Archive for the ‘Transboundary Rivers’ Category

RFE/RL: Battle Lines Drawn In Central Asian Water Dispute

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

“Do countries have the right to use water flowing through their territory as they wish? Or do they have an obligation to consider the needs of neighbors living further downstream?”  This is the opening line of a recent story by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.  In those two simple questions, the author has boiled down an ages-old international dispute – the classic upstream-downstream controversy – to its fundamental core.  In traditional contexts, it is a contest of absolute territorial and sovereign rights – the right of both the upstream and downstream countries to use natural resources found inside their respective territories without interference or diminution by other nations.  In a more modern framework, the issues are described in terms of equity and a fundamental obligation not to use one’s territory in a way that would significantly harm another nation.



In this particular story, the battle is over the waters of the Syr-Darya and Amuy-Darya, Central Asia’s two great rivers.  And the battle lines have been drawn between the upstream states of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, who are pursing large hydropower stations in (Kambarata in Kyrgyzstan) and (Rogun in Tajikistan), and the downstream states of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan who are concerned about the impact that the hydro-projects will have on water supplies reaching them.  The water dispute is further complicated by the continued desiccation of the Aral Sea, the terminus of the two rivers, which has been ongoing for decades following Soviet era diversions of the rivers for agricultural purposes.



The parties will face each other at the upcoming meeting of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea on April 28 in Almaty.

Jordan protests Syrian water sharing ‘violations’

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

According to The Jordan Times and other sources, Jordan is accusing Syria of violating a water-sharing agreement over the Yarmouk river by cultivating summer crops on the banks of the River.


According to the article “Under agreements signed between the two countries, Syria’s share of water from the Wihdeh Dam, which is built on the Yarmouk River, is six million cubic metres (mcm) for agricultural purposes, provided that the dam reaches its full capacity of 110mcm.


But for the first time since its construction two years ago, the dam currently holds only 18mcm, and thus Syria’s share declines to 1mcm. The neighbouring country, however, is pumping more than its allocated share to water crops planted all the way from downstream of Wihdeh Dam to Al Raqqad Valley located on the banks of the Yarmouk River.”


Jordan contends that “The river’s flow dropped from 1,200 litres per second last year to 900 litres per second currently, which is blamed on the cultivation of crops on the river’s banks.”


You can find the following two treaties between Jordan and Syria related to the Yarmouk River on the IWLP website:

  • Agreement Between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordanian and the Syrian Republic for the Utilization of the Waters of the Yarmuk River. Signed in Amman, 3 September 1987
  • Agreement Between the Republic of Syria and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Concerning the Utilization of the Yarmouk Waters. Signed at Damascus, 4 June 1953; in force 8 July 1953