Inland Seas


Water Resources in Southeast Asia

Mikiyasu Nakayama (Utsunomiya U, Japan) and Glantz collaborated on preparing two papers for a project entitled "Linking ENSO and the Mekong Hydrologic Regime." These papers grew out of a USAID-sponsored project to study ENSO impacts in the Mekong River Delta. Knowledge about the effects of mid- and long-term climatic fluctuations in Southeast Asia and in the Mekong River Basin, in particular, is still inadequate. This study aimed both at identifying teleconnections between anomalies in water resources of the Mekong River basin and ENSO events and in disseminating related methodologies for such analyses to promote similar research activities in the Southeast Asia region.

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Caspian, Aral and Dead Seas: Central Eurasian Water Crisis

Under the auspices of the United Nations University (UNU) of Tokyo (Japan), Iwao Kobori (U Tokyo [Retired]) and Glantz completed their collaboration on the editing of and contributions to a multinational book with chapters by several authors from different disciplines on international water crises in Central Asia and the Middle East. This builds upon an earlier UNU work, including the Middle East Water Forum, two international symposia concerned with environmental management of the Aral Sea region, as well as priority areas of research cited in the UN Agenda 21. The project studied regions sharing major international water bodies, with a view toward providing bases for sustainable environmental and political management of these critical resources. The project was designed and implemented in collaboration with the Japan International Development Agency (JICA) and the International Water Resources Association (IWRA), with support from the International Lake Environment Committee (ILEC) and the University of Kyoto, Japan.

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Scientific, Environmental and Political Issues in the Circum-Caspian Region: Russian Edition

The Caspian Sea states (Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Iran) endure problems of climate-related Caspian sea-level rise and various environmental problems related to oil exploration and production, as well as climate variability. The Sea has risen more than two meters since 1977, severely damaging coastal infrastructure, industry, and settlements in each state as well as increasing the release of toxic pollutants into the Sea's waters. The Caspian Sea's level is not stable over the long term and is likely to change, as well, in the future, as it has in the past, in response to regional climatic conditions. These impacts occur within a new political arrangement and an absence of clearly defined, international legal norms and established relationships. Yet, each of the states agrees that reducing the impacts of sea-level change requires a regional approach based on regional cooperation. The Caspian Sea project investigates the societal and environmental impacts of and responses to regional, decadal-scale climate changes manifested through sea level rise and decline, the impacts of sea-level rise on coastal and marine resources and on pollution, as well as prospects for regional cooperation and organization to improve responses in conditions of potential conflict and evolving interstate relations.

Glantz and Igor Zonn (Russian National Committee for UNEP, Moscow) received funding from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to support an Advanced Research Workshop (ARW) on the "Scientific, Environmental, and Political Issues in the Circum-Caspian Region," which was held in Moscow in May 1996 and included participants from the US, Russia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Estonia, Hungary, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Sweden, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan. A book edited by Glantz and Zonn containing the papers presented at the ARW was published in FY98 by Kluwer Academic Press. Also during FY98, the UNEP Water Unit supported translation of this book into the Russian language, thereby providing access to this publication for scientists of the former Soviet Union.

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Lessons from the Rising Caspian

As a follow-up to the NATO-supported work, Glantz and Zonn prepared a popular summary of their work on environmental problems in the Caspian Sea region. The circum-Caspian region is now looming large in the American foreign policy arena due to its untapped oil resources, environmental problems, and sensitive geopolitical location, bordered as it is by several countries in an extremely volatile area. The fluctuations in level of the world's largest inland body of water and the human responses to those fluctuations demonstrate the limitations of prevailing patterns of land exploitation that ignore natural cycles. Glantz and Zonn are continuing their collaborative work on environmental and societal issues concerning the Caspian Sea and the regions surrounding it.

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Creeping Environmental Problems and Sustainable Development in the Aral Sea Basin

Twelve key environmental changes in the Aral Sea Basin were identified for assessment in terms of the thresholds of creeping environmental problems associated with them. Each member of a team of 12 Russian, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Kazak experts focused on one of these changes. The project was developed in FY95 for UNEP, with Glantz as principal investigator and coordinator. With some support from UNEP's Water Unit, Glantz was able to initiate the development of a theoretical framework to identify thresholds of problem awareness, crisis, and policy action for their respective problems. The overriding purpose was to identify measures to ensure that societal responses to creeping environmental problems would be more timely, and in order to avoid the emergency of more devastating and costly crises later. The heavily edited manuscript was completed and delivered to Cambridge U Press for publication in FY99. (Ordering information.)

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Does the Aral Sea Merit Heritage Status?

Glantz and Robert Figueroa (U Colorado-Boulder) collaborated on this manuscript, which relates Aral Sea degradation to world heritage issues. In 1972, the UN developed the World Heritage Convention, in recognition of the need to protect valuable cultural and natural sites of global importance. Although the Aral Sea has not yet been proposed by any of the Central Asian states as a world heritage site, it meets many of the criteria designated by the Convention. This paper shows the potential for using world heritage processes to strengthen international drives for a more sustainable approach to the resolution of environmental and cultural problems. It was published in the December 1997 issue of Global Environmental Change. Since then, it has been translated into and published in Russian by UNEPCOM and has also been translated into the Karakalpak language of Central Asia, since the Karakalpak people (who live in Uzbekistan) are the most adversely affected by the Aral Sea crisis.

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