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

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Phase 3: Implementation The results from phase 2 will be compiled into jointly crafted reports and presented in an adequate manner addressing different target groups (e.g., scientists will be approached by the means of an international scientific congress; policy-makers will be presented with reports and asked to participate in hearings, and stake-holders will be offered training and extension services). The modified land use systems will be studied for another 3 years in order to detect flaws and allow for adjustments. The project will identify some development schemes to be supported by multi-lateral or bi-lateral donor agencies where the principle tenets of the project can be implemented on a larger scale, and work with these agencies in transferring the technology developed in the project. Expected duration: 3 years (2007-2009).

ZEF Bonn: Land- and Water Use in Khorezm 10 3 State of the Art and Research Questions

3.1 Overview The goal of this project is to establish the basis needed for the demonstration of an effective and sustainable restructuring of the landscape in the district of Khorezm, and to outline suggestions for the necessary administrative and legal-administrative re-organization. In the following chapters, the scientific tasks lying ahead are outlined on the basis of our findings and the literature. Background information is given in Chapter 3, State of the Art.

We will first discuss the actual situation of the Aral Sea basin (Figure 2), characterized by the predominance of cotton in agriculture, which has led to the drastic increase of irrigated land in the last century, with the ensuing problems of water waste and shortage, desertification, land and soil degradation and salinization, and environmental degradation. We will then outline the development policy. Based on this analysis, we will identify the technical

questions to be addressed in this project, namely, the improvement of the agricultural production systems (Module A:

the introduction of protective forest stands and shelterbelts, the introduction of water-saving and soil-protecting cropping systems, and the diversification of the agricultural production system with aquaculture), an improvement of natural resource use (Module B: mainly irrigation water and soil), and studies on the situation of environmental pollution (Module C: salts, dusts and pesticides in soil, water, and air). Besides field studies, the GIS and remote sensing activities (Module D) serve to inventory the natural resource base, but will also help to access the vast data base that will be established.

A solely technical approach to development problems without addressing economic, socio-cultural and legaladministrative questions has produced major setbacks in past international development efforts and may also be a reason for the slow progress made in the Aral Sea Basin. The present proposal, therefore, sets out from the start to evaluate the past and present economic conditions that shape the actual environmental situation in the Aral Sea basin (Modules E, F, and G). A similar effort will be made to address the inconsistencies in administrative regulations and obstacles to their implementation that actually impede durable improvements (Modules H, I, and K).

3.2 The Aral Sea Crisis

The shrinking of the Aral Sea surface - as the most visible and best-known sign of the Aral Sea Crisis - has become a symbol for large-scale man-made social and ecological disasters. Desertification is progressing in this area, with highly unfavorable environmental and socio-economic consequences. In the course of the past 40 years the Aral, formerly the world’s fourth largest inland water body with a size of some 68.000 km2 in 1960 (Micklin & Williams 1996; Ivanov et al. 1996; Table 2) has lost a dramatic 80% of its original water volume and 60% of its surface area (DLR homepage).

In 1992, the UN declared the Aral Sea region as a world “ecological disaster area”. The “Aral Sea Syndrome” has been coined by the WBGU in 1997; the Aral being a typical example for environmental damage as a result of poorly managed or unsuccessful large-scale projects. Glantz (1998) has defined the Aral Sea problem as a typical example of a “creeping environmental problem” (CEP), i.e. a slow-onset, low-grade, long-term, cumulative environmental change, that evolves slowly, almost imperceptibly, which makes the perception and the onset of counterbalancing action especially difficult (“...the demise of the Aral Sea has become acknowledged as one of the major examples of human-induced environmental degradation in the twentieth century”).

This catastrophic environmental situation has been brought about by a gigantic irrigation system set up by the former USSR to cultivate monocultures- mainly cotton- and by a disregard for environmental protection needs and the extent of desertification in the sub region. Irrigation has been a traditional feature of agriculture in the Aral Basin, but water withdrawals from the inflowing rivers remained at fairly low levels until the 1960s. The water level and salinity level of the lake remained relatively stable. Then, the irrigated area in Central Asia was increased from 4.5 million ha in 1960 to about 7.0 million ha in 1980 (FAO 1997). It has attained 7.9 million ha in the year 2000 (Matyakubov 2000) and will be further increased. The Government of Kyrgyzstan alone is planning to almost double the present irrigation area to 2.5 million ha (Duyunov 1996); in Turkmenistan there are more than 5 million hectares ZEF Bonn: Land- and Water Use in Khorezm 11 of fertile virgin lands considered as suitable for ploughing (Kirsta 1988); and in the region of Khorezm, about 5000 ha are annually added to the irrigated land (Chapter Irrigation; cf. also Figure 3). It is likely that the water demand in Afghanistan and Tajikistan will also increase after a stabilization of the political situation in these countries. These trends will persist because the population in the area is expected to grow from 55 million people now to 72 million in 2025 (WRI 1998).

Without intervention the Aral Sea will drastically decrease in size over the next 15 years (Table 2), and the level of salinity, now at about 46 g l-1 (DLR homepage), will be about 100g l-1, comparable to that of the Dead Sea in Israel.

In 25 years, only some scattered water bodies will remain of the Aral Sea (GEF- Documentation 1998).

The shrinking of the Aral Sea has several drastic consequences for the environment and for the local population (BMBF-funded UNESCO Aral Sea Project, Final reports 1998, Report 2000 b; UNESCO 2000 a; GTZ 2000, Schlüter 1999; IMF- report 1998, EBRD-report 1997, World Bank project documentations 1996, 1998, Libert 1995, Kobori & Glantz 1998; Ressl 1999; Bos 1996; Giese 1998, Micklin 1991, 1998, Micklin & Williams 1996, Létolle &

Mainguet 1996; O´Hara et al. 2000, Breckle et al. 2000):

• The dry Aral Sea bed has turned into a 3 million ha area of sandy-loamy sand and salt desert (Aralkum).

This has become the chief source for salt drifts and deposits in the region.

• Strong winds or storms (300 out of 365 days) bring sand and salt particles to the Aral Sea basin. Air pollution with annually 100-140 million t dust containing salt and pesticides leads to respiratory and dermatological problems. Anaemic symptoms are shown by 71.5% of fertile women in Khorezm (Eshchanov & Bisalyev 1999). The percentage of health-affected children, over 72%, is also alarming (Karimov et al. 1999). Cases of acute respiratory infections, diarrhea diseases, and tuberculosis abound (MSF homepage).

• More than 30 large salt-dust clouds up to 450 km in diameter were discovered in the Aral basin by satellite photographs in 1975. The impact of salt fallout on agricultural production, however, has to be assessed against a high background level of water borne salinity.

• The whole of Central Asia suffers from erosion of biodiversity. Water resources are wasted through seepage and evaporation, the soils have become halomorphic and the rivers salty, and the rate of salinization and chemical pollution of watercourses in irrigated land is very high. More than 60% of the irrigated areas in Central Asia are salt-affected and have a groundwater level which is above the critical limit of 2 m. Nearly 50% of the salts in soils under these conditions originate from shallow groundwater levels.

• The desiccation of the Aral Sea has led to noticeable changes in the climatic conditions of adjacent areas.

The Amu Darya delta belongs to the continental (C2) of the arid climate type in the classification by Lauer & Frankenberg (1988). Due to the shrinking of the Aral Sea the average temperature in July in Muynak increased from 25.7 °C to 28.3 °C between 1960 and 1985 (Muturatov 1989), and the frost-free period shortened to 170 days in the delta area (Kotlyakov 1991). Nowadays, the first frost sets in 10-12 days earlier compared to the situation before 1960. In the past, the Aral Sea was considered a regulator mitigating cold winds from Siberia and reducing the summer heat. However, it is not sufficiently clear how the changes in the regional climate affect the middle stretch of the Amu Darya River, where the Khorezm is located.

• Large areas of fertile land have been excluded from agricultural use, and now are covered with a thin crust of salt. In the coastal zone, the climatic and hydro geological conditions have deteriorated, and the ecosystems of the deltas formed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers have been destroyed.

• The formerly very strong fishery industry has virtually disappeared: In 1960, a total of 43.340 metric tons of fish were caught in the sea, compared to 17.400 t in 1970, and no fish production at all since 1980. The view of fish trawlers lying in the sand has become a well-known visual metaphor of the Aral Sea catastrophe. The situation is aggravated by the poverty generated by the economic transformation process (Bauer et al. 1997, 1998).

• The difficulties in the supply of good quality drinking water will increase. Most people in Khorezm draw their drinking water from wells equipped with hand-pumps, sources that produce water with a very high salt content and a poor bacteriological profile. To improve the health situation in the Basin as a whole, water supply will be one of the major factors, because over 40% of the drinking water does not correspond to the sanitary and bacteriological standards (Karimov et al. 1999).

ZEF Bonn: Land- and Water Use in Khorezm 12 Several million rural inhabitants depend on irrigated land today. The primary goal of any development effort must be the improved livelihood of the inhabitants that suffer under the status quo. In the following, we discuss the possibilities for improvement in each of the problem areas outlined above, ending up with specific research questions in every field and topic.

The project will focus on one region to exemplify the problems of the Aral Sea basin. Project activities will be set up in Khorezm, a region located in the Amu Darya delta. The delta, which covers 28.000 km2, is located south of the Lake of Aral. Khorezm province, with the capital of Urgench, is located at the lower Amu Darya River and comprises an area of 455.000 ha, of which 173.000 are irrigated. Khorezm province is one of the areas most intensively used for agriculture. The Khorezm oasis is geographically located between 60o- 61o longitude and 41o-42o latitude, at 113-138 m above sea level. The border to the Northeast is formed by the Amu Darya, to the South and Southeast by the Karakum desert (meaning “black sands”), to the East by the desert Kyzylkum (“red sands”), to the West by the alluvial plain at the Tashauz oblast of the Republic of Turkmenistan and to the North by the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan that belongs to Uzbekistan. Agriculture around the Khorezm Oasis has been practiced for thousands of years. The surrounding deserts provide new land for irrigation. The Kyzylkum alone has a potential of 1.5 million ha that can be transformed into irrigated agricultural land (Khamraev et al. 1993). In 1993, the population density was 180 inhabitants/ km2 (Akhmedov & Saidaminova 1995).

The deliberate regional restriction in this project will facilitate a comprehensive description of the agronomic, environmental and socio-economic setting. It is understood that conditions in other areas may deviate to some extent, but similarities within the Aral Sea basin are large enough for being able to draw universally valid conclusions from the project findings.

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