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The Syr Darya River Conflict: An Experimental Case Study

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  • KLAUS ABBINK

    () (School of Economics, University of Nottingham)

  • MOLLER, Lars Christian

    () (School of Economics, University of Nottingham)

  • SARAH O'HARA

    (School of Geography, University of Nottingham)

Abstract

With the disintegration of the USSR a conflict arose between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan over the Syr Darya river. Upstream Kyrgyzstan operates the Toktogul reservoir which generates hydropower demanded mainly in winter for heating. Downstream Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan need irrigation water in summer, primarily to grow cotton. Regional agreements obliging Kyrgyzstan to high summer discharges in exchange for fossil fuel transfers in winter have generally been unsuccessful, notably due to lack of trust between the parties. Striving for self-sufficiency in irrigation water, Uzbekistan initiated new reservoir construction. This paper examines their economic impact. We report a laboratory experiment modelling the Syr Darya river scenario as a multi-round three-player trust game with non-binding contracts. Payoff schemes are estimated using real-life data. While basinwide efficiency maximisation requires regional cooperation, our results demonstrate that cooperation in the laboratory is hard to achieve. Uzbek reservoirs improve the likelihood of cooperation only weakly and their positive economic impact is limited to low-water years.

Suggested Citation

  • KLAUS ABBINK & MOLLER, Lars Christian & SARAH O'HARA, 2005. "The Syr Darya River Conflict: An Experimental Case Study," Discussion Papers 2005-14, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:not:notcdx:2005-14
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Klaus Abbink & Thomas Jayne & Lars Moller, 2011. "The Relevance of a Rules-based Maize Marketing Policy: An Experimental Case Study of Zambia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(2), pages 207-230.
    2. Duke, Charlotte, 2006. "Experimental Economics and Water Policy," 2006 Annual Meeting, August 12-18, 2006, Queensland, Australia 25369, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Karimov, A. & Smakhtin, V. & Mavlonov, A. & Gracheva, I., 2010. "Water 'banking' in Fergana valley aquifers--A solution to water allocation in the Syrdarya river basin?," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 97(10), pages 1461-1468, October.
    4. Meißner, Nathalie, 2013. "The incentives of private companies to invest in protected area certificates: How coalitions can improve ecosystem sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 148-158.
    5. Zaikin, Andrey & Espinola-Arredondo, Ana, 2012. "The Carrot or the Stick: Water Allocation Strategies for Uzbekistan," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124680, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Bunyod Holmatov & Jonathan Lautze & Jusipbek Kazbekov, 2016. "Tributary-level transboundary water law in the Syr Darya: overlooked stories of practical water cooperation," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(6), pages 873-907, December.
    7. Erika Weinthal, 2006. "Water Conflict and Cooperation in Central Asia," Human Development Occasional Papers (1992-2007) HDOCPA-2006-32, Human Development Report Office (HDRO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Central Asia; common-pool resources; conflict; dams; hydropower; irrigation; experimental economics; regional public goods; transboundary rivers; Syr Darya; trust games; water;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East
    • Q25 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Water

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