Friday, January 25, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Tehran Must Buy Water from Tajikistan to Overcome Drought, Iranian Deputy Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 25 – Ali Ironpour, a member of the agriculture committee of the Iranian parliament, says that Tehran can solve the problems of drought in eastern Iran by purchasing some one billion cubic meters of water from neighboring Tajikistan, a step he says the two governments agreed to in May 2012.

            Currently, according to Iranian media reports, officials from Tehran and Dushanbe are discussing how they will go forward, something that would require new canals and pipelines and more important would profoundly affect both downstream countries like Uzbekistan and regional powers like China and the Russian Federation (

            The May 2012 agreement to which Ironpour refers followed a declaration signed by the presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan two months prior to that time concerning cooperation on the building of railroads, energy networks and water distribution  (

            It is uncertain whether Ironpour was speaking for anyone but himself and whether the Iranian government and its Tajikistan counterpart are prepared to follow through if in fact Tehran is interested. But the deputy’s remarks suggest that there may now be yet another player in the Central Asian “water wars.”

            Traditionally, the struggle over water in that region have been between the two water-surplus republics, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and the three water-short republics, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. In some times, Moscow played the role of arbiter, but now, and as population increases in these countries have intensified the need for water, no one is in charge.

            Moreover, China has become an active player, especially with regard to Kazakhstan. If Tehran is now ready to offer cash to Dushanbe for water, that shift alone could change the balance of power in the region, complicating the lives not only of the immediate players but also of outside powers like the Russian Federation and the United States.

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