Water, Climate, and Development Issues in the Amu Darya Basin
Before 1960, the Aral Sea was the fourth-largest body of water on Earth. Today, it is on the edge of extinction. The Sea is fed by Central Asias two major rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, with a flow, respectively, of about 70 and 35 cubic kilometers per year on average. Today, the Aral story is quite well known to environmental groups within and outside the region. The Amu Daryas watercourse serves as an international border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan and between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The Amu Darya crisscrosses Turkmenistan and, for the most part, traverses the length of Uzbekistan and its subregion known as Karakalpakstan. Although an upstream riparian country, Afghanistan has been at war for a couple of decades and in-country conflict remains. As a result, it has had little opportunity to lay claim to its legitimate share of Amu Darya water. With an end to the Russo-Afghan war, an end to the Taliban regime, and with international involvement to bring a semblance of peace and stability to the country in the conflict-laden post-Taliban period, the new Afghan government will surely lay claim to a significant share of Amu Darya water as it reconstructs the nations agricultural sector. This paper discusses issues related to the problems and prospects for sustainable development in the Amu Darya basin.