Water issues play a crucial role in Central-South Asia, both in the quantity of water available and its quality. Access to clean drinking water is a major, though largely unmet, objective. While much of the region is experiencing water shortages, poor water management lies at the heart of many problems. Climate change — in the form of glacier melt, drought, rising temperatures, and changes to the monsoon cycle — will increasingly exacerbate water scarcity. Although the region’s water challenges do not necessarily or inevitably lead to armed conflict, they increasingly threaten to undermine human security. Cooperation will be critical for the region to meet its water challenges in the years and decades ahead.
Inefficient water use plagues Central Asian agriculture and water use in the region is several times higher than in countries like Spain, Turkey or Egypt. Hydropower projects conflict with irrigation needs which, in the absence of regional agreements, could lead to transborder disputes.
Millions of Afghans are food insecure and these desperate conditions have triggered local-level conflicts over land and water. In Pakistan, a combination of rising temperatures and population growth could reduce water availability to a critically low level by 2020. Water pollution is a leading cause of death in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Solutions must address efficient water use and international funding is urgently needed to improve agricultural production. Existing institutions can contribute to seeking solutions and promoting regional cooperation, especially if they engage with civil society.