Central Asia is the cluster of countries located in the basin of the "Great Aral Sea". It originates from the ancient civilizations of the IV-III millennium B.C. known as "Ariana" and is an important geopolitical centre today, where the USA, Russia, China, EU, Iran and India participate in the regional water game. The Aral Sea Basin has always been a subject of interest to outside powers as a target of travel or political blame. At the same time it was a source of prosperity and a place of work, love, history and strong cultural traditions for almost 100 million people.
At present the Aral Sea Basin is shared by independent states with different interests but at the same time in need of close collaboration for their survival. Much has been written about this region but few writers have discovered the deeper roots of the historical transformations that have caused the present situation of environmental degradation. The extremely arid character of the region is a cause of very sensitive natural and social conditions; a very fragile balance that is easily disturbed by any important impact from the outside or innovations from the inside. Only a thorough analysis of both the positive ambitions of the region and their possible negative consequences can provide the necessary understanding of why important development initiatives of the recent past have always produced the negative consequences as they did.
The authors have a long experience in water management in Central Asia and have collaborated for years. They have used a wide range of historical, scientific and practical references and many actual data they have gathered as a result of their years of work. Victor A. Dukhovny (Uzbekistan) has many years of experience with water in Central Asia and is one of the leading specialists in the development of complex water management and irrigation systems. He was involved with the rehabilitation program of the Hunger and the Karshi Steppe and of the Karakum Canal. At present, he leads the future water development policies plan for the region. Prof. Dukhovny is the director of the Scientific Information Centre of the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination of Central Asia in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Joop de Schutter (The Netherlands) has dealt with water development projects in the region and was involved with the integrated management schemes for the Amudarya and Syrdarya deltas as part of the regional Aral Sea Basin management model. He also led the implementation of the Sudoche Wetlands Restoration project. At present, he is the deputy director of the UNESCO-IHE International Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands.