UN calls for restraint in Central Asia water row

Ban Ki-moon urged Central Asian leaders to resolve disputes over cross-border water use that have threatened stability in the region.

UN calls for restraint in Central Asia water row

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Central Asian leaders on Tuesday to resolve disputes over cross-border water use that have threatened stability in the region.

Water sharing is a thorny issue in Central Asia, one of the world's driest regions, where thirsty crops like cotton are the main livelihood for most of its 60 million people.

It has pitted nations like Uzbekistan against smaller neighbours like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, whose mountainous terrain means they generate most of Central Asia's water.

A row between ethnically different Tajiks and Uzbeks has added tensions to the sensitive political balance in the Muslim region north of Afghanistan and Iran.

Visiting Tajikistan, Ban urged Central Asian leaders to resolve their problems through talks.

"Whether this is oil or natural gas or water, these resources should be used fairly, respecting the interests of neighbouring countries," he said.

"This is a collective responsibility of all the leaders of Central Asia and the international community. We need to sit down and resolve these issues."

This year Tajikistan, the poorest nation in the former Soviet Union, announced plans to finish construction of the $1.4 billion Rogun hydro power plant.

Tajikistan hopes Rogun will solve its chronic lack of energy. That has angered cotton-producing Uzbekistan which fears water flows to its fields will be disrupted.

Addressing the issue, Ban said it was important to wait for an "independent and objective" assessment of the project by the World Bank, due later this year. "All the leaders, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, should respect the final outcome of this technical assessment by the World Bank," Ban said.

Started in Soviet times but never finished, Rogun has become something of a national symbol for Tajikistan, with billboards hailing the project dotting the streets. State television airs regular programmes about its importance.

Unable to finance the project itself, Tajikistan is raising the funds by selling Rogun shares directly to the public which has angered many ordinary Tajiks who earn about $70 a month.


Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Nisan 2010, 14:36

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