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General summary

Introduction

The former Soviet Union (FSU), which covers part of the European and Asian continents, comprises 15 countries. The area extends from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the south.

For the purpose of this study, the 15 countries have been grouped in five regions, based primarily on geographic conditions and, as far as possible, on hydro-climatic homogeneity, although the Russian Federation is, due to its size, subject to a wide variation of geographic and hydro-climatic conditions. The regions, listed by size and presented in Figure 3, are here referred to as: Russian Federation, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Baltic States1.

Geography, climate and population

The total area of the FSU is about 22.3 million km2, which is almost 17% of the total area of the world (Tables 1 and 10). The Russian Federation alone covers 17.1 million km2, which is almost 13% of the total area of the world. Kazakhstan, with an area of 2.7 million km2, covers 2% of the total area of the world, while the remaining 13 countries combined also cover 2% of the total area of the world.

TABLE 1

Regional distribution of the population

 

Area

Population

% of economic

Region

 

%

 

inhabitants

rural

active population

 

km2

of

inhabitants

per

population

engaged in

   

FSU

 

km2

%

agriculture

Russian Federation

17 075 400 

76.7 

148 126 000 

9

24

12

Central Asia

3 994 400 

17.9 

54 588 000 

14

54

30

Eastern Europe

845 000 

3.8 

66 400 000 

79

30

19

Caucasus

186 100 

0.8 

16 674 000 

90

40

25

Baltic States

174 900 

0.8 

7 703 000 

44

27

16

Former Soviet Union

22 275 800 

100.0 

293 491 000 

13

32

17

World

134 223 000 

 

5 767 775 000 

43

54

47

FSU as % of World

17% 

 

5% 

31%

   

The total population of the FSU was about 293 million in 1996, which represents 5% of the world population (Tables 1 and 11). About 32% of the total population of the countries of the FSU is rural, compared with 54% for the whole world, varying from 24% in the Russian Federation to 54% in Central Asia. About 17% of the economically active population is engaged in agriculture, compared with 47% for the whole world, varying from 12% in the Russian Federation to 30% in Central Asia. This reflects the importance of agriculture in Central Asia, while industry is largely predominant in the northern regions of the FSU. The population density is 13 inhabitants/km2, compared with 43 inhabitants/km2 for the whole world, varying from 9 inhabitants/km2 in the Russian Federation to 90 inhabitants/km2 in the Caucasus. The population growth between 1995 and 1996 was less than 0.06%, compared with a world average of 1.4%. While in the 1980s the annual demographic growth rate was still positive, many countries of the FSU have shown a negative growth rate since independence in 1991. The main reason for this has been the difficult economic situation prevailing since independence, which has led to lower birth rates, and the migration of part of the population to other countries.

Russian Federation

The Russian Federation is the largest country in the world and its territory includes a wide variety of physical features. European Russia, which traditionally means the part of the Russian Federation to the west of the Ural mountains, and western Siberia are rather flat. The Ural mountains provide only a symbolic barrier between European Russia and Asian Russia, their mean altitude being only 500 m above sea level, with a peak at 1 894 m above sea level. In the south, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the area is more undulating until it reaches the foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountain range in the far south with a peak at 5 642 m above sea level. To the east of the western Siberian plains is the central Siberian plateau with high mountain ranges on the southern border with Mongolia. Eastern Siberia and the far east are dominated by several mountain ranges, which extend in a series of peninsulas and islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Kamchatka peninsula has 100 active volcanoes, the altitude of the highest being 4 800 m above sea level. The northern regions of both European and Asian Russia are inhospitable areas, much of the territory being covered by permafrost.

The climate of the Russian Federation is extremely varied. The central western regions have the same climatic conditions as central and eastern Europe, although in a more extreme form. There are wide temperature differences between summer and winter and there is considerable snow in winter. The average temperature in Moscow is 19C in summer and -9C in winter. In the south, along the Black Sea coast, the climate is more temperate. In the northern areas and in much of Siberia the climate is severe, with arctic winters and short, hot summers. Average temperatures in southern Siberia vary from 18C in summer to -18C in winter. In the far north of Siberia, the average winter temperature is -47C. The far east combines the extreme temperatures of Siberia with some monsoon-type conditions. Average temperatures at the coast in the far southeast vary from 21C in summer to -14C in winter. Over a large part of the territory, temperature is a major constraint on cropping.

The average annual precipitation in the Russian Federation is about 590 mm, varying from less than 200 mm at the mouth of the Volga River in the southwest, to more than 1 000 mm in the mountains of the far east (Figure 4). Water is generally in excess in the northern regions, drainage being the main issue, while in the southern regions the lack of water during the cropping season makes irrigation necessary.

The population was almost 148 million in 1996, over 50% of the total population of the FSU. The population density was 9 inhabitants/km2 (Table 11). In the Russian far east province, the population density was only 1 inhabitant/km2.

Central Asia

The total area of the five Central Asian countries is almost 4 million km2, which represents almost 18% of the area of the FSU. Kazakhstan alone covers 68% of this area of 4 million km2 (Tables 1 and 10). The relief in this region is extremely varied. In the east are the Tien Shan and Pamir mountain ranges. The highest mountain of the FSU, the Peak of Communism at 7 495 m above sea level, is located in the northern Pamirs in Tajikistan. Much of the mountain region is permanently covered with ice and snow and there are many glaciers. Mountain ranges in the south of the region include the earthquake prone Kopetdag range along the border with Afghanistan. In the northeast of the region lies the second largest crater lake in the world, the Issyk-Kul in the Kyrgyz Republic. On the border between the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is the Fergana valley, which is a major agricultural area in this region. In the southwest lies the Kara-Kum or Black Sand desert, which is one of the largest sand deserts in the world and which covers over 80% of Turkmenistan. Another large desert, the Kyzyl-Kum or Red Sand desert, extends over Kazakhstan and the north of Uzbekistan. The west of the region is dominated by the depressions of the Caspian Sea. The Aral Sea, in the central western part, is located on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It is known to have become one of the world's most serious environmental disaster areas (see the section on the Aral Sea basin).

The climate in the region is continental, but varies considerably according to altitude. Average winter temperatures vary between -3C and -20C, but can fall below -45C in the mountain regions in Tajikistan. Average summer temperatures vary between 19C and 32C, but often reach 50C in the southeastern Kara-Kum in Turkmenistan.

The average annual precipitation in this region is 338 mm, varying from less than 70 mm in the plains and deserts to 2 400 mm in the mountains of central Tajikistan. One half of the total irrigated area of the FSU is located in Central Asia. The two major land quality problems related to irrigation in the region are the interrelated issues of salinity and waterlogging caused by high groundwater levels. This makes drainage important in this region.

The total population was almost 54.6 million in 1996, 18.6% of the total population of the countries of the FSU. The population density in this region was 14 inhabitants/km2, with a minimum of 6 inhabitants/km2 in Kazakhstan, which is less than half the population density of the FSU (Tables 1 and 11).

Eastern Europe

The countries referred to as Eastern Europe (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) are located in the west of the FSU to the north of the Black Sea. Their total area is 845 000 km2, which represents 3.8% of the total area of the FSU (Tables 1 and 10). The north of this region is flat and low with numerous lakes, swamps and marshes. The southern part consists of steppe lowland, bordered by uplands to the west and southwest. The highest peak is 471 m above sea level in western Ukraine. This region is famed for its fertile black soils.

In the north of this region, the climate is continental, with average temperatures of 19C in summer and -5C in winter. In the south, the climate is temperate and very favourable for agriculture with long, warm summers and relatively mild winters. Average temperatures are around 21C in summer and -5C in winter.

The average annual precipitation is 547 mm, varying from 360 mm in the Crimean peninsula, where irrigation is necessary to satisfy the summer crop water requirements, to 1 600 mm in the Carpathian mountains of northwest Ukraine (Figure 4). Droughts are frequent in the southern areas. In the north of this region, drainage is more important than irrigation. In fact, irrigation is mainly found in areas where the groundwater level has fallen too much due to excessive drainage, so making also irrigation necessary.

The population was 66.4 million in 1996, 22.6% of the total population of the countries of the FSU. The population density was 78 inhabitants/km2, six times the average population density for the FSU (Tables 1 and 11).

Caucasus

The Caucasus includes Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and is located in the southwest of the FSU, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Its total area of 186 100 km2, or 0.8% of the total area of the FSU, is only slightly larger than that of the Baltic States (Tables 1 and 10). The region is located at the southern foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, which is considered as the boundary between Europe and Asia. The highest peak in the region stands at about 5 000 m above sea level. Large areas around the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the river deltas are lowlands.

The climate varies from warm, humid, subtropical in the northeast near the Black Sea coast, with average temperature in summer of 22C and in winter of 5C, to typical dry continental, with average summer temperatures up to 27C.

The average annual precipitation is 735 mm, varying from 200 mm in the Ararat valley in central Armenia to 1 700 mm in western Georgia (Figure 4). In the southern and eastern parts of this region irrigation is necessary, but drainage is also required in large areas to reduce irrigation induced salinization. In the high rainfall region of western Georgia drainage is important.

The population was 16.7 million in 1996, 5.7% of the total population of the countries of the FSU. With 90 inhabitants/km2, the population density in this region is the highest of the FSU (Tables 1 and 11).

Baltic States

The total area of the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), located in the northwest of the FSU, is 174 900 km2, which represents 0.8% of the total area of the FSU (Tables 1 and 10). The region is mainly flat along the coast and somewhat undulating farther inland. The highest elevation is 312 m above sea level. There is a dense network of waterways in this region and there are numerous lakes and marshes.

The climate is influenced by the region's position between the Eurasian land mass and the Baltic Sea. Average temperatures are around 17C in summer and -5C in winter.

The average annual precipitation is 716 mm, varying from 500 mm in parts of Lithuania to 850 mm in the uplands of Latvia (Figure 4). In this mainly low-lying, flat region, drainage is more important for agriculture than is irrigation. Large areas can only be cultivated intensively if drained. Irrigation is generally limited to supplementary irrigation.

The population was 7.7 million in 1996, 2.7% of the total population of the countries of the FSU. The population density was 44 inhabitants/km2, more than three times that of the FSU (Tables 1 and 11).

Organization of the agricultural sector

In 1990, there were about 52 000 large farms in the Soviet Union, 45% of which were sovkhoz (state farms) and 55% kolkhoz (collective farms). About half of them (25 000) were located in the Russian Federation. The average size of the sovkhoz was 15 300 ha and of the kolkhoz 5 900 ha. The size of the sovkhoz and kolkhoz tended to increase from west to east and there were relatively more kolkhoz in the western (European) part of the FSU and relatively more sovkhoz in the eastern (Asian) part. Together, the sovkhoz and kolkhoz accounted for up to 75% of the gross value of agricultural output in 1990.

Before 1990, the private sector consisted of personal household plots (also called individual subsidiary farms), allocated to sovkhoz and kolkhoz workers, and of garden and vegetable plots, allocated to urban workers. The average size of the household plots was approximately 0.5 ha, although size varied considerably according to local conditions. There were about 35 million household plots and 15 million garden and vegetable plots in 1990. Within the private sector, a distinction was made between subsidiary farms, producing mainly to satisfy family needs, and private farms, producing not only for personal use but also for the market. In 1990, the private sector produced about 25% of the value of the gross agricultural product.

However, irrespective of who farmed the land, all agricultural land was owned by the state, as private ownership of land had been abolished at the beginning of the communist period. Rent had also been abolished and the use of land was free. However, by the end of the 1980s, within the Soviet Union, discussion had started about the questions of land rent, the misuse and degradation of land by state organizations, the rights of the republics and the possibility of introducing private landownership. In fact, discussion on rent payments for land had already been going on for decades and by the beginning of the 1990s the need for it had been accepted in the Soviet Union.

During the Soviet period, agriculture was characterized by heavy mechanization; heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides; development of monoculture in certain regions, like cotton in large parts of Central Asia; and the use of excessive quantities of water for irrigation. As a result, soil deterioration has been dramatic. In recent decades the deterioration of the fertile black soils, especially in Ukraine and the Russian Federation, has received much attention in discussions between Soviet experts. Loss of organic matter in the black earth soils, resulting from mechanization and the use of chemical fertilizers, has been stressed. Irrigation of these black soils was also criticized by Soviet specialists. It was said that the inappropriate transfer of desert technology to the steppe environment, with its very high seepage from open canals, the use of mineralized water, overwatering and the use of heavy machinery, had caused waterlogging, salinization, formation of surface hard crust, loss of organic matter and water erosion. However, according to Soviet specialists the consequences of the use of excessive quantities of water for irrigation in Central Asia had even more far-reaching negative effects, with the drying up of the Aral Sea (see the section on the Aral Sea basin).

It was generally considered that the reason for the waste of the natural resources in the FSU was that the land was no longer controlled by the farmers themselves, but by bureaucratic organizations mainly interested in short-term results. It was hoped to improve the situation by privatization. Since independence, almost all countries have started a re-organization of the agricultural sector. Several forms of re-organization of the sovkhoz and kolkhoz can be distinguished, the choice of which depends on the country:

- Joint stock companies, in which members receive shares with the right to dividends as well as debt obligations, in proportion to their property shares. Operationally, members and/or brigades work under an annual contract, which specifies production obligations as well as the responsibilities of the farm management.

- Collective enterprises, covering a wide spectrum of arrangements from an aggregate of small units to a large unit which may preserve the former management structure with the exception that the manager is elected by farm members. If the latter, land certificates do not relate to specific holdings unless a member leaves the group and establishes a separate farm.

- Farmers' associations, which can include individual farms as well as cooperatives. The overall management increasingly provides services, rather than direction.

- Comrade associations, which are similar to collectives except that individual farmers execute an annual contract with the management. Profits are shared in relation to effort as well as success in meeting targets.

- Private enterprises, which include both single ownership farms and other arrangements under which farmers essentially function as employees.

Since independence, land status has been changing continuously in the various countries with privatization becoming increasingly widespread. However, it is very difficult to obtain a clear picture of the overall situation. In each country profile an effort has been made to quantify the different land property systems at the time of the survey, but these situations are liable to change rapidly.

Water resources

The survey has concentrated on renewable water resources. Information has been compiled on internal and actual renewable water resources. Internal renewable water resources (IRWR) is that part of the water resources (surface water and groundwater) generated from endogenous precipitation. It is computed by adding up surface runoff and groundwater recharge occurring inside the countries' borders. Special care is taken to avoid double counting of their common part (overlap). Actual renewable water resources (ARWR) refers to the sum of IRWR and external flow. It is the maximum theoretical amount of water actually available for a country. Actual flow takes into account abstraction in upstream countries and the volumes allocated through formal and informal agreements or treaties between countries. The internal renewable water resources figures are the only water resources figures that can be added up for regional assessment and they have been used for this purpose.

Particular attention should be given to some specific issues related to the computation of water resources in the FSU countries. In the arid areas, mostly in Central Asia, the complex interrelation between surface water and groundwater makes it difficult to assess their common part. In cases of extreme complexity, groundwater resources in one country may come from infiltration of runoff generated in an upstream country, so making it difficult to distinguish between internal and external water resources. Exchanges between countries are further complicated by the fact that rivers often cross the same border several times. Part of the incoming water flow may thus originate from the same country which it enters, making it necessary to calculate a `net' inflow to avoid double counting the resources.

In general, due to the important withdrawal which has been taking place for a long time, the assessment of surface water runoff in those areas is also made difficult by the absence of chronological series of natural flow measurements. Indeed, most of the available flow data relate to measurement of actual runoff rather than natural flow. In addition, most of the figures quoted in reports, especially in Central Asia, correspond to the agreements on shared water resources.

In the computation of groundwater, a distinction is usually made between groundwater resources, which correspond to the average annual recharge of the aquifers, and extractable groundwater, which is usually computed on the basis of aquifer productivity and a theoretical network of wells. The figures in this survey refer to groundwater resources. However, most of the references on groundwater in the FSU rely on an estimate of extractable groundwater, which is usually less than groundwater resources. The computation of groundwater resources and of its overlap with surface water resources may thus be quite approximative.

The annual renewable water resources (RWR) of the FSU are 12% of the world's RWR. However, as the FSU contains only 5% of the world's population, the annual IRWR per inhabitant, over 16 000 m3, are more than twice the world average. There is a wide variation by region: Eastern Europe, with the highest population density, having only 1 375 m3/year per inhabitant of IRWR and the Russian Federation, with the lowest population density, having over 29 000 m3/year per inhabitant (Table 2). However, the water resources in the Russian Federation are very unevenly distributed in relation to the population. In the more densely populated western part, the annual renewable surface water resources (RSWR) are estimated at around 2 000 m3 per inhabitant, while in the Siberian and far east regions the figure can reach 190 000 m3 per inhabitant.

TABLE 2

Regional distribution of internal renewable water resources (IRWR)

 

Annual precipitation

Annual internal renewable water resources

Region

       

% of

m3 per

 

mm

km3

mm

km3

precipitation

inhabitant

Russian Federation

589

10 057

253

4 313

43

29 115

Central Asia

338

1 351

52

206

15

3 771

Eastern Europe

547

462

108

91

20

1 375

Caucasus

735

137

405

75

55

4 517

Baltic States

716

125

257

45

36

5 843

Former Soviet Union

545

12 133

212

4 730

39

16 117

World

820

110 000

298

40 000

36

6 935

FSU as % of World

11%

12%

In Moldova, the IRWR per inhabitant are only 225 m3/year; in Turkmenistan 327 m3/year (Table 12). However, looking at the ARWR, these figures are 2 622 and 5 949 m3/year per inhabitant respectively, thanks to the importance of flow coming from neighbouring countries: Moldova depends for over 91% on other countries for its water resources and Turkmenistan for over 97%, most of the water being brought to Turkmenistan through the Kara-Kum canal. To a lesser extent, but still over 50% dependent on other countries are: Uzbekistan (77%), Azerbaijan (73%), Ukraine (62%) and Latvia (53%) (Figure 5). However, Latvia is, with 6 685 m3/year per inhabitant, already well endowed with IRWR, while for Azerbaijan and Ukraine IRWR are just over 1 000 m3/year per inhabitant and for Uzbekistan only 700 m3/year. All the other countries have more than 2 000 m3/year per inhabitant of IRWR and four countries have more than 10 000 m3/year (Figure 6). For all countries, the ARWR exceed 2 000 m3/year per inhabitant (Figure 7).

For the Central Asian countries, a water allocation system exists between the five republics concerning the waters of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. As the computation of ARWR integrates those allocations, these resources are less than the IRWR for the two upstream countries (Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan), while for the other three countries the ARWR are more than the IRWR.

Water withdrawal

Table 3 shows the distribution of water withdrawal by region between the three major sectors of water use: agriculture (irrigation and livestock), communities (domestic water supply) and industries. Water requirements for energy, navigation, fisheries, mining, environment and recreation, although they may represent a significant part of the water resources, have a negligible net consumption rate. For this reason, they are not included in the computation of the regional water withdrawal. However, as it was not always possible to obtain separate figures for water use for cooling in the nuclear power plants, for hydropower and for industrial water withdrawal, the first two might sometimes be included in the figure for industrial withdrawal without knowing the different quantities.

TABLE 3

Regional distribution of water withdrawal

 

Annual water withdrawal by sector

Region

Agricultural

Domestic

Industrial

Total withdrawal

 

million

% of

million

% of

million

% of

million

% of

m3 per

in % of

 

m3

total

m3

total

m3

total

m3

FSU

inhab.

IRWR

Russian Federation

15 300

20

14 300

18

47 500

62

77 100

28.6

521

2

Central Asia

125 527

91

4 227

3

7 710

6

137 464

50.9

2 518

67

Eastern Europe

9 578

30

5 514

17

16 596

53

31 688

11.7

477

35

Caucasus

15 614

68

2 371

10

4 941

22

22 926

8.5

1 375

30

Baltic States

53

7

450

65

194

28

697

0.3

90

2

Former Soviet Union

166 071

62

26 863

10

76 941

28

269 875

100.0

920

6

World

2 236 000

69

259 000

8

745 000

23

3 240 000

100.0

562

8

FSU as % of World

7%

 

10%

 

10%

 

8%

 

164%

 

In the FSU, 62% of the water withdrawal is directed towards agriculture, compared to 69% for the whole world. Central Asia has, with 91%, the highest level of water withdrawal for agriculture (Figure 8 and Table 13). This is the region where the largest area is irrigated (50% of the total irrigated area of the FSU) and where the annual agricultural water withdrawal per irrigated hectare, 12 400 m3, is by far the highest. As a comparison, the annual agricultural water withdrawal per irrigated hectare is only 1 600 m3 in the Baltic States, 2 500 m3 in the Russian Federation, 3 100 m3 in Eastern Europe and 7 200 m3 in the Caucasus. In the low-lying Baltic States, where drainage is a necessity prior to irrigation, only 7% of the total water withdrawal is directed towards agriculture. Industrial water withdrawal is particularly important in the Russian Federation and in Eastern Europe, mainly because of the importance of the industries in those countries, but also because of the possible account of water use for nuclear power plant cooling. In absolute terms, Central Asia represents over 50% of the total water withdrawal of the FSU. The water withdrawal per inhabitant varies from less than 70 m3/year in Lithuania to more than 5 700 m3/year in Turkmenistan, compared to 560 m3/year for the whole world (Figure 9 and Table 13). The water withdrawal per inhabitant in Central Asia is almost 30 times that in the Baltic States.

Water withdrawal, expressed as a percentage of IRWR, is an indicator of a region's or country's capacity to rely on its own renewable sources of water. Values above 100% indicate that, in addition to the IRWR, either other sources of water (fossil groundwater, wastewater, desalinated water, drainage water) or water flowing into the region or country from outside are used. For all the regions of the FSU, total water withdrawal is less than the IRWR. However, at country level this is not the case for four countries: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Azerbaijan (Figure 10). This is explained by the withdrawal in these countries of water coming from upstream countries or border rivers.

While Central Asia uses almost 67% of its IRWR (the figure would be close to 100% for the Aral Sea basin only, if losses from rivers and canals were included), the Baltic States uses only 1.5%. The FSU as a whole uses less than 6% of its RWR, compared with 8% for the whole world (Table 3).

Water withdrawal, expressed as a percentage of ARWR, which take into account the incoming or border flows and the existing agreements, is also a good indicator of the pressure on the RWR. Roughly, it can be considered that pressure on water resources is high when this value is above 25%, which is the case for all five Central Asian countries, as well as for Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan (Figure 11 and Table 13). Except for Uzbekistan, total water withdrawal is always lower than the ARWR (Figure 11). The reason for this exception is probably that Uzbekistan re-uses a large part of the return flow (4.5 km3/year), which is not computed as part of the RWR. Moreover, the upstream countries probably do not use the total quantity of water allocated to them, leaving more water available for Uzbekistan than the quantity allocated according to the agreement.

Use of non-conventional sources of water

The total quantity of produced wastewater in the FSU is reported to be about 48 km3/year, of which about 25% is treated. Information on the re-use of treated wastewater was available for only 6 of the 15 countries: 0.32 km3/year, of which 0.27 km3/year in Kazakhstan. The total quantity of re-used domestic and industrial wastewater in the Aral Sea basin is reported to be about 3 km3/year, which means that most of the re-used wastewater is untreated. In general, the re-use of treated or untreated wastewater concerns a relatively low quantity compared to the produced wastewater quantity. This is probably related to the fact that in many countries water is not scarce.

Figures on agricultural drainage water are only available for the Central Asian countries, where it plays a significant role. In 1993, the total agricultural drainage water was estimated at about 49 km3/year, of which 40 km3/year in the Aral Sea basin. About 15% was reported to be directly re-used for irrigation in the Aral Sea basin (see the section on the Aral Sea basin).

Irrigation

Irrigation potential

The methods used to estimate the irrigation potential vary from country to country. Hence, comparisons between countries should be made with caution (Table 10).

For the Russian Federation, the irrigation potential is estimated at 29 million ha for permanent irrigation and 74 million ha for supplementary irrigation.

In Central Asia, the figures on irrigation potential refer to the total area which would be potentially suitable for irrigation development up to 2010. Irrigation potential for the five countries together is estimated at more than 14 million ha, of which over 80% is already equipped for irrigation, ranging from 48% in the Kyrgyz Republic to 95% in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan (Figure 12 and Table 14).

In the northern countries, drainage is more important for cultivation than is irrigation, except in areas where the groundwater level has fallen too much due to excessive drainage. For this reason, figures on irrigation potential for these countries are rather arbitrary and of little use.

Irrigation development

Irrigation covers almost 23 million ha in the FSU, half of which is located in Central Asia and about one-quarter in the Russian Federation (Table 4).

The part of the cultivated area which is irrigated varies considerably from region to region and country to country. For the FSU as a whole, 11% of the cultivated area is irrigated (Table 4). In the Caucasus, 67% of the cultivated area is irrigated, ranging from 44% in Georgia to 80% in Azerbaijan. For Central Asia as a whole, 26% of the cultivated area is irrigated, ranging from 10% in Kazakhstan to over 99% in Turkmenistan (Figure 13 and Table 14). On the other hand, in the Baltic States less than 1% of the cultivated area is irrigated (Table 4).

TABLE 4

Regional distribution of irrigation methods

 

Irrigation in hectares

Cultivated

Irrigation

Region

Full or partial

Equipped

Spate

Total

% of

area

in % of

 

control

wetland

irrigation

irrigation

FSU

ha

cultivated

Russian Federation

6 124 000

0

0

6 124 000

26.9

116 900 000

5.2

Central Asia

10 134 100

138 700

1 104 600

11 377 400

49.9

43 448 300

26.2

Eastern Europe

3 048 000

0

0

3 048 000

13.4

39 449 900

7.7

Caucasus

2 176 467

31 500

0

2 207 967

9.7

3 278 182

67.4

Baltic States

32 927

0

0

32 927

0.1

4 650 736

0.7

Former Soviet Union

21 515 494

170 200

1 104 600

22 790 294

100.0

207 727 118

11.0

% of total irrigation

94%

1%

5%

100%

     
World      

246 408 529

     
FSU as % of World      

9%

     

Full or partial control irrigation is by far the most widespread type of irrigation, covering 94% of the area (Table 4). Spate irrigation, accounting for 5% of the total, is reported only in Kazakhstan, where it represents one-third of the total irrigation. The remaining 1% consists of wetland equipped for irrigation and is reported in Kazakhstan and Georgia (Table 14).

In several countries, the area equipped for irrigation has diminished during recent years. This is mainly related to the fact that, because of the difficult economic situation, countries have not been able to maintain the sprinkler irrigation and micro-irrigation systems, leading to their complete abandonment.

Irrigation techniques

The irrigation techniques vary considerably from region to region and country to country. For the FSU as a whole, surface irrigation is, with 58.3%, the most widely used technique, followed by sprinkler irrigation with almost 41.7%. Micro-irrigation is practised on 0.05% of the irrigated area (Table 5).

TABLE 5

Irrigation techniques by region

 

Full control irrigation: area equipped

Region

Surface irrigation

Sprinkler irrigation

Micro-irrigation

Total irrigation

 

ha

% of

ha

% of

ha

% of

ha

   

total

 

total

 

total

 
Russian Federation

245 000

4.00

5 879 000

96.00

0

0.00

6 124 000

Central Asia

9 542 590

94.16

586 600

5.79

4 910

0.05

10 134 100

Eastern Europe

830 000

27.23

2 214 400

72.65

3 600

0.12

3 048 000

Caucasus

1 926 249

88.50

247 400

11.37

2 818

0.13

2 176 467

Baltic States

0

0.00

32 927

100.00

0

0.00

32 927

Former Soviet Union

12 543 839

58.30

8 960 327

41.65

11 328

0.05

21 515 494

Surface irrigation predominates in Central Asia and the Caucasus, ranging from 76% in Kazakhstan to 100% in Tajikistan (Table 15). Sprinkler irrigation is predominant in the Baltic States, the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe, ranging from 80% in Ukraine to 100% in the three Baltic states and Belarus. An exception is Moldova, where surface irrigation predominates (Figure 14).

Origin of irrigation water

Surface water, groundwater and non-conventional water (treated wastewater or agricultural drainage water) are used for irrigation in the FSU. For the Russian Federation, Lithuania and Belarus, no details were available and it has been estimated that all irrigation water is surface water, which certainly is by far the major source of irrigation water in these countries. In all countries, the origin of irrigation water is mainly surface water, used on over 96% of the irrigated area, and for over half of the countries it is the only source of irrigation water (Tables 6 and 16). Groundwater is used in two of the three countries of the Caucasus and in the Central Asian countries, being used on around 6% of the irrigated area.

The use of non-conventional water is limited to the Central Asian countries. In most cases it is not possible to make a distinction between the use of (un)treated wastewater and of agricultural drainage water. These two sources are usually mixed before re-using. Moreover, it is not always clear whether the agricultural drainage water is considered as surface water or as non-conventional water. For this reason, the figures in Table 6 should be considered as being of indicative value only.

TABLE 6

Origin of irrigation water by region

 

Full control irrigation: area equipped

Region

Surface

Ground-

Non-conventional

Total

 

water

water

water

irrigation

 

ha

% of

ha

% of

ha

% of

ha

   

total

 

total

 

total

 
Russian Federation

6 124 000

100.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

6 124 000

Central Asia

9 491 870

93.7

572 130

5.6

70 100

0.7

10 134 100

Eastern Europe

3 048 000

100.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

3 048 000

Caucasus

2 045 109

94.0

131 358

6.0

0

0.0

2 176 467

Baltic States

32 927

100.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

32 927

Former Soviet Union

20 741 906

96.4

703 488

3.3

70 100

0.3

21 515 494

Irrigated crops

Information on irrigated crops often relies on national planning figures rather than on figures for actually cropped areas, which are much more difficult to assess. Bearing this in mind, the different irrigated crops found in the FSU have been grouped into six major categories and the results are summarized in Table 7.

TABLE 7

Regional distribution of the main irrigated crops (areas in hectares)

Region

Fodder

Cereals

Cotton

Potatoes

Other

Permanent

Total

 

crops

and

 

and

annual

crops

crops

   

pulses

 

vegetables

crops

   
Russian Federation

2 553 000

1 217 000

0

208 000

117 000

0

4 095 000

% of crops

62.3%

29.7%

0.0%

5.1%

2.9%

0.0%

100.0%

% of FSU

36.4%

23.5%

0.0%

21.1%

10.3%

0.0%

22.2%

Central Asia

2 881 300

2 538 870

2 668 240

381 230

771 460

973 300

10 214 400

% of crops

28.2%

24.9%

26.1%

3.7%

7.6%

9.5%

100.0%

% of FSU

41.1%

49.1%

92.7%

38.7%

68.0%

75.2%

55.3%

Eastern Europe

1 473 400

890 600

0

287 500

167 400

43 100

2 862 000

% of crops

51.5%

31.1%

0.0%

10.0%

5.8%

1.5%

100.0%

% of FSU

21.0%

17.2%

0.0%

29.2%

14.8%

3.3%

15.5%

Caucasus

66 259

523 418

210 445

94 101

70 614

278 086

1 242 923

% of crops

5.3%

42.1%

16.9%

7.6%

5.7%

22.4%

100.0%

% of FSU

0.9%

10.1%

7.3%

9.5%

6.2%

21.5%

6.7%

Baltic States

33 600

3 700

0

14 520

8 000

200

60 020

% of crops

56.0%

6.2%

0.0%

24.2%

13.3%

0.3%

100.0%

% of FSU

0.5%

0.1%

0.0%

1.5%

0.7%

0.0%

0.3%

Former Soviet Union

7 007 559

5 173 588

2 878 685

985 351

1 134 474

1 294 686

18 474 343

% of crops

37.9%

28.0%

15.6%

5.3%

6.1%

7.0%

100.0%

% of FSU

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

The most widespread irrigated crops are fodder crops, which represent almost 38% of the irrigated crop area of the FSU. Except for the Caucasus, they are the main irrigated crop in each region, accounting for from 28% of the irrigated crop area in Central Asia to 62% of that in the Russian Federation.

Cereals (which include pulses in the statistics of the FSU) are the second most important group of crops, representing 28% of the irrigated crop area of the FSU. Over one-third of the area is covered by wheat. Irrigated cereals are the main irrigated crop in the Caucasus, covering 42% of the irrigated crop area in that region.

The area with irrigated cotton, 16% of the total irrigated crop area, ranks third in the FSU. Central Asia is the major cotton producing area, representing almost 93% of the total irrigated cotton area of the FSU. Cotton also covers, with 26%, the second largest area of irrigated crops within Central Asia. Apart from the Central Asian countries, only Azerbaijan is reported as growing irrigated cotton in the FSU.

Potatoes and vegetables represent 5% of the total irrigated crop area of the FSU. In the Baltic States, they represent 24% of the irrigated crop area.

Irrigated permanent crops (mainly grapes and fruit trees), representing 7% of the total irrigated crop area in the FSU, are mainly grown in Central Asia. This region accounts for 75% of the irrigated permanent crop area in the FSU, while the Caucasus accounts for 22%. Within the Caucasus, permanent crops represent the second largest irrigated area.

Drainage

The drained area covers almost 25 million ha in the FSU (Tables 8 and 17).

In the northern regions, like the Baltic States, parts of Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, drainage is necessary to cultivate the low-lying and/or swampy areas. In addition, drainage might be necessary for construction purposes. This is why, for example, in the Baltic States the drained area is larger than the cultivated area (Figure 15). The percentage of the total area of the region drained is also by far the largest for the Baltic States (Table 8).

TABLE 8

Regional distribution of drainage methods

 

Drained area

Region

Surface drainage

Subsurface drainage

Total drainage

 

ha

% of total

ha

% of total

ha

% of FSU

% of area of region

% of area cultivated

Russian Federation

4 161 000

56

3 238 000

44

7 399 000

30

0.4

6

Central Asia

3 533 064

74

1 239 762

26

4 772 826

19

1.2

11

Eastern Europe

1 941 700

31

4 268 300

69

6 210 000

25

7.3

16

Caucasus

499 720

61

325 390

39

825 110

3

4.4

25;

Baltic States

597 854

11

4 760 647

89

5 358 501

22

30.6

115

Former Soviet Union

10 733 338

44

13 832 099

56

24 565 437

100

1.1

12

In the drier areas of Central Asia and in part of the Caucasus, drainage is related to irrigation. One of the measures necessary to prevent irrigation induced waterlogging and salinization in arid and semi-arid areas is the installation of drainage facilities. Drainage, in combination with adequate irrigation scheduling, enables the leaching of excess salts from the plant root zone. Information on salinization through irrigation was given for only seven countries, including all five Central Asian countries. The area salinized varied from 5 to 50% of the irrigated area (Table 17). In Central Asia, all the drained area is located in the area equipped for irrigation.

In Lithuania, almost 92% of the area equipped for irrigation is drained (Figure 16). Drainage was initially used to remove excess water. However, due to over-drainage it subsequently became necessary to irrigate. Although no detailed information is available, the same might be true for Belarus, Estonia and Latvia.

Subsurface drainage is practised on 56% of the drained area. It is most widespread in the regions where drainage is more important than irrigation, like in the Baltic States, where 89% of the drained area is drained through subsurface drains (Figure 17 and Table 8). In Central Asia, drainage takes place mainly through open drains. Subsurface drainage in this region is practised on only 26% of the drained area, ranging from less than 4% in Kazakhstan to 44% in the Kyrgyz Republic (Table 17). In general, newly reclaimed areas are equipped with subsurface drainage facilities rather than surface drains.

In the more humid regions, where, in order to enable cultivation, drainage is necessary to remove excess water, crops yields may be lower than for irrigated or rainfed crop yields. The reason for this might be that drained land is already of marginal quality with very poor, low pH soils. However, without drainage no cultivation at all would be possible. Another reason for the lower yields might be the advanced state of degradation of large parts of the drained land. The most important crops on drained lands are fodder, including meadow and pasture areas, followed by cereals, potatoes and vegetables.

The Aral Sea basin

The Aral Sea basin, located in Central Asia, has undergone many changes in the recent past. The Aral Sea, the world's fourth largest lake before 1960, has been progressively drying up. With the end of the Soviet era, the international community has become aware of this problem and focused on what is considered one of the major anthropogenic environmental degradations in the world. The purpose of this section is to present the Aral Sea basin, the causes of the drying up of the lake, the present trends and the solutions being studied by the governments of the countries of the region.

Water resources of the Aral Sea basin

The Aral Sea, located in a depression in the Turan plain, is fed by two major rivers: the Amu Darya in the south, and the Syr Darya in the north, which rise in the southwestern Pamir and Tien Shan mountain ranges respectively. The combined hydrologic basin of these two rivers has a total area of about 1.9 million km and extends over six countries (Figure 18 and Table 9). In Kazakhstan, all the flow of the Turgay, Sarysu, Chu and Talas rivers is lost in the desert or is directed to natural depressions. These rivers can be considered as not being part of the Aral Sea basin.

The assessment of natural flow in the basin is hampered by the large amounts of water withdrawn from the rivers since the 1950s. By reconstructing long-term time series, the average annual RSWR in the Aral Sea basin are estimated at 115.6 km, of which 78.46 km in the Amu Darya basin and 37.14 km in the Syr Darya basin (Table 9). For a 20-year return period, the values are 46.9 km for the Amu Darya and 21.4 km for the Syr Darya.

Before 1960, the level of the Aral Sea was more or less stable. Its surface area was about 66 000 km and its volume about 1 060 km. The combined average discharge of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers to the sea was about 47-50 km/year, to which could be added 5-6 km/year of groundwater inflow and 5.5-6.5 km/year of precipitation over the sea. This total volume of 57.5-62.5 km/year compensated the evaporation over the lake, estimated at about 60 km/year. The Aral Sea level was then fluctuating at around 50-53 m above sea level. The difference between the IRSWR of the Aral Sea basin, estimated at 115.6 km/year, and the necessary discharge to the sea for a stable water balance, estimated at 47-50 km/year, was available for use in the basin, i.e., about 65.6-68.6 km/year. The average mineral content of the Aral Sea's water was estimated at 10 g/litre in 1960. Fish capture was about 40 000 t/year, and many fish-processing industries were established on the shores of the Aral Sea. Together with fishing, these industries provided employment to much of the local population.

TABLE 9
Renewable surface water resources of the Aral Sea basin
 

Area

Renewable Surface Water Resources

Country or Zone  

Amu Darya basin

Syr Darya basin

Aral Sea basin

 

km

% of basin area

% of country area

km per year

% of basin

km per year

% of basin

km per year

% of basin

South-Kazakhstan

540 000

28

20

-

0.0

4.50

12.1

4.50

3.9

Turkmenistan

466 600

24

96

0.98

1.2

-

0.0

0.98

0.8

Uzbekistan

447 400

23

100

4.70

6.0

4.84

13.0

9.54

8.3

North-Afghanistan

234 800

12

36

6.18

7.9

-

0.0

6.18

5.3

Tajikistan

141 670

7

99

62.90

80.2

0.40

1.1

63.30

54.8

Kyrgyz Republic

117 500

6

59

1.93

2.5

27.25

73.4

29.18

25.2

Total

1 947 970

100

 

76.69

97.7

36.99

99.6

113.68

98.3

Basin *      

78.46

100.0

37.14

100.0

115.60

100.0

* Time series and methods used for water resources computation for the basin as a whole and for each country may vary, which explains the difference between the total of countries and the value for the whole basin.

Irrigation development in the basin and the drying up of the Aral Sea

In the 1960s, the Soviet policy assigned Central Asia the role of raw material supplier, notably cotton. Irrigation was necessary due to the arid climate prevailing over the lower reaches of the Amu and Syr Darya basins. The development of irrigation in the Soviet part of the Aral Sea basin was spectacular: from about 4.5 million ha in 1960, it rose to almost 7 million ha in 1980 (Figure 1). The population increased from 14 million inhabitants in 1960 to about 27 million inhabitants in 1980. The total water withdrawal increased from 64.7 km in 1960 to 120 km in 1980, of which more than 90% for agricultural purposes (Figure 1). It resulted in the disruption of the prevailing water balance in the basin.

The consequences of this huge irrigation development are numerous:

- Many tributaries have been exploited to such an extent that they no longer contribute directly to the flow of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. They are: the Zeravshan and Kashkadarya in the Amu Darya basin, and the Arys and Akhangaran in the Syr Darya basin.

- The intensification of irrigated agriculture has led to major waterlogging and salinization. In 1995 the irrigated area was almost 8 million ha, compared with 4.5 million ha in 1960 (Figures 19 and 20). The main causes of this soil deterioration are: the low irrigation efficiencies, due particularly to the small percentage of lined canals (28% on average in the basin for the inter-farm network and 20% for the on-farm network); and the absence of a drainage network, or its poor state due to the lack of maintenance particularly in the most recent years. In 1994, about 40% of the irrigated land in the basin was saline. Agriculture in the Aral Sea basin has been practised with a high level of inputs, particularly fertilizers and pesticides, and this has resulted in the deterioration of surface water and groundwater quality. The salt content of groundwater in the lower reaches of the river basins varies between 1 and 30 g/litre.

- The traditional ecosystem of the two deltas of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya has perished. The marshes and wetland which covered some 550 000 ha and were a reservoir of biodiversity until the 1960s have almost disappeared (only 20 000 ha were left in 1990) giving way to sand deserts. More than 50 lakes, covering 60 000 ha in the deltas, have dried up.

- The Aral Sea is drying up. Its level has dropped by 17 m, its surface area has fallen by a half and its volume by three-quarters (Figure 2). At present, the sea consists of three sections: the Small Sea or Northern Sea on the territory of Kazakhstan; the Central Sea; and the Western Sea, which is the deepest one, mostly located on the territory of Uzbekistan. The mineral content of the water has increased fourfold to 40 g/litre, preventing the survival of most of the fish and wild life in the Aral Sea. The current fish capture is negligible, leaving most of the people unemployed. All commercial fishing ceased in 1982. Moreover, the former seashore villages and towns are 70 km away from the present shoreline. The exposed seabed now consists of vast salt tracts, whose sand and dust, polluted with pesticides, are carried by the wind to neighbouring areas and up to a distance of 250 km. The eolian transfer of dust and sand from the exposed seabed has been estimated at 15-75 million t/year.

- With the reduction of the size of the Aral Sea, its climate modifying function has been lost. The climate around the sea has changed, becoming more continental with shorter, hotter, rainless summers and longer, colder, snowless winters. The growing season has been reduced to an average of 170 days per year. Desert storms are frequent, occurring on more than 90 days a year.

- Communities face appalling health conditions. In Karakalpakstan, drinking water supply is too saline and polluted. The high contents of metals such as strontium, zinc and manganese cause diseases and prevent iron absorption, causing anaemia. In the last 15 years, kidney and liver diseases, especially cancer, have increased at least 30-fold, arthritic diseases 60-fold and chronic bronchitis 30-fold. The infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world.

Measures adopted to mitigate the environmental problems

Aware of the above problems, in the 1980s the government of the Soviet Union decided to develop a Water Resources Master Plan for the Syr Darya and Amu Darya river basins. The principle of a strict limitation of water withdrawal per hectare was adopted in 1982 and it was decided to share the available water resources among the riparian republics. Decisions were taken by the Ministry of Water Management of the Soviet Union in July 1984 for the Syr Darya waters and in March 1987 for the Amu Darya waters. Two Basin Water Organizations (BWO) were established to operate and maintain the main hydraulic infrastructures and to monitor water use.

After the end of the Soviet period, the newly independent states decided to prepare a Regional Water Resources Management Strategy, but to respect the existing principles until the adoption of a new agreement on water resources sharing. At the initiative of the five republics, an Interstate Commission for Water Coordination (ICWC) was established. The ICWC supervises the two BWOs and a Scientific Information Centre, and is in charge of regulating water distribution in the basin and of consolidating the country positions for the adoption of a regional water strategy. The preparation of this water strategy, as well as regional studies and pilot projects for a new approach in water management, have received attention and funding from several international organizations and bilateral cooperation agencies. The International Fund for the Aral Sea (IFAS) and the Interstate Council for the Aral Sea Problem (ICAS) have been established in order to subordinate the initiatives and the financial resources to a regional approach.

Water supply management

The first solutions envisaged to face the problems listed above were based on water supply management. During the Soviet period, the possibilities of water diversion from the Ob River to the Amu Darya River through a 2 200 km-long canal or from the Volga River to the Aral Sea were studied. These options were abandoned with the ending of the Soviet Union. Currently, a proposal to transfer water from the Caspian Sea to the Aral Sea is being studied.

Greater use of agricultural drainage water and wastewater, as well as the introduction of more salt-tolerant crops, have also been envisaged and in part implemented. In 1993, agricultural drainage water was estimated at about 40 km/year and the re-use of industrial and domestic wastewater was about 3 km/year. About 6 km/year of agricultural drainage waters or wastewater are directly re-used for irrigation. Some 37 km/year return to natural depressions or rivers where they are mixed with freshwater and can be re-used for irrigation or other purposes.

Dam construction and canal regulation have also been undertaken to make the water supply meet the water demand in a more timely fashion.

Although these options have enabled further irrigation development, the improvements induced have not been sustainable.

Water demand management

The governments of the five Central Asian republics have thus decided to focus on demand management, which is now a key element of the national and regional water strategies. The countries have started implementing programmes which all aim to reduce the water withdrawal per hectare, but which have the primary objective of satisfying crop water requirements.

From a technical point of view, all the measures aim to increase the global irrigation efficiency: through canal rehabilitation and/or lining, which leads to a reduction of the losses; and through canal regulation for better irrigation scheduling. However, in view of the very limited funds available, these measures will be implemented gradually, relying mostly on international assistance and funding.

From an economic point of view, several countries have introduced water fees and fines for the use of water in excess of the allocation per farm. Moreover, with the move towards a market-oriented economy, farmers' responsibility has increased. For example, the decision on the crops to be grown on irrigation schemes, which has direct consequences on the water requirements, is the farmers' responsibility. In Kazakhstan, rice, a large water consuming crop, has been replaced by other cereals. In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the area grown with cotton, also a large water consuming crop, has decreased while the area grown with grain has increased substantially. Although these measures may lead to a reduction of the water withdrawal, they make planning and monitoring water distribution more difficult.

Future prospects

Much progress has already been made since 1990. The total water withdrawal in the basin has now stabilized at about 110-120 km/year (Figure 1). However, further improvement is needed to meet the increasing demand from new water users. The living standards of the population near the sea are also a major concern, with most socio-economic indicators (life expectancy, health, drinking water supply, etc.) being dramatically negative. The responsible authorities are expected to take the necessary measures.

It has been estimated that at least 73 km/year of water would have to be discharged to the Aral Sea for a period of at least 20 years in order to recover the 1960 level of 53 m above sea level. The governments of the riparian countries do not consider this a realistic objective.

Other more feasible options for the future of the Aral Sea have been envisaged by different parties:

- The stabilization of the Aral Sea at its 1990 level (38 m above sea level) would require a total inflow of about 35 km/year, including the demand for the delta area. However, this would not end the environmental degradation and desertification in the exposed seabed.

- The restoration of the Small Sea, or Northern Sea, to the level of 38-40 m above sea level would require an inflow of at least 6-8 km in that part of the Aral Sea for the next five years.

- The restoration of wetlands in the Amu Darya delta and the conservation of the Western Sea would require an inflow of 11-25 km/year, with at least 5-11 km of freshwater. Since 1989, a project has been implemented in Uzbekistan which aims to bring more water to the delta through the collector-drainage network. This water, combined with freshwater, is used to replenish shallow lakes. It has allowed the re-development of flora and wildlife in the abandoned areas and stopped the eolian erosion of the former exposed seabed. Another result of this project has been a higher fish capture, estimated at 5 000 t/year in 1993, compared with 2 000 t/year in 1988.

Because the water resources of the basin are more or less stable, or even slightly decreasing due to the climatic change induced by the Aral Sea drying up, all extra water flowing to the Aral Sea should be saved from upstream existing uses. Major efforts should be made to: reduce losses in the rivers and canals, notably through lining and automatization of the distribution; stop irrigation expansion; to generalize micro-irrigation and other water saving techniques on existing irrigated areas; redirect drainage water and other spilled reservoir and canal water directly to the sea; return the non-consumed fraction of the water diverted into irrigation schemes to the Aral Sea. According to the World Bank, the introduction of a water market could help save more water.

Water quality problems increase from upstream to downstream due to the increasing salinity and pesticide content of agricultural return flow and the poor state of wastewater treatment plants in the basin. The defining of water quality standards and their observance may significantly affect the quantity of water considered as available for use. The introduction of a polluter pays tax would then be possible.

If they were sure that the water would actually go to the Aral Sea, the upstream countries would be ready to release more water. One important measure for the future would be to consider the Aral Sea and the two deltas as a sixth entity, in addition to the five Central Asian republics, to which a water allocation should be given. In the round of discussions between the countries, a figure of 20 km/year in normal humid years has been advanced for this environmental water demand, reduced to 12 km/year in the one dry year out of ten.

All these options and solutions have been studied for the regional water strategy exercise, which is the result of a cooperation of the riparian countries. This has been made possible by the setting up of an institutional framework to address the Aral Sea problem through selected national macro-economic and sectoral policies for achieving sustainable land, water and other natural resources development. This institutional framework currently includes only the countries of the FSU. However, Afghanistan, which covers about 12% of the Aral Sea basin, will probably become a greater water user as its stability increases, so reducing the flow of the Amu Darya tributaries accordingly. At a later stage, Afghanistan should be included in the agreements regarding the Aral Sea basin in order to guarantee sustainable water resources management in the basin.

1 Distribution of the 15 countries of the former Soviet Union in the five regions:

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