"This is the deteriorating world"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 9 07:02:24 MST 2002

NY Times, Dec. 9, 2002

Grand Soviet Scheme for Sharing Water in Central Asia Is Foundering

NUKUS, Uzbekistan — Forty years ago, when Uzbekistan was part of the
Soviet Union, the Kremlin ordained a colossal task: to turn this
heat-puckered land and four of its neighbors, a swath of desert and
scrub as big as Western Europe, into an irrigated cotton plantation.

Improbably, it succeeded.

 From the mountainous Chinese border to the Caspian Sea, the Soviet
Union remade the two grand rivers of Central Asia, building 20,000 miles
of canals, 45 dams and more than 80 reservoirs. The government turned
sand and dust into one of the world's great cotton-growing regions.

But the Soviet Union is long dead. And here in western Uzbekistan and in
areas of its four neighbors, one of socialism's most grandiose schemes
is being sundered by capitalism, nationalism and a legacy of waste.

Without a bigger supply of water — or better use of it — an economic and
social crisis seems to be awaiting the region of 58 million people,
already racked by Islamic insurgencies and tamed by oppressive rule.

On a dusty plain outside this regional capital, one farmer, Yerken
Kharpov, unshaven and lean in blue nylon track pants, looked out at the
80 acres of state-owned farmland that he tends, and tallied the misery.
In 2000, his entire crop died for lack of water. In 2001, again lacking
water, he grew but 10 acres of cotton. This spring, he tried again, with
15 acres of cotton and sunflowers.

Mr. Kharpov could give up, as he did three years ago, when he was a
28-year-old millworker, but without water, it is much harder to start
fresh. "There are no other jobs," he said. "Where would I go?"

Mr. Kharpov's question is Central Asia's. "We talk about the developing
world and the developed world," said Sarah O'Hara, a geographer at the
University of Nottingham, England, who has studied the water problems
here. "This is the deteriorating world."

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/09/international/asia/09ARAL.html


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