Running Dry: International Law and the Management of Aral Sea Depletion

Central Asian Survey

Author/s (editor/s):

Joseph MacKay

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Joseph MacKay, ‘Running Dry: International Law and the Management of Aral Sea Depletion’, Central Asian Survey, 28(1) 2009: 17‒27.

The Aral Sea disaster is the result of Soviet-era irrigation policy. The collapse of the Soviet Union left the issue under the purview of international law. This essay addresses how this shift has affected attempts to slow or reverse the sea’s depletion. Treaties on the non-navigation use of international watercourses and on the prevention of desertification have had little effect. While a number of regional instruments and arrangements have been brought to bear, they have also done little to reverse damage to the sea. Finally, attempts to regulate the issue through domestic law, as evidenced in the case of Kyrgyzstan, have done little as well. While some progress has recently been made under the auspices of the World Bank, it is not a result of international law. The conclusion is that the shift from domestic to international law has little improved the situation, and may have made matters worse.

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