Access to water sources could cause conflicts

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

In the globalized world, we take for granted free access to water resources, which are essential for the survival of peoples. However, in some areas of the planet, the control of the course of a river can be a cause for military confrontation between two countries.

In 2016, the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) advised that "Access to water has become an economic issue on a global scale that could become [...] one of the primary causes of international tensions". Especially since according to the projections of the World Bank in 2016, by 2030 the water needs could be 40% higher than what is available. Some parts of the world are more concerned than others. As in the case of Southeast Asia, the Near and Middle East and the Nile Region.

This is the case of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, both adhering to the Collective Security Treaty, created by Russia in 2002, to guarantee security between member states and military cooperation.

The two Asian countries have a longstanding disagreement on the demarcation of their respective borders. This dispute is accentuated by the issues of access to water resources. In fact, today, the respective armed forces clashed, after a series of incidents that occurred around the Tajik enclave of Voroukh, in Kyrgyzstan, more precisely near the Golovnaïa water distribution site, on the upper course of the River Isfara.

For Bishkek, the Golovnaïa area is strategic for the Kyrgyz Republic, which therefore claims ownership. This is obviously disputed by Douchambé, based on maps drawn up during the Soviet Union period.

Last week, two Kyrgyz workers working in this area went missing. Later it turned out that they had been arrested by the Tajik police. Obviously, this has given rise to strong diplomatic protests. Yesterday, Tajik and Kyrgyz civilians clashed for access to water. This state of tension has degenerated into firefights between the armed forces of the two countries. These clashes would have caused at least one death and 18 injured, according to a still provisional assessment.

While the two countries accuse each other of having ignited the spark, Kyrgyzstan said that its special forces had taken control of a Tajik border post in response to mortar rounds fired at its own soldiers. A version of the facts contested by Douchambé, who accuses the Kyrgyz troops of having opened fire on the Tajik soldiers deployed in the Golovnaïa area. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry said "to monitor the situation closely".

Uzbekistan, which has difficult relations with Tajikistan and which has just resolved its border disputes with Kyrgyzstan, has called for an "immediate cessation of hostilities" and offered its mediation to resolve this crisis.

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