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The consequences of climate change on the water resources of the transboundary river Kozu-Baglan of the Fergana Valley: the relationship of anthropogenic and natural impacts

The consequences of climate change on the water resources of the transboundary river Kozu-Baglan of the Fergana Valley: the relationship of anthropogenic and natural impacts

April 22, 2024

#anthrolopogy

The consequences of climate change on the water resources of the transboundary river Kozu-Baglan of the Fergana Valley: the relationship of anthropogenic and natural impacts written by Akylbek Abdurakhmanov

Akylbek Abdurakhmanov is one of the distinguished second-year MA students in the Anthropology and International Development Program. As a practitioner in the international development sector, he aligned his thesis topic with the development work he does in the country, particularly with a focus on climate change-driven changes and socio-cultural adaptations.

How did you come to choose your research topic?

My choice of research topic was influenced by the pressing issue of climate change and its effects on the water resources of the transboundary river Kozu-Baglan in the Fergana Valley. The region includes parts of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, making it a pertinent area to study due to its vulnerability to the impacts of climate change on water resources and the relationship between communities along the border river. My goal was to examine the effects of climate change on water resources, cultural practices, social dynamics, and livelihoods in these communities. Moreover, I was interested in how locals perceive climate change and how they make sense of and engage with the climate-driven changes in their daily lives. Experts on this topic in the Fergana Valley write many scholarly articles and reports. However, very few scientific studies have been conducted from an anthropological perspective.

Can you describe your research questions?

In my study, I was mainly interested in understanding the implications of climate change on water resources and the social and cultural practices of communities living along the transboundary Kozu Baglan River in the Fergana Valley. I aimed to understand how local communities make sense of these changes and how they adapt their cultural and social practices.听听

What was your methodology?

I am a practitioner in the development sector and have had a long experience working with local communities in the areas of my study; thus, access to my interlocutors was relatively easy. I applied qualitative research design and used semi-structured in-depth interviews along with observations.听 I interviewed local community members along the Kozu Baglan River, including Ayil Aimak Beshkent Ayil Aimak Kulundu in Kyrgyzstan and Ovchikalacha in Tajikistan. Understanding people鈥檚 perspectives, along with scholarly and policy papers, was valuable. In analyzing my findings, Latour鈥檚 鈥楢ctor-Network Theory,鈥 which I used as a theoretical framework, helped me to understand how not just humans but nature equally transforms human lives and perceptions, forcing them to use not just modern solutions but also combining it with religious and traditional meanings and practices.

Before entering the field, I participated in a two-week study program at Central European University. This was an excellent opportunity for me to gain theoretical knowledge and skills on 鈥榯raditional knowledge鈥 and how local perceptions of climate change matter in achieving a more holistic view in understanding and designing possible solutions. The perspectives of students and professors from South Africa, Canada, Lebanon, and Kyrgyzstan enriched the program.听

What are your significant findings?

Of course, today, no one can deny climate change-driven changes and their implications for the environment and our daily lives, especially in the context of potential conflict zones such as my field area. We can observe land degradation, lack of water resources, and shifting river behaviors, which are significant means of livelihood in these regions, as many people engage in agriculture and cattle breeding. More competing and tension-based social relations seem to emerge as people feel insecure about their and their children's futures. At the same time, their daily lives are not limited by fear of the future; instead, they are adapting to changes meaningfully. My interlocutors realize they can鈥檛 increase their livestock endlessly or rely on rain for irrigation. Thus, they must use pastures more consciously and apply available water-saving technologies. As practitioners in the development sector, we are trying to engage with them in meaningful ways in this direction. What was also interesting for me to understand during this research was how local people connected climate change with people鈥檚 greed, lack of generosity, and the disrespectful, ungrateful treatment of life, water, land, and everything nature and God give them. Here, they referred to religious (mainly from Islam) and cultural epistemologies as an orientation of knowledge, emphasizing that people must change. The stories and practices they shared with me also indicated that they recognized some form of 鈥榓gency鈥 in nature as if climate change is nature鈥檚 way of responding to them and their relationship to it. As a development practitioner, I found this insight from the local community exciting. I believe integrating such insights and community-driven solutions to development schemes could address climate change-driven complex issues more holistically. Still, of course, more thorough methodological work would be needed.听



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