Water reservoirs, irrigation and sedimentation in Central Asia: a first-cut assessment for Uzbekistan

Abstract : Water reservoirs play an important role in areas with limited and erratic precipitation where water is stored and re-distributed later for different purposes. Irrigation is primarily a major water consumer in arid countries of Central Asia for the economic development, employment and food security of the region. The major rivers of Central Asia (e.g., Amu Darya, Syr Darya, and Zerafshan) are turbid watercourses. Sedimentation reduces the main reservoir asset i.e., its volume capacity. In addition, vast territories of the region's countries have been transformed for agriculture to grow water intensive crops such as cotton, rice and wheat during the Soviet Union that dramatically accelerated soil erosion by water and wind. Thus, many man-made water reservoirs are affected by high sedimentation rates. Moreover, uneven spatial and temporal water resources and a Soviet-inherited unified hydraulic infrastructure have raised transboundary reservoir management issues over water resources allocation among the countries in the region such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The rivers such as Syr Darya and Amu Darya are already regulated by more than 78 and 94 %, respectively and attempts for new reservoir projects upstream raises increased concerns of the downstream countries (e.g., the Rogun hydropower station in Tajikistan and the Toktogul reservoir in Kyrgyzstan). For instance, the uncoordinated use of reservoirs has caused the Arnasai lake problem in Uzbekistan with environmental, material damage and social unrest. The aim of this paper is first to review the present conditions and the role of man-made water reservoirs for irrigation in Central Asia with special focus on Uzbekistan, second to document past and current reservoir sedimentation conditions in Uzbekistan and third to discuss research carried out by Soviet and present-time local research community in the domain of erosion and sedimentation in the region.
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Shavkat Rakhmatullaev, Frédéric Huneau, Hélène Celle-Jeanton, Philippe Le Coustumer, Mikael Motelica-Heino, et al.. Water reservoirs, irrigation and sedimentation in Central Asia: a first-cut assessment for Uzbekistan. Environmental Earth Sciences, Springer, 2013, 68 (4), pp.985-998. ⟨10.1007/s12665-012-1802-0⟩. ⟨insu-00723243⟩

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