The glaciers and snows of the Tian Shan mountains around the valley give birth to the Syr Darya, one of Central Asia’s two major rivers, and turn the valley into a giant hothouse with nearly perfect conditions for farming.

Border areas in nearby Xinjiang, China’s troubled Muslim region, also depend on Tian Shan’s glaciers for water.But between 1961 and 2012, the sky-scraping range whose name means “Heavenly Mountains” in Chinese, has lost 27 percent of its ice mass, the German Research Centre for Geosciences said last year.

The annual loss amounts to up to 5.4 cubic kilometres of water a year, it said.”This means that the glaciers in the Tien Shan lose each year as much water as all the people of Switzerland, including industry” consume in six years, Dr Daniel Farinotti of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research who led the research, told Al Jazeera.

By the 2050s, the loss may amount to half of the glaciers’ ice mass, the research concludes pessimistically. “The situation is of particular concern in light of both the local population growth and the continued glacier shrinkage anticipated in response to climatic changes,” it said.

Source: Are ‘Water Wars’ imminent in Central Asia? – Al Jazeera English