Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Environment in Central Asia

Stefanos Xenarios, Vladimir Smakhtin, Jenniver Sehring, Dietrich Schmidt-Vogt, Stella Tsani, Corrie Hannah, Evanthie Michalena

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Transboundary river basin systems comprise the backbone of the WEF nexus in Central Asia. In Soviet times, the water-abundant upstream countries provided water for irrigation in summer to downstream countries, and, in exchange, were supplied with energy in winter. Environmental aspects of natural resources management were neglected. The desiccation of the Aral Sea is the most widely known example of the consequences of disregarding environmental impacts. After independence in 1991, the formerly regional approach to water and energy management was replaced by a national approach which led to fragmentation of supply networks and conflicts mainly between upstream and downstream neighbors. This study outlines interventions and technologies for the water, energy, agricultural and environmental sectors at various scales that would be suitable for the introduction of a sustainable regional WEF in Central Asia. In the water sector, designing hydropower systems in upstream countries should consider the release of sufficient water volume for downstream irrigation in summer while the pressure on surface river basins should be mitigated through the increased use of groundwater resources. The energy portfolio in all countries of Central Asia should be diversified through more investment in renewables, and by designing the macroeconomic perspectives of energy policies in the region so as to avoid boom and bust pricing fluctuations on energy commodities. In the agricultural sector, the horticultural and tree cultivation should be prioritized over cotton monoculture. In addition, the rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage systems should be conducted at operational, maintenance and investment costs that are affordable to farming communities. Providing minimum environmental flows in major river networks and the better monitoring of human activities on basin level are prerequisites for an integrated approach of the WEF nexus in Central Asia.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Workshop on Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
PublisherEuropean Commission, Joint Research Centre Institute for Environment and Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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