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Roundtable to discuss the regional water policy

A roundtable was held in Almaty, November 1, 2005, within the framework of the ADB Project “Improvement of shared water resources management in Central Asia”.

The participants of the roundtable - the ICWC members, representatives from national water, power, environmental and foreign policy agencies and regional organizations of Central Asia – are unanimous in strengthening and developing the regional cooperation in water resources. With a view to reach a consensus in principal issues of the regional water policy, the participants will make efforts to involve all the stakeholders including international donors in discussing urgent problems of the water-management system in Central Asia.

In this connection, the participants note with satisfaction the efforts made by the ADB that is the consecutive promoter of the idea to strengthen water cooperation in the region, and consider it is expedient for Central Asian states to actively participate in the ADB RETA 6163 Project within the work program for 2005-2006 proposed by the ADB.

Taking into account the results of discussing regional water policy problems, the participants completely agree upon he proposed ADB program and ask to prolong the RETA 6163 Project up to September 30, 2006 and amend the program and schedule of project activities wit account of proposed amendments.

The participants consider that in discussing the issues concerning improvement of water policy for the Syrdarya river basin it is necessary to take into account experience and lessons learnt while implementing Component A (“Improvement of transboundary water resources management in pilot plots (Chui, Talas)”) of the RETA 6163 Project, in particular the main component result “Functioning of the Chui-Talas joint rivers commission (CTJRC)”. Thus, under the component, a Joint Technical Secretariat and four working groups were established and are successively functioning with the support of the ADB. At present, the issue of financing the Secretariat owing to budgetary funds of the Kazakh and Kyrgyz parties is being developed.

To effectively discuss the regional water policy, it was recognized that it is necessary to establish five continuing National Working Groups (NWG) composed of representatives from national water, power, environmental and foreign-policy agencies in each Central Asian state, and a Regional Working Group (RWG) consisting of representatives of the ICWC members, BWO “Amudarya”, BWO “Syrdarya”, Control Center “Energy” and SIC ICWC.

Inter-agency NWGs were founded in 2004, and a RWG was established according to the decision of the ICWC made at its 40th meeting (Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyz Republic, August 19, 2004).

As regards the membership of rthe NWGs and RWG, the participants noted that:

  • the membership of the NWGs for Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic does not include representatives from environmental agencies, the membership of NWGs for Tajikistan does not include representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
  • the membership of the RWG does not include representatives from regional power agency, Control Center “Energy”.

In this connection, by the next work meeting for discussing the regional water policy to be held with the support of the ADB in December 2005, the participants of the meeting appeal to the ICWC members from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to approve the old membership or offer new membership for inter-agency NWGs, as well as to the ICWC members from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to form NWGs on an inter-agency basis. At the same time, it was noted that iti is expedient to include representatives from EC IFAS, Control Center “Energy” and BWO “Amudarya” in the membership of the RWG.

Based on the results of the discussions, the SIC ICWC was commissioned to develop a detailed operation plan in agreement with the ADB, and the NWGs and RWGs – to organize work under the RETA 6163 Project in accordance with this plan to be submitted to the ICWC members for approval in early December 2005.

The participants set a principal priority under the RETA 6163 Project as to reach a consensus between the basin states in prepared drafts of interstate Agreements to be improved in further as follow:

  • Agreement on use of water-power resources in the Syrdarya river basin, 1998;
  • Agreement on strengthening organizational structure for transboundary water management, protection and development in the Aral Sea basin;
  • Agreement on establishment and functioning of national, basin and regional databases on integrated water resources use and protection in the Aral Sea basin.

At the same time, the speakers emphasized the need for thorough work on a draft Agreement on Transboundary Watercourses Protection, Rules for Control over their Quality, and Providing Environmental Sustainability in the Region”.

The mentioned activity for improving the drafts of interstate agreements and reaching a consensus between the basin states will be carried out by the NWGs and RWG with the financial support of the ADB under the RETA 6163 Project in the period from January to August 2006.

The participants noted the necessity to intensify training activity in the field of building capacity and strengthening regional water cooperation under the ADB project. In view of that, the participants seconded a training program and themes proposed by the ADB for December 2005 – August 2006. The list of participants in trainings will be determined by the ICWC members by December 2005.

Taking into account the high performance of the SCADA management system introduced by BWO “Syrdarya” in association with SIC ICWC, SDC and USAID within Fergana Valley, the meeting backed up the appeal of BWO “Syrdarya” to the ADB for considering further financial support to automation of the remaining headworks along the Syrdarya river course.

The need for concerted actions to develop the water management system in the region, especially in the Amudarya and Syrdarya river basins, is rising due to the development of new irrigable lands in Afghanistan and involvement of multilateral donors and third parties in water resources development in the region.

The participants in the roundtable stated that in the years of independency the attention of international donors was mainly focused on problems of regional water cooperation in the Syrdarya river basin. At the same time, the Amudarya river basin is, owing to the existing potential threats, a more complicated unit of interstate management for these reasons: (i) low controllability and large losses of flows in the river channel, (ii) relatively difficult socio-economic conditions in lowlands (Dashoguz province in Turkmenistan, Khorezm province and Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan), (iii) presence of large water bodies and waterworks facilities of transboundary nature (Karshi main canal and Amu-Bukhara water-lift canal, Tuyamuyun waterworks, interstate collectors, in particular Aral, etc.), (iv) detrimental effect to and deterioration in the condition of ecosystems in flow formation zone.

The mentioned causes the need for close regional cooperation between all the states in the Amudarya river basin. In this context, the involvement of Afghanistan in regional management of transboundary water resources seems to be a very far-sighted step. One of practical actions to implement the idea can be to extend the coverage area of the RETA 6163 Project through inclusion of the Amudarya river basin in it that would enable to solve the problems of transboundary water cooperation, in terms of individual systems and the region as a whole.

In view of the expediency of extending the coverage area of the RETA 6163 Project to the Amudarya river basin, the participants in the roundtable would like to ask the ADB to positively solve this issue. As regards involvement of Afghanistan, it seems possible to initially hold training seminar on IWRM in Tashkent in December 2005, inviting representatives from Afghanistan and additionally funding them by the ADB.

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