Syr Darya ecoregion relies on two issues: alteration of the seasonal allocation of water availability in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for any given allocation by Kyrgyzstan and alteration of the possibility of regional cooperation by modified parameters.

Another effect of the new reservoirs is that the median efficiency improvement of about $32.7 million annually for the low-water years was observed and no remarkable effect for normal and high-water years.To address the conflict in water management, a centralization of institutional arrangements was coordinated by the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources in Moscow (Savoskul et al. , 2003). Cultural Significance of the Syr Darya River basin The cultures of Central Asia have been formed by different civilizations: Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Christian, and Islamic.

They have also been formed through years of interactions between sedentary people and nomads, and an intersection of Persian and Turkic cultures. Religious study and interaction played a key role in the development of spiritual life of societies in the Central Asia, shaping their varied traditions and cultures. The major contribution of nomads includes the preservation of various ancient Mongol and Turkic traditions, while the cultural traditions of Islam and Persia significantly influenced the Turkic-speaking societies in the region (Abazov, 2007).

The main historical core of Central Asia can be found in the river basins: the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. The pastoral civilization of the Central Asia can be found in the northeast of the Syr Darya River because many cities thrived in this area. It was known as Turkic Jety-suu, which means the area of seven rivers. Several Turkic-speaking Karakhhanids settled in the river and the Seljuk’s Empire had formed a strong base around the river basin.

The tribes of Karalkalpak dominated the area of the Syr Darya’s lower delta, although they regularly transferred to the south and north of Syr Darya River area because of the pressure from neighbors and ecological changes, like desertification and droughts. The Turkic carpets in Central Asia are categorized in two groups: the Turkmen or Turkoman handmade carpets and carpets made in the Jetisuu, which is situated in the north and east of the Syr Darya River basin. The Jetisuu carpets were made by Kyrgyzs and Kazakhs.

The residents of the Syr Darya River basin usually end their long days of work with a meal in chaikhana and listening to folk songs, such as gazels, maquma or epics. The folk songs are usually performed by professional or semiprofessional bards and accompanied by several musical instruments, such as rubab or dombra (Abazov, 2007). The economic and cultural importance of the Syr Darya River basin can be accounted by its richness of land areas, soil and water resources and its important role in providing irrigation and hydropower production to the region.

It is important for the residents of the Syr Darya River basin to limit or be vigilant in their use of chemicals to avoid the damage of natural ecosystems and to resolve the issue pertaining to conflict in water management. List of


Abazov, Rafis (2007). Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics. Westport, Connecticut: GreenWood Publishing Group. Abbink, Klaus, Moller, Lars Christian & O’Hara, Sarah (2005). The Syr Darya River conflict: an experimental case study. Retrieved April 25, 2009, from jbgoalkeeping.com.