The impact of climate change on the dynamics of conflicts in the transboundary river basins of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan

Climate change and the deterioration of environmental conditions are having an increasing impact on the socio-economic development of countries around the world, as well as the lives of their communities.

In Central Asia, regional tensions are increasing as a result of water scarcity and degrading land, as well as more intense competition over natural resources. Yet, these issues remain underresearched. The escalation of local crises over falling water levels in rivers and canals and drought in pasture lands in the region in summer 2021 demonstrated that water distribution in river basins was a critical area for study.

This research looks at areas of potential tension related to water distribution and its relationship to climate change and conflict, as well as opportunities and mechanisms for preventing these escalating into violent conflict, in the border areas of three countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The results and recommendations of the study were jointly agreed upon by experts from all three countries, which itself was a significant achievement.

The findings demonstrated unified expert opinion that climate change and environmental factors are one of the key drivers of current and future tensions in Central Asia. Yet, there is a clear lack of consensus about who is most affected by climate change as well as the exact vulnerabilities and tensions in and between conflict-affected communities.

The events of April 2021 showed that water disputes can become a serious threat to the stability of the region and that countries can no longer delay the development of joint decisions/mechanisms on the management of shared resources. The report includes a series of recommendations for the governments of the three countries to strengthen such collaboration, as well as more specific recommendations for each border area.

Read the report here: