Water Governance in Central Asia: A Luhmannian Perspective

Nodir Djanibekov*, Kristof Van Assche, Vladislav Valentinov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


We develop a social systems theory perspective on Central Asian post-Socialist transition, placing particular emphasis on the coordination problems in transboundary water governance. The extensive Soviet water-energy infrastructure around the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers required coordination, but this could no longer be politically secured after the 1991 Soviet disintegration. According to the social systems theory of Niklas Luhmann, coordination problems are generally endemic to any modern regime of functional differentiation. We show that each Central Asia state had to tackle substantial internal adaptation problems, which were rendered even more formidable by the need for transboundary coordination. We further demonstrate how the new riparian states offer a complex picture of several forms of differentiation, where functional differentiation is in some ways reinforced by the new national boundaries and the collapse of Soviet planning. We identify possible sources of flexibility, opening up avenues toward adaptation and enhanced coordination across boundaries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)822-835
JournalSociety & Natural Resources
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Differentiation
  • empirical boundary
  • social systems theory
  • sustainability
  • transboundary water governance

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