Is it too late to save Central Asia? The crisis is already here
Author: Dr. Eric Rudenshiold
Dec 13, 2023
One-third of Central Asia’s glaciers have melted, as the region’s air temperatures are increasing at twice the global average. Water supply in the region has decreased by more than four times compared to the 1960s. "Soil degradation, regular dust and sand storms, drinking water shortages, air pollution, reductions in biodiversity, sharp declines in [agricultural] yields, and much more negatively affect the quality of life for millions of the region’s inhabitants," Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev told COP 28 participants.
While the leaders of all five countries are for the first time working together in discussing water and other formerly taboo-to-discuss challenges, this critical cooperation has been slow in coming. Absent Russia’s attention while it is at war with Ukraine, the Central Asian Republics have discovered benefits in cooperation with each other and in presenting a more unified front to the world, particularly on environmental issues. However, this intensified collaboration must actively confront and address a significantly deteriorating environment across the entire region. Water, weather, energy, food, population, and conflicts are interrelated challenges; each is also an independent threat to Central Asia’s long-term future. Large parts of Central Asia could become increasingly untenable to sustain human habitation.