Water export from Tajikistan to Iran: Realities and Prospects
By Temkin Jafarov-Trend commentator
The development of society and population growth in most countries of the Middle East and Central Asia has led to an increased demand for water resources, brining the water shortage to a crisis point.
But out of these countries, Iran is facing the most difficult situation.
In the last few days the drinking water problem in different cities of Iran has reached the crisis level. The Iranian government is seeking new resources and intends to realize a number of projects for irrigation and for the population's water consumption, and thus to solve the water shortage problem.
The projects on transporting water from the Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Oman to the country's central part can be seen as an example of this.
Iran is located in an arid zone, and over the past 40 years there have been periods of drought in the country. The drought of 1992-2002 caused great damage to agriculture, and some cities, including Tehran, started using drinking water quotas.
A new period of drought started during the summer months of 2008, and some towns and villages in Iran introduced quotas for drinking water, while in some cities the water shortage has reached a critical point.
On Aug. 6, one of the officials of the Iranian Khorasan Province, Mohammad Reza Mohsin proposed to construct a water pipeline from the Lake Sarez in Tajikistan to the Khorasan Province, according to Iranian ISNA news agency.
The water pipeline from the Lake Sarez, which was formed as a result of an earthquake in eastern Tajikistan in 1911, will be 600 kilometers in length.
A similar proposal was also put forward from the Tajik side. A representative of the Energy Ministry of Tajikistan earlier said a hydroelectric power plant will be built in the southern part of the Lake Sarez, and the water from the lake can be transported to Iran via this power plant.
Ten years ago Iran appealed to Tajik officials regarding the import of water. At that time Iran also stressed the readiness to invest $3 billion in the project, which envisaged supplying water from Tajikistan to the Khorasan Province.
Despite this proposal, which was not realized during that period, Iran and Tajikistan signed an agreement on the water transportation in 2007.
According to the agreement, one billion cubic meters of drinking water per day was to be delivered to Iran in early 2013. But this agreement has not been executed yet. Iran has also offered Tajikistan oil and gas in exchange for water. Although this was a good proposal for Tajikistan since it lacked energy resources, it was still impossible to execute the project.
Iran is not the only country that offers Tajikistan oil for water. Kuwait made such a proposal to Tajikistan in May 2014. But, apparently, there are many obstacles in the export of water from Tajikistan to Iran and Kuwait.
It was proposed to use the railroad being built between the two countries for bartering from Tajikistan to Iran. Iran planned to merge the railway with Tajikistan through Afghanistan. Although the work in this direction is currently underway, the project is not expected to be completed in the near future.
Lack of infrastructure is not the only obstacle in the export of water from Tajikistan to Iran. There is also a shortage of water in some regions of Tajikistan, and southern neighbors' protest against the country's water policy.
A third of the water reserves of Central Asia could be ensured by the sources originating in the mountains of Tajikistan. Although the country has large water resources, most of the country's population still faces water scarcity.
Moreover, the southern neighbors of Tajikistan are worried about the construction of water dams in the country, as the provision of these countries with water is directly related to Tajikistan. The construction of water dams in Tajikistan and export of water to other countries can lead to water shortages in these countries. Concern surrounding this issue is the reason why these countries want to prevent the implementation of the water export program from Tajikistan to Iran.