International Water Law in Central Asia

This article discusses context-specific contemporary transboundary water issues and analyses the role of international law in addressing such issues. It offers an overview of transboundary water problems in the Aral Sea Basin of Central Asia and identifies treaty laws applicable to the basin’s shared waters.


Using the UNECE Geneva Strategy, a framework is set out to analyze whether existing water- related treaties at the sub-regional, regional and global levels contain the essential elements for a successful compliance arrangement, such as baseline provisions, compliance review procedure and an institutional mechanism. This framework is then examined to ascertain the main substantive and procedural rules of the relevant treaties and their compliance provisions. Finally, critical studies on compliance are reviewed in an attempt to understand more fully the role of international water law in Central Asia.


The paper argues that effective management of Central Asian transboundary waters, having requisite laws, ensuring compliance with treaty commitments, a better understanding of compliance mechanisms and promotion of consistent research on truly operative legal framework for transboundary water cooperation in Central Asia are critical in improving transboundary water management in the region.

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