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«ZEF Work Papers for Sustainable Development in Central Asia   No. 1  Economic Restructuring of Land and  ...»

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Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung

Center for Development Research

ZEF Bonn

Economic and Ecological Restructuring of Land and

Water Use in Uzbekistan/Khorezm:

A Pilot Program in Development Research

ZEF Work Papers

for Sustainable Development in Central Asia

 

No. 1 

Economic Restructuring of Land and 

Water Use in the Region Khorezm 

(Uzbekistan)  

(Project Proposal for Phase I) 

 

by  

 

Paul LG Vlek1  

Christopher Martius1   Peter Wehrheim1   Anja Schoeller‐Schletter1 and  John Lamers1    Center for Development Research, Bonn  1  Bonn, September 2001 ZEF-Uzbekistan working papers contain preliminary material and research results from the ZEF/BMBF/UNESCO-Project on Economic and Ecological Restructuring of Land- and Water Use in the Region Khorezm (Uzbekistan). They are circulated prior to a peer review process to stimulate debate and to disseminate information as quickly as possible. Some of the papers in this series will be reviews and eventually be published in some other form, and their content may also be revised. The sole responsibility for the contents rests with the authors.

Project internet site: http://www.khorezm.uni-bonn.de/ ZEF Bonn: Land- and Water Use in Khorezm 2 Economic and Ecological Restructuring of Land- and Water Use in the Region Khorezm (Uzbekistan) Table of Contents 1 Overview 4 2 Project Setting, Structure and the Approach to Interdisciplinarity 6 2.1 Setting of the Project

–  –  –

The Aral Sea basin has been declared an “ecological disaster area” by international development agencies. The water level of the Aral Sea has fallen by over 18 m since the 1960s, and only 20% of the water volume of this, once the fourth largest lake of the world, remain. This has occurred because river water has been increasingly diverted for use in irrigation. The problems of the Aral Sea region are obvious to date. As the central Asian region experienced a tripling in population over the past 50 years, the central government banked on irrigation-based agriculture to pull the region out of its poverty. The consequences have been an ill-conceived construction spree of poorly built irrigation systems with policies and incentives that encouraged poorly adapted cropping systems and enormous inefficiencies in irrigation water and fertilizer use.

In the former Soviet Union, the region served as the main supplier of cotton, and agriculture in Uzbekistan was therefore almost totally dedicated to cotton production. To accomplish this in a country that is mainly covered by desert, the area under irrigation in the Aral Sea Basin was increased from 2.0 to 7.2 million ha between 1925 and

1985. The losses of river water in the ill-designed and inefficient irrigation systems along the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, the major tributaries of the Aral Sea, are estimated to cost 40 km3 /year of the water flow, enough to stabilize the Aral Sea at its present level. Water use per hectare is estimated at 16- 18000 m3/ha, double the amount used in other regions on similar crops. In Uzbekistan 0.7 million ha of the cultivated areas under irrigation have soils so sandy that they are actually unsuitable for conventional irrigation. If irrigation were to be withdrawn from that area, about 10-15 km3 of water could be saved.

Yields of the principal crops (cotton, rice and wheat) are reportedly one-third of what is produced elsewhere with half the amount of water. The irrigation system practiced in the region – ditch/flood irrigation - has drastically increased soil salinity, requiring large amounts of water for soil leaching to ensure crop establishment. This and the long-time monoculture cropping of cotton have led to an exhaustion of soils. The government has tried to counterbalance the consequent reduction in crop productivity with ever-higher inputs of fertilizers and pesticides.

With much of the forest gone, frequent heavy storms in the dry Aral Sea bottom – the newly formed Aralkum desert – carry thousands of tons of dusts and salts far away, unobstructed by trees, affecting air quality in the Basin.

Pesticides, dusts, and salts accumulating in air and groundwater (from which drinking water is drawn) affect human health severely.

The production system and the administration of land and water have aggravated the problem. The centralized system of the Soviet era still dominates the pattern of land and water use and remains one of the major constraints to environmental improvement. Administrative rigidity hampers an efficient and sustainable use of the natural resources of the region. Measures such as the introduction of incentives to save water or the privatization of small farms are slow to take root in a widely unchallenged, planned economy with fixed quotas for crop production and centrally assigned water. Water is freely provided by the state’s distribution agencies, and the introduction of a water price would be a basic economic measure to improve the situation. Transfer of land from former state owned farms to private users –required by a new Uzbek law - is not compatible with the fact that the state is imposing fixed quotas for agricultural land under cotton cultivation. Legal uncertainty stemming, for example, from undefined exploitation rights and maintenance obligations (e.g. of the irrigation system), is impeding private initiative and investment in new areas of production.





The economic structure in Uzbekistan is also contributing to the impasse. The transition of the Uzbek economy from plan to market has merely started in the 1990s. Agricultural markets, which are of importance for the management of land and water resources throughout the country, are far from functioning efficiently. The large-scale production units, coinciding with the former kolkhozi and sovkhozi, still do not use the production factors land and water based on marginal cost considerations but on the basis of pre-determined production objectives. Because the “central planner” is unable to evaluate the social costs of land and water appropriately, these large-scale production units over-exploit the resources and create diseconomies of scale. Inter-generational considerations are not part of economic decision-making.

–  –  –

year needed to stabilize the Aral Sea surface. Whether this goal can be achieved at all is to be seriously doubted and would at best take decades to accomplish. Therefore recent efforts to develop the region have shifted from saving the Aral Sea at all costs to the urgently needed amelioration of the health, wealth and livelihood of the people living in the Aral Sea Basin (“Water related vision for the Aral Sea basin for 2025”, released by UNESCO in 2000). The identification of alternative land and water use strategies that meet this objective provides the motivation and is the challenge of this inter-disciplinary research project proposed by ZEF.

Effective and sustainable land and water use can only be achieved with the economic and administrative reorganization necessary to carry out the required changes in natural resource management. The aim of the present project is to establish a research program that integrates landscape restructuring in the province of Khorezm, with suggestions for an economic and legal-administrative reorganization, in order to seek optimum human and natural resource efficiencies. The province of Khorezm was chosen because it is an area that has received relatively little international attention in the past. Yet the Khorezm region plays a central role in the water budget of the Amu Darya delta, and it is typical of the agricultural production systems in Uzbekistan, being based mainly on cotton production on irrigated land. The central idea of the project is to set aside land for ecological purposes while compensating agricultural production loss through more efficient land and water use, based on the introduction of modern and profitable farming enterprise systems and more efficient institutional and legal designs for resource allocation. The investment to improve the ecological condition of the region should be recovered through the improved quality of water and other health benefits.

During several reconnaissance trips made by ZEF and UNESCO scientists and during a workshop held at ZEF in September 2000, it became clear that in spite of extensive data collections undertaken by Uzbek scientific institutes, the existing databases do not suffice to embark on a pilot project for land restructuring. Data for the region is still widely scattered, unreliable and contradictory, or not easily and publicly available. Therefore, the aim of the present project phase will be to establish, in an “inventory ”, a sound basis for the design of the land restructuring concept.

The program, with a projected lifetime of 10 years, is primarily a research project with research results expected to feed into development projects being planned and implemented by the World Bank, ADB and bi-lateral donors. As part of the technology transfer strategy, a close cooperation with the administration of Khorezm oblast is intended.

For a partnership on scientific and educational exchange we entered into an agreement with the State University of Urgench (SUU) - the main regional institute for higher education based in the capital of Khorezm. The project infrastructure is to be set up in Urgench, largely on the SUU campus, including the GIS and other laboratories that will serve the project. A computerized database will be established based on existing data as well as on data to be elaborated for the specific purposes of the project. Ecological information related to water and land use will be gathered from experimental plots, set up on the university campus or in selected farms/kolkhoses. Information on economic and legal-administrative issues will also be gathered from field research, based on inventories and interviews. The database will provide the basis for the development of a concept for an effective and sustainable restructuring of the landscape in the Khorezm province, and to outline suggestions for the necessary administrative and legal-administrative reorganization. A stakeholder approach will be used for the design of the pilot project after the first phase (inventory) with farmers and government officials participating in the development of the pilot-farm project activities Besides the main cooperative link between ZEF and the SUU, close relations with a university (TIIAME) and several leading research institutes in Tashkent (e.g. an irrigation institute, a forestry research institute, and a soil institute) have been developed. The University of Nukus, which has much experience in regional GIS & remote sensing activities in cooperation with the DLR (German Space Agency) in Germany, will support the regional GIS center in Urgench. Within Germany, the DLR (GIS), the Fraunhofer Institute for Atmospheric Environmental Research (pesticides and salinity), and several institutes at the University of Bonn (remote sensing, irrigation, and health issues) will participate. An important outcome of this research project will be the education of young local and German M. SC. and Ph.D. students. To that end, a close cooperation between ZEF’s Ph.D. program, the State University Urgench, TIIAME and other research institutes in Tashkent has been established. Finally, UNESCO will be a major partner in this project, supporting the capacity building activities and the technical and administrative aspects of the project.

ZEF Bonn: Land- and Water Use in Khorezm 6 2 Project Setting, Structure and the Approach to Interdisciplinarity

2.1 Setting of the Project within the Regional Development Context The present proposal is a re-orientation from (of) the former UNESCO-BMBF Aral Sea Project (“Transform”) and builds on the previous NATO-DLR activities during which a GIS for the Amu Darya delta was developed (Ressl 1999). The Transform project aimed to halt the regional “brain drain” following the collapse of the Soviet Union by providing research funds to scientists working on the Aral Sea problem. The present proposal will not directly address the brain drain issue or the Aral Sea problem. Our approach is rather to provide the ecological, economic and legal-administrative basis for a restructuring of the economic and ecological landscape along the tributaries of the Aral Sea with a strong emphasis on natural resource conservation, human welfare, and human capacity building in the mentioned areas.



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