Managing Soil Salinity in the Lower Reaches of the Amudarya Delta: How to Break the Vicious Circle


Akmal Akramkhanov, Mirzakhayot Ibrakhimov, John P. A. Lamers


Akmal Akramkhanov, Mirzakhayot Ibrakhimov, John P. A. Lamers (2010). Case Study #8-7, "Managing Soil Salinity in the Lower Reaches of the Amudarya Delta: How to Break the Vicious Circle". In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), "Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies." 13 pp.


Soil salinity is one of the critical factors responsible for the ongoing land degradation in the irrigated lowlands of Central Asia, including in the lower reaches of the Amudarya Delta. This land degradation hinders sustainable development and presents a major challenge for the area's rural population, whose livelihood security depends on irrigated agriculture. The factors causing soil salinity are multifaceted and interlinked; recent studies and interventions confirm that no one action alone will deliver a sustainable solution. Recommendations for alleviating soil salinity should take into account the complex interactions and can be formulated only once the interlinked factors causing soil salinity are understood. In the past, little attention was paid to creeping land degradation, which has resulted from soil salinization and waterlogging across huge agricultural and even nonagricultural areas.

This case study focuses on the vicious circle of soil salinization: agriculture's consumption of large amounts of water contributes to shallow groundwater, leading to recurring soil salinity, which in turn demands more water for leaching (flushing the salts out of the rooting zone). The situation is exacerbated when water is not available in sufficient amounts in time and in space. The seemingly stable present water flows in the major water source (the Amudarya River) since the major drought in 2000–01 is caused by increased glacier melting in upstream countries. This water supply in turn diverts attention from the strong need for improved irrigation and cropping practices. Efforts aimed at reducing the amounts of irrigation water use face the problem of the "devilish" vicious circle, which has not only technical but also financial and political dimensions.

Your assignment is to present policy options for managing soil salinity in a more sustainable way. Focus on incentives and instruments to solve the artificial water shortage problem.

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