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Water Scarcity and Allocation in the Tarim Basin: Decision Structures and Adaptations on the Local Level


  • Niels Thevs



The Tarim River is the major water source for all kinds of human activities and for the natural ecosystems in the Tarim Basin, Xinjiang, China. The major water consumer is irrigation agriculture, mainly cotton. As the area under irrigation has been increasing ever since the 1950s, the lower and middle reaches of the Tarim are suffering from a water shortage. Within the framework of the Water Law and two World Bank projects, the Tarim River Basin Water Resource Commission was founded in 1997 in order to foster integrated water resource management along the Tarim River. Water quotas were fixed for the water utilization along the upstream and downstream river stretches. Furthermore, along each river stretch, quotas were set for water withdrawal by agriculture and industry and the amount of water to remain for the natural ecosystems (environmental flow). Furthermore, huge investments were undertaken in order to increase irrigation effectiveness and restore the lower reaches of the Tarim River. Still, a regular water supply for water consumers along the Tarim River cannot be ensured. This paper thus introduces the hydrology of the Tarim River and its impacts on land use and natural ecosystems along its banks. The water administration in the Tarim Basin and the water allocation plan are elaborated upon, and the current water supply situation is discussed. Finally, the adaptations made due to issues of water allocation and water scarcity on the farm level are investigated and discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Niels Thevs, 2011. "Water Scarcity and Allocation in the Tarim Basin: Decision Structures and Adaptations on the Local Level," Journal of Current Chinese Affairs - China aktuell, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 40(3), pages 113-137.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:chaktu:v:40:y:2011:i:3:p:113-137

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gørild Heggelund & Ellen Backer, 2007. "China and UN environmental policy: institutional growth, learning and implementation," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 7(4), pages 415-438, December.
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    1. repec:eee:agiwat:v:187:y:2017:i:c:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Feike, Til & Henseler, Martin, 2017. "Multiple Policy Instruments for Sustainable Water Management in Crop Production - A Modeling Study for the Chinese Aksu-Tarim Region," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 42-54.
    3. Kusi Appiah, Michael & Feike, Til & Wiredu, Alexander Nimo & Mamitimin, Yusanjan, 0. "Cotton Production, Land Use Change and Resource Competition in the Aksu-Tarim River Basin, Xinjiang, China," Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, vol. 53.
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2017:i:1:p:35-:d:124205 is not listed on IDEAS

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    China; Xinjiang; water resources; land use;


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