Rising concern over the scarcity of water is stoking tension in border areas of Central Asia's Ferghana Valley. Experts say the breakdown of local dispute resolution mechanisms is making it more difficult to find solutions to border-related issues.
The most serious border-related dispute in recent weeks involved control over water resources along an ill-defined stretch of frontier separating Tajikistan's Soghd Province from Kyrgyzstan's Batken Region. In late March, approximately 150 Tajiks, among them a few local officials, attempted to destroy a dam erected by the Kyrgyz authorities. The Tajiks complained that the dam was situated in an area where the border has not been mutually agreed upon, and that it was preventing water from reaching irrigation canals in Soghd Province. Kyrgyz authorities insisted the structure was well inside Kyrgyzstan, and they dispatched border guards to repel the demolition attempt. Quick-thinking officials were able to prevent potential bloodshed by brokering a provisional agreement to open the dam and replenish the Tajik canals.
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Alisher Khamidov is a doctoral candidate at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.