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Regional conflict over water in central asia


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A new model of decentralised energy relations

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Regional conflict over water in central asia

  1. 1. POLICY PAPERN. 05 · September 2012 Regional conflict over water in Central Asia A new model of decentralised energy relations N. 05 · September 2012 Aurèlia MAÑÉ ESTRADA ISSN: 2014-2765 DL: B-25989-2012 Mar CAMPINS ERITJAThe mismanagement of water resources in Central Asia, arising from their asymmetricregional distribution, has become a global risk. Thus the situation has gone from beingconsidered as extremely unstable to being defined as a crucial security issue. Thesolution proposed has been that of a regional exchange of energy for water. However,this is not the answer. The reasons are those derived from: a) the intrinsiccharacteristics of political regimes in the oil-exporting countries, and b) the absence ofa regional conceptual framework in a new, post-Yalta, international theatre which hasnot yet been understood. Therefore, this policy paper poses the need to define a newregion, a new energy policy and a new framework for analysing them.Context May 2012 by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), was devastating in this regard,Since the so-called Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in stating literally that: “In recent years, the population1992, with its subsequent follow-up events every five of Tajikistan has been experiencing negative consequences from environmental degradation foryears until the recent Rio+20 (2012), there has been a numerous reasons […including…] widespread viola-proliferation of regional and sub-regional initiatives tion of the environment. […] The population of Tajiki-aimed at putting into effect the declaration and the stan considers droughts, [and] the shortage of potableother results of the Summit. Specifically, many forums and irrigation water […] as their major problems”.1have been held with the objective of establishing The following month, in June 2012, on the occasion ofprograms along the lines of what was agreed at a the appointment of a new EU representative forworldwide level at Rio in 1992, or of applying Central Asia, Ms Patricia Flor, the panel of experts ofregionally some of the conventions adopted twenty the Europe-Central Asia Monitoring Programyears ago. Asia, and Central Asia in particular, has (EUCAM) called on the new representative to take thebeen no exception. This process involves accepting, or lead in resolving regional conflicts over water, giventacitly recognising, that the various regional and local that this is a crucial issue with significant securityagendas form a part of global problems. implications for the development of the area, and since, according to EUCAM “disputes over water haveMany years after Rio, in 2008, the European Union acquired a national security dimension and can nonoted that the most sensitive environmental issue inthe Central Asian region was water management, anissue which, if not properly addressed, could in the 1IOM, Environmental Degradation, Migration, Internalmedium term become a serious security problem for Displacement, and Rural Vulnerabilities in Tajikistan, Maythe whole region. A report on Tajikistan, published in 2012, p. 8. 1
  2. 2. POLICY PAPERN. 05 · September 2012longer be viewed only through the lens of improved Today things have changed: Central Asia is aenvironmental management.”2 transnational region with a shared water use, but with a skewed distribution of resources which leads to anThe three preceding paragraphs are the summary of a energy supply which is also unequal. We believe thatpractically lost decade in which poor water manage- this situation can potentially provoke conflict atment turned into a serious environmental tragedy — regional level, because it induces water-rich countriessymbolised by the disappearance of the Aral Sea. This (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) to use this resource as ain turn is the core of regional conflicts that are “weapon” to blackmail their neighbours and to plantransforming themselves into a global security overblown projects, such as the Roghun dam, toproblem, going beyond the borders of a Central Asian produce and export hydroelectric energy. Theregion made up of the so-called five Stans (Kazakh- consequences of this project would be the end ofstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and farming in Uzbekistan and other downstreamUzbekistan). countries, and the worsening of the ecological, human and economic catastrophe as a result of the totalHow was this problem created? desiccation of the Aral Sea.The disintegration of the USSR brought with it theemergence of a space which, in terms of managing itsnatural energy and water resources, must face up to a Analysisvery unusual situation, for two reasons:a) because the management of the energy and water The multilateral organisations that have dealt with thissupplies, which were previously centrally controlled situation define it as extremely unstable3 and proposewithin a single state, now has to be carried out within an exchange between water and fossil energy.the framework of five new independent countries In contrast, in this policy paper we will argue that thewhose distribution networks — previously integrated commercial regional management of natural resourceswithin the Soviet system — were broken down by the is not possible where, as occurs in the case of Centralcollapse of the USSR; Asia, an asymmetric regional distribution of naturalb) because this management has to be effected in a resources, in which one of these resources is the keyregion with an asymmetric distribution of natural source of energy for the world economy, exists inresources; this is summed up in the fact that two combination with processes of nation-building. In thiscountries in the region (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) are situation, the proposed solution favours conflict morerich in water, while the rest (especially Kazakhstan and than it does cooperative solutions.Turkmenistan) are rich in fossil primary energy The regional exchange of energy for water has the objective of avoiding a situation where the upstream Today things have changed: countries on the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers regulate their dams — both existing and future — solely Central Asia is a in terms of their hydroelectric power generation needs, while ignoring the irrigation needs of downstream countries. The two uses are not totally incompatible; transnational region with a the season in which water is most needed to irrigate fields is different from that in which it is most required shared water use, but with to produce hydroelectric power. The reasons for not exclusively prioritising hydroelectricity are twofold: a skewed distribution of firstly, to maintain all the agricultural activity in the region; and secondly, to avoid — if this is still possible resources (…) — the total disappearance of the Aral Sea and of its physical and human ecosystem. In practice, for this proposal to go ahead it is necessarysources (hydrocarbons and coal). for the three hydrocarbon-rich countries of the region, especially Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, to choose toIn Soviet times this unequal structure did not have use their energy resources to produce energy for thesubstantial effects on energy needs nor on irrigation five Stans, rather than for export outside the region. Inand water consumption in the area, because the other words, it means that the governments ofplanning system, although highly questionable in countries whose land is rich in hydrocarbons wouldenvironmental terms, was effective for its own have to give up, at least partially, the use for internalpurposes, with fossil fuels (especially coal) being usedas an energy source, while the use of water forirrigation was prioritised. 3 Eurasian Development Bank, Water and Energy Resources in Central Asia: Utilization and Development Issues, April 2008; World Bank, Water Energy Nexus in Central Asia.2 EUCAM Policy Brief / No. 24, Ten tasks for the new EU Improving Regional Cooperation in the Syr Darya Basin,Special Representative to Central Asia, June 2012, p. 2. January 2004. 2
  3. 3. POLICY PAPERN. 05 · September 2012purposes of foreign exchange earnings derived from countries, we reach the conclusion that in thosethe sale of oil abroad. nations whose birth or creation goes along with a surge in the export of energy resources the political regimesThe internal use of oil revenues, notwithstanding the tend to prioritise a definition of national identity whichparticular specificities of the case of the five Stans, has excludes the regional aspect. The exception in the casesome similarities, at least at the conceptual level, with of the Arab countries has been when a common threatthe Arab members of the Organisation of Petroleum (Israel) or a common cause (pan-Arabism) wasExporting Countries (OPEC). Although it is in a context perceived. But even on these occasions, cooperationand an international energy scene which are very was ephemeral. The corollary of this is that thedifferent from those of the twentieth century, it can be governments of the rentier Stans, by their internalsaid that at least Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan show operating logic, will always give precedence to thewhat is known as “rentier” behaviour. From our point individual-national function of hydrocarbons (theirof view, they share three characteristics with the Arab financial function as a source of the maximum amountOPEC countries: of foreign currency through their sale on thea) They are countries whose subsoil is rich in energy international market) over their regional function (theresources; energy function of hydrocarbons, permitting the generation or exchange of energy at a local level).b) They are countries whose appearance — creation orindependence — coincides with the fact of becomingexporters of energy resources, which means a surge inforeign exchange earnings from exports; It remains to be seenc) They are countries with authoritarian regimes. whether the five StansIn the case of the Arab OPEC countries, a briefhistorical overview would show that in all of them theprocesses of national creation, affirmation or perceive the lack of waterindependence were associated with the nationalisationof the hydrocarbon sector. Additionally, that in all as a common threat or itsthese processes of nation building, the social contractforged in that moment is one whose operation is the sharing as a commonopposite of that of modern democratic states: from thedefinition of a national citizen as someone who pays cause so that (…) they cantaxes based on the income they obtain for their work,they shift to the definition of a citizen as one who reach an agreement.receives income from oil.The corollary of this is that in rentier countries,“national identity” is tied in with the internal Moreover, this is a process that reinforces itself and, asmanagement of oil revenues. In all cases, the is shown by the case of OPEC, it does not by itself leadgovernments of oil rich Arab countries considered to cooperative solutions. It remains to be seen whetherhydrocarbons — or the distribution among the the five Stans perceive the lack of water as a commonpopulation of the incomes derived from them — to be threat or its sharing as a common cause so that, astheir main instrument of public intervention. occurred in the countries with which we haveTherefore, with regard to the use of their compared them, they can reach an agreement.hydrocarbons, except when there were conflicts with However, objectively, the conditions for this do notIsrael, individual-nationally based strategies always exist.prevailed over regional-cooperative ones. Two facts To this we must add the fact that the emergence ofdemonstrate this. The first is that none of them, even Central Asia within the international energy context iswhen this was economically the most rational and least occurring in a situation which is diametrically opposedcostly option, has ever wanted to share with their to that which saw the birth of OPEC. The process ofneighbours the management of their oil reserves. On reconstruction of the chains of energy and for thethe contrary, as shown by the relations between exploitation of natural resources in Central Asia,Tunisia and Libya in the 1970s and by the successive following the breakup of the Soviet Union, isGulf Wars, they have traditionally confronted each happening in a context of an energy transition on aother over them. The second is that OPEC, one of the global scale marked, among other things, by theworld’s most famous cartels, is the least consolidated emergence of new energy players (countries andexporters’ group on the planet. Unlike the coffee or businesses) and the emergence of large transnationalcocoa cartels, OPEC does not even have sanctions for and global energy chains. In general this means thatthe breach of quotas, and in the oil boom years the national oil companies (NOC) of the producingcountries systematically attempted to “steal” each countries, which are the instruments through whichother’s national quotas. these countries’ governments influence theThus, if we draw a parallel between the Stans rich in international energy market, have been losing weightenergy resources and the traditional Arab OPEC and influence. 3
  4. 4. POLICY PAPERN. 05 · September 2012A review of the case studies conducted under the own criteria. These elements come together in the factRICIP2010 project, dealing with the cases of oil in that the extraction of energy in Central Asia isKazakhstan and gas in Turkmenistan, shows how externally oriented and that, for the countries of thethese, through the partnerships of their respective area, its function is financial (to earn foreign currency)NOCs (KazMunaiGaz and Turkmengaz), are becoming not energetic. There is thus no incentive, whetherintegrated into transnational and global energy chains internal or external, to modify the export based energyin which decisions about how much is produced, for model of those countries which would have to agree towhom and under what conditions, are taken by the produce energy for their neighbours in exchange formajor energy companies of the emerging countries, water. Given this, the exchange solution that issuch as Russia and China. proposed by the World Bank or the European Development Bank does not seem feasible.In this study we make a classification of energycompanies based on their ability to influence decisions To this we must add other impossibilities which haveof the chain — to be a lead firm — and on the to do with the fact that this solution is presented on theobjectives of each type of company. This classification basis of a premise that is not necessarily valid. Theshowed that the NOCs are always the weak link in the truth is that many of the proposals and work onchain if the latter also includes large international oil Central Asia deal with this subject as if the five Stanscompanies (IOC) such as Texaco, BP, Exxon, Shell, effectively made up the same region as that formedTotal, etc. or the so-called “new” NOCs: companies like previously by the Soviet republics of the same name,the Russian Gazprom or the Chinese CNPC. Therefore, and as if they were five “normal” nation states.from this study we can deduce that since neither However, the appearance on the international scene ofKazakhstan nor Turkmenistan has the ability to decide the five new independent states of Central Asia is a facton the management of their energy resources, it is unprecedented in the contemporary world. It meanshighly unlikely that they can commit themselves, the creation ex novo of five new countries which hadbeyond a simple expression of their desires, to a never existed before, and which, in spite of themselves,regional policy of exchanging energy for water. have been constituted as nation states and subjects of international law. This atypical historical This has two implications: one of them geographical and the other conceptual and analytical. From the situation complicates the geographical point of view, what is now accepted as the Central Asia region is a region which is still in the process of formation and composition. In the case dealt analysis of the realities of with here this is especially true, since from the point of view of water this region should include Afghanistan — Central Asia and therefore given that this country shares with Tajikistan one of the major tributaries of the Amu Darya — and probably also complicates any also parts of Pakistan, China and Iran. proposal for specific From an analytical point of view it must also be accepted that these new countries arise in the context of a bipolar order — that which arose from Yalta — policies. which is decaying and a new global order which is still in the making. This fact, leaving aside other issuesAn indirect consequence of this is that, given their lack which flow from their specific ex-Soviet character,of capacity to decide on production aspects — the poses the difficult challenge of achieving what manyenergy side — of their natural resources, the rational countries did in the nineteenth century: becoming achoice of the Kazakh and Turkmen governments is to nation state while at the same time integrating into theat least try to achieve the maximum possible income global world of the XXI century, in which many of thefrom them. That is to say, to give priority to their traditional state and regional structures are in function so as to continue their strategies of This atypical historical situation complicates theinternal legitimation. analysis of the realities of Central Asia and thereforeIn short, in countries rich in energy resources, whose also complicates any proposal for specific policies. Thisexport boom coincides with the processes of the difficulty is due to the absence of an acceptedcreation of national identity and of the national state, it conceptual framework for the study of problems whichis unlikely that governments will be willing to use these may appear to be very similar to those of otherresources to foster regional cooperation with their countries, but occur in a completely new scenario,neighbours. In this paper we have based our argument because conceptually we do not have the structures toon two elements: the effects of the centralised analyse the new geopolitical situation which ismanagement of natural resources on national social emerging with the disintegration of the USSR; acontracts; and the effects of the integration of their situation which is not yet clear, although it seems to benatural resources within global energy chains on their leading to an Orientalisation of the international arena.ability to manage these resources on the basis of their 4
  5. 5. POLICY PAPERN. 05 · September 2012Recommendations economic and social welfare due to the resulting business and jobs;Favouring regional cooperation which 5. Creation of local decentralised energy activitiescorrects the negative effects of the asymmetry and therefore a modification of part of the basis ofof resources the existing social contracts in the autonomous autocratic regimes.Given the scenario described above it is difficult topropose specific policies which would favour regionalcooperation that could lead to correcting the negative Disadvantageseffects produced by the asymmetry of resources in acase of shared watercourses. However, in the light of As against these advantages, the downside is the morewhat has been said so far we would dare to suggest a than possible lack of political will of local leaders withfew ideas for action. respect to such a solution, given that it would fundamentally change the political system on whichFollowing the analysis presented, part of the solution they base their national power. In order, therefore, torelates to the field of energy policy and goes in line counteract this, we consider essential a change inwith the proposals already made in the past by Pierre direction on the part of international involvement inMorel, former European Union Special Representative the region.(EUSR) for the area. For a case of unequal regionaldistribution of resources such as that we havedescribed, one way of fostering regional cooperation Address water management as a securitywould be to promote decentralised and autonomous problem for the new global worldenergy production processes that produced power In this sense, from an international perspective, we feellocally. it fundamental, as proposed by the EUCAM, to address water management not just as if it were a problem ofThis would consist of creating small decentralised environmental management, but as a security problemenergy production projects close to the places in which for the new global world. This increases the importanceenergy is consumed, in order to exploit the asymmetry of the problem, giving it a significance that goesin the distribution of resources so that each country beyond mere environmental political correctness. Thecould produce according to its natural resources, reality is that environmental issues per se, althoughwithout being “aggressive” towards others. For they are always present in the rhetoric, are put inexample, installing micro-dams or turbines (small second place when it comes to political action.hydroelectric plants) along the course of Tajikistan orKyrgyzstan’s rivers would not affect substantially the Therefore, the fundamental problem is how to addresscourse and cycles of the rivers and would provide clean this new security issue in a new region. To do this, atelectricity without the need to pay supply costs. The the present moment and on the basis of what has beensame type of argument applies to installing solar said, we offer a couple of ideas for facing up to thepanels and wind turbines in desert (Turkmenistan) and challenge:windy (Uzbekistan) areas. a) If Afghanistan shares water resources with its neighbours, any solution or project that does not include it is doomed to failure. Therefore, theAdvantages withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan could be a great opportunity to: 1) rethink the proposals that are beingThe advantages of a solution of this type are: presented for the commercial exchange of energy for water; 2) help to re-define the region geographically;1. Energy independence with respect to neighbours, and 3) conceptually think of Central Asia not as a thus eliminating a source of conflict; leftover of the USSR, but a as a region within a new2. The creation of a regional energy system not international order in the process of being formed. integrated within global energy chains, thus giving b) If this still to be defined region emerges in a global independence of decision-making and the capacity context different from that established at Yalta and to manage energy production at a local/regional which tends towards Orientalisation, both Western level; actors (EU, USA), and the institutions created at3. The ability to reduce environmental impacts and Bretton Woods (e.g. the World Bank), as well as Russia water stress, thus leading to a reduction in the (as the heir to the USSR), should cease to view this as social conflict which arises from the extinction of an area to be “captured” (or “maintained” in the case of traditional lifestyles; Russia). In this regard, we read in the EUCAM Policy Brief cited above that the new EUSR should promote4. The possibility of establishing an economic cooperation with China and Russia, “so as to put to structure organised around the creation of a new economic sector — the production and distribution of local energy — and hence a higher level of 5
  6. 6. POLICY PAPERN. 05 · September 2012rest any ideas of a ‘new Great Game’.”4 In fact, as inthe previous case, Central Asia and its conflicts presentthemselves as an opportunity: to start building a newtype of international relations which restructure theworld order.Start from the premise that the current globalscenario is differentGiven all this, and following our idea that the reality ofthis region is very difficult to grasp because of the lackof a conceptual framework, it is logical to recommendfurther analysis of this area, given that it is a case inwhich the mismatch between currently acceptedtheories and reality is more obvious than anywhereelse in the world. However, as well as this, we mustalso make clear that this analysis has to start from thepremise that the current global scenario is differentfrom that which emerged following the Second WorldWar and that we are probably witnessing a paradigmshift in the Kuhnian sense of the term.Perhaps none of this will resolve in the short term theenvironmental and security disaster which we arefacing, but we are sure that without this any solutionthat is proposed will be partial and short lived. ABOUT THE AUTHORS:Aurèlia MAÑÉ ESTRADA and Mar CAMPINS ERITJAare professors and researchers at the University ofBarcelona and have directed the research project “Lacooperació regional a l’Àsia Central i les amenaces ala seguretat internacional derivades dels reptesambientals”, financed by ICIP (2010-RICIP00009).The analysis presented in this policy paper has beenprepared on the basis of the results of theaforementioned research project. INTERNATIONAL CATALAN INSTITUTE FOR PEACE DISCLAIMER: The International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP) is a public yet independent institution, whose overarchingThe opinions expressed in this document do not purpose is to promote a culture of peace, facilitate thenecessarily reflect those of ICIP. pacific resolution and transformation of conflicts. ICIP´s activities are related to research, the transfer of knowledge and dissemination of ideas and awareness, as well as intervention in the field. With research as one of its focal points, ICIP takes a particular close interest in promoting original research, which allows for new results – not only in the theoretical field, but also in the practical application of solutions. It is in this context that ICIP publishes its Policy Paper series. / icip@icip.cat4EUCAM Policy Brief / No. 24, Ten tasks for the new EUSpecial Representative to Central Asia, June 2012, p. 2. 6