The hydrology of the Aral Sea Basin during the past few decades has been largely determined by the decision to
develop irrigated agriculture on a large scale to produce cotton for export in the 1960s. The irrigated area has
grown to 8 million hectares, using practically the entire available flow of the two main rivers, the Amu Darya
and Syr Darya. Almost two decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the five states of the Aral Sea
Basin face the challenge of restoring a sustainable equilibrium while offering development opportunities for an
increasing population. Sustainable water management is thus an imperative that will require coordinated
political action of all the states involved.
The Soviet Union established its cotton-producing areas in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and
Kyrgyzstan. Today, while cotton remains relatively important, cereal production to reduce imports has become a
priority in all four nations. The cotton crop area has decreased over the past ten years, while that of winter wheat
– the main grain crop – has doubled. At 39 per cent of the total (blue and green) water consumption in
agriculture, wheat is the largest water-consuming crop in the five basin states, followed by cotton at 33 per cent.
The present study analyses the water footprint of Central Asian cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), wheat
(Triticum aestivum L.) and rice (Oryza sativa L.) production, differentiating between the green and blue
components, in order to know how the scarce water resources in the region are apparently allocated.
|Name||Value of water research report 41|
|Publisher||UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education|