“Central Eurasian Water Crisis” refers to the awareness by the global community that, in the 21st century, people in various regions around the world will likely face problems of water quality and water quantity. These problems have already surfaced in several locations, and this volume focuses on three of them: the Dead Sea region, the Aral Sea region, and the Caspian Sea region. Researchers from a variety of physical and social science disciplines seek to identify the water-related problems and the prospects for resolving them.
The water level of the Dead Sea has been declining in recent years, and this has added to the political tensions in the region. Perhaps it is through the need to resolve environmental issues related to water resources associated with the Dead Sea that a major step can be taken to peaceful cooperation.
The Aral Sea, too, has been declining in recent decades. Research shows that scientists in the various Central Asian Republics and in Moscow realized that the Aral Sea’s existence was threatened by the use of river water to serve cotton development in the sands of otherwise dry Central Asian deserts. Today, policymakers and scientists are seeking ways to save what remains of the Aral Sea.
The Caspian Sea, the largest inland sea in the world, has gone through decadal-scale fluctuations over the past 150 years. From the 1930s until the late 1970s, the level of the Caspian dropped rather rapidly. In the late 1970s, it began to rise quickly, causing severe problems for the coastal states. The circum-Caspian region is one of the richest on the globe with regard to oil and gas reserves. Its environmental problems (oil and waste pollution, desertification, the survival of the sturgeon, and the fluctuating sea level) will only serve to worsen other regional political problems, unless they are addressed in the near future. In fact, it may be that addressing environmental issues directly can lead to cooperation in other areas.
This volume attempts to raise as many questions as it might answer about Eurasian water crises. To others around the world, let these cases serve as lessons of actions to be taken … or not taken.
Iwao Kobori is a programme advisor at the United Nations University in Tokyo. Michael H. Glantz is Senior Scientist in the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.