Multilateral diplomacy to solve water and energy problems in central asia

Abstract. Attempts to solve water and energy problems between the countries of Central Asia have been repeatedly made over the years. Back in 1997, the Interstate Council of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan decided, and the Council of Prime Ministers of these countries approved, the Regulations on the International Water and Energy Consortium of March 17, 1998. Further work was continued within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC). The main reason for past failures in this direction is that initially the developers were tasked with preparing and signing an Agreement on the establishment of a water and energy consortium without carrying out preparatory work justifying all sides of its activities.

The Central Asian countries, not finding common ground on regional water and energy issues, started to solve them from the point of view of purely national interests. In the absence of alternative energy sources to meet their own needs, the upstream countries have increased electricity generation in the winter. This led to flooding in the middle and lower parts of the river, which caused significant damage; and accordingly forced others to build fortifications and other structures there. Subsequently, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have taken measures to increase the water storage capacity.

As a result of all these measures, the water situation has changed significantly in contrast to 2000. Meanwhile, all reservoirs of the Syrdarya basin are seasonally regulated. Only the Toktogul reservoir has the possibility of long-term regulation. In the case of low-water period, one of the main factors determining the degree of water supply will be flow augmentations from the Toktogul reservoir. Thus, there is no alternative source of water supply. The issue of the Syrdarya river basin regime should be solved jointly, including through water and energy cooperation.

The need to develop water and energy cooperation was discussed at the highest political level.

Thus, at the IFAS Summit held in August 2018 in Turkmenbashi, the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed the importance of returning to the issue of creating an International Water and Energy Consortium of Central Asia. President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Sooronbay Jeenbekov, proposed to resume cooperation within the framework of the Agreement on the use of water and energy resources of the Syrdarya river basin of 1998.

To draw attention to this issue, within the framework of the XII Astana Economic Forum held in Nur-Sultan on May 17, 2019, we initiated a high-level panel session “Water as a factor of economic growth and security in Central Asia”. The panel session was attended by high-level representatives of Central Asian countries and international organizations, including the World Bank, the European Union, the Geneva Water Centre and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The panel session was another step towards developing a common vision for water security in Central Asia. Strengthening water resources management at the national level and systemic cooperation on transboundary waters will yield multiple benefits for all countries based on the principles of joint management of shared resources. Participants confirmed the need for technical expert meetings to discuss the concept of the International Water and Energy Consortium. In the future, we plan to continue discussing the technical aspects of this issue at the expert level.

It is no secret that a key factor contributing to the improvement of water and energy security in Central Asia is the creation of a sustainable regional mechanism for the distribution of water and energy, taking into account the economic interests of all stakeholders and at the same time corresponding to the current economic realities.

At the same time, the very creation of the consortium will not solve all the problems of the water and energy system of the region: it is necessary to work in other areas, such as legislative, methodological, financial, economic, technical, organizational, institutional, information and others.

One of the most important points is the development of a coordinated economic mechanism of relations in the water and energy sector, the ultimate goal of which is the formation of a common market for water, energy and services. It is in this direction that the attention of the expert community of our countries should be focused. I propose to discuss this issue not only at the meetings of the Expert Forum, but also throughout the year, for which it is necessary to work out the issue of financing such case studies.

Last October, the Meeting of the Parties to the UNECE Convention on the protection and use of transboundary waterways and international lakes was held in Astana. At its Eighth session, the Meeting of the Parties adopted the Work Programme for 2019-2021, which includes, inter alia, clause 3.3: “Support for sustainable and equitable distribution of water resources in a transboundary context”. It provides, on the basis of existing practice, for the development of the “Guide to the allocation of water resources in a transboundary context” regarding key aspects of sustainable and equitable allocation of water resources in a transboundary context for both surface and groundwater, as well as environmental flows.

In this regard, the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan with the support of the Government of Kazakhstan initiated analytical work in the following areas: “Sustainable distribution of water resources in a transboundary context” and “Ecological river flow as the basis for the conservation of the ecological system”.

During the implementation of the projects, it is planned to collect scientific and methodological approaches, principles and practices of assessment, existing regulatory framework for assessing the environmental flow of transboundary water bodies and sustainable distribution of water resources of the Region with the active participation of experts from Central Asian countries. The Project experts will also analyze the collected materials in comparison with international treaties and soft law documents regulating the provisions and articles on the environmental flow of transboundary water bodies. These activities will provide an opportunity to assess the situation in the Region on this issue and jointly explore the relevance and potential value of international best practices. The results of the work will of course be used in the development of the Guide.

To date, we have sent requests to the countries concerned in the appointment of national experts for this work. We look forward to your support and request your assistance in appointing national experts. Thus, this work will be not only the contribution of Kazakhstan, but also of all the countries of Central Asia.

The International Water Assessment Centre (IWAC), as a subsidiary joint body of the Water Convention, will assist in the implementation of these projects in terms of interaction with the Secretariat of the Water Convention. In conclusion, I would like to note that Kazakhstan, based on the principles and provisions of the Convention on Transboundary Waters, intends to increase cooperation between countries on joint management of transboundary waterways.

Water resources management in the Central Asian region requires a holistic approach. The region’s water sector, which combines water, food, energy and ecosystems, should be seen as inextricably linked to national security, regional stability and sustainable economic growth.

Year: 2019
City: Almaty