Hydro-hegemony of the international fund for saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) in Central Asia

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2020-5
Zhanalieva, Samagan
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was predicted that conflicts over water resources would be inevitable in Central Asia. However, very shortly after independence Central Asian states have mobilized and established institutional arrangements including the river basin organization - the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS). While this has certainly been a big step forward, international community often interpreted it as a cooperative arrangement and saw it as one of the core reasons why violent conflicts have not occurred here. It was hoped that IFAS would turn into a regional platform where riparians could come together to solve urgent issues. This also led to the further overemphasis of the role of IFAS as a sign of successful and cooperative solutions for transboundary water conflicts, which fails to look into the role of asymmetric power relations. While the value and potential virtues of RBOs and IFAS are recognized and appreciated, it is also important to be mindful of the role of power and politics in transboundary water management. In the quest for “who gets how much water and how”, more powerful states often utilize different sources of power to sustain more favorable conditions in their control over shared water. Previous studies have demonstrated how institutional arrangements may contribute to structural inequality and result in more inefficient water management, which upon accumulation may further contribute to the escalation of a conflict. Recognizing the relation of power and hegemony, this research utilizes the hydrohegemony concept developed by a group of scholars from the London Water Research Group (LWRG). This framework will be used to analyze the work IFAS. This paper will test the ongoing controversy around the IFAS, according to which upstream Central Asian states see it as a biased tool that serves the interests of downstream hegemons. The main goal is to answer the question of how IFAS has been hegemonized and utilized in the interests of stronger downstream riparians of Central Asia and thereby contributed to the water crisis. The thesis will conduct a qualitative case study based on document analysis, which will look into official documents related to the work of the IFAS including information published on the official website of the IFAS, minutes of meetings, press releases, project reports as well as publications related to the IFAS on the scientific website CA WATER INFO.

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Citation Formats
S. Zhanalieva, “Hydro-hegemony of the international fund for saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) in Central Asia,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2020.