A new strategy for merging the environmental and commerce challenges of the Caspian

Nathan Hutson a , Jahan Taganova b,c,d*

a University of North Texas, Suite 204, 410 S. Avenue C. Denton, TX 76201, United States
b Oregon State University, 1500 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331 541-737-1000, United States
c IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Westvest 7, 2611 AX Delft, Netherlands
d UN Mandated University for Peace, Calle U. Paz , El Rodeo de Mora , San José , Costa Rica

*Corresponding author e-mail: jahan.b.taganova@gmail.com

Nathan Hutson: nathan.hutson@unt.edu



Recent geopolitical events have thrust the Caspian region into a time of unparalleled opportunity. Specifically, the Middle Corridor (“MC”) has been presented as a potential savior for trans-Eurasian commerce. At the same time, its success relies on a sea that is in an ecologically precarious state. Saving the Caspian for all future uses, including trade, will require unprecedented engagement and coordination amongst all its bordering states. This paper proposes a strategy for using the newfound focus on the MC to highlight its inherent connection to the Sea’s ecological precarity – thereby linking strategies of developing Trans-Caspian commerce with the efforts to preserve the Sea’s ecology against both existing and emerging threats. The paper begins by summarizing recent geopolitical developments connected to the MC that have accentuated the Caspian’s global importance for commerce. It then explores a related challenge – the simultaneous efforts of several littoral states to pursue desalination of Caspian seawater at a time when the Sea’s level is already declining from pre-existing causes. While these are two separate issues, we argue that they are, in fact, interrelated and that the coordination and governance challenges for improving commerce are very similar to those necessary for regulating desalination. Next, we analyze the challenge of regulating desalination in the context of water geopolitics and the unique features of the current Caspian Treaty. Finally, we review the language of the existing Caspian Treaty to identify areas where enhancements are necessary to better reflect both emerging challenges.

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For citation: Hutson, N., Taganova, J. (2023). A New Strategy for Merging the Environmental and Commerce Challenges of the Caspian. Central Asian Journal of Water Research,  9(2), 76-102. https://doi.org/10.29258/CAJWR/2023-R1.v9-2/76-102.eng


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Caspian Sea, Central Asia, desalination, environmental problems, water governance

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