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Problems of interstate water cooperation in central asia and ways of their solution

Abstract. In natural terms, Central Asia is a single territory, and this unity is provided, first of all, by river systems of the Amu Darya, Syr Darya, Chu and Talas. At present, the borders of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia have become state borders. Many natural resources are on opposite sides of borders, and new modern rules for their efficient and rational use are required.

There are three main problems, the solution of which depends on the reasonable cooperation of the countries of Central Asia.

First problem. In the period of emerging market relations between the sovereign states of Central Asia, integrated Application Schemes and Provisions on water allocation developed and adopted in the Soviet period remain. These Schemes and Provisions were normative documents regulating the distribution and use of water resources in river basins. According to these schemes, quotas of water intake volumes, irrigation norms and irrigation areas were established in the context of each Republic.

Currently, this approach to the use of water resources for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is unacceptable, since it limits the interests of these states, on whose territory almost all the surface outflow of the region is formed.

According to long-term average data, 50 billion m3 of surface flow is formed on the territory of Kyrgyzstan (that is 10 thousand m3 per person). According to these indicators, the Kyrgyz Republic is among the leaders of the Central Asian countries.

The country’s development strategy outlines the development of new irrigated lands, and this trend has already been indicated. But now the question arises, given the limited water consumption, of how to take water to the newly put into circulation land? For the entire available land fund of 3 million hectares, Kyrgyzstan will need not 10-11, but 30 km3/year, and taking into account the needs of the municipal and industrial sectors, the prospective total volume of water consumption will be about 35 km3.

This figure should be announced now, so that neighbouring states that use water resources from the mountains of Kyrgyzstan know the prospects for the development of the Republic in the future.

At the regional level, the problem of changing the water allocation system was actively considered in the period from 1994 to 1997, when the newly-formed interstate Council on the Aral sea problems drafted a Program of the Aral Sea basin, in which the first item was indicated as “To develop a common water allocation strategy”.

In 1997, the development of a “Regional Water Strategy” was completed with a detailed definition of the formation and use of water resources by all states and recommendations for the development of a modern water allocation strategy were given. However, the mountain republics of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, without showing proper persistence, remained at the same level of water allocation.

The second important problem is the lack of economic principles of interstate water use. Having moved to a market economy in all spheres, for some reason the water industry is left on outdated positions. By introducing a fee for water supply services for their own (domestic) water users, the Central Asian states have not taken into account the market mechanism of payment for water received from the territory of neighbouring states, and they still use it free of charge, without reimbursing any costs to Kyrgyzstan for the maintenance and operation of reservoirs and other irrigation facilities of interstate use…

It should be noted that the reservoirs regulating the flow of rivers and irrigation channels supplying water to neighbouring states in Kyrgyzstan are maintained and operated only at the expense of the budget of the Republic.

Meanwhile, there are some positive aspects in establishing mutually beneficial relations in the use of transboundary river flow.

Thus, in 2000, a bilateral Agreement was signed between the government of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan on the use of water facilities for interstate use in the basins of the Chu and Talas rivers. A permanent Commission was established to determine the volume of water allocation and annual financial subsidies for equity participation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

It should be noted that all waterregulating and water-transporting facilities, built more than half a century ago, are in a dangerous technical condition and pose a real threat of destruction or failure, and this threatens disaster not so much to Kyrgyzstan as to the downstream states located in the lower reaches of the rivers (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan).

In such a situation, only together, with the shared participation of all states, can reliable operation of interstate hydraulic facilities be ensured, and, consequently, water supply guaranteed.

Third problem. The main cause of water disputes between Kyrgyzstan and the states of the plain zone (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) are sectoral interests between hydropower and irrigation.

The intra-annual schedule of water use needs differs for mountain and plain areas of the region. The mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have significant hydropower resources (while having limited resources of other energy carriers). Kyrgyzstan is interested in significant electricity generation during the cold period of the year, which requires significant discharges of water from the Toktogul reservoir, and a significant part of the water resources is used in winter. Lowland republics, which have huge irrigated areas, use water resources for irrigation with an increase in water needs in the warm, growing season. For the Toktogul HPP to work in the energy regime, it is necessary to accumulate water in the summer and winter consumption, and the lowland republics - in the winter accumulation of water resources and their summer consumption for irrigation. These contradictions are the “stumbling block” between the Central Asian countries.

With the cessation of subsidized supplies and the emerging energy crisis in the Republic, the question arose about the need to more effectively use the own hydropower capacity of the cascade of Nizhne-Naryn HPPs. It was calculated that if 50% of the annual volume of water resources accumulated in the Toktogul reservoir is triggered by the winter energy regime, then winter production can be increased by 2.2 billion kW / h. This option can not be used by the Republic, as the country fulfills its obligations to supply water during the growing season to the downstream states in accordance with existing Agreements. Energy consumption of the winter period is provided by the enhanced operation of the CHP. And only in some years, with a shortage of energy at the CHP, the Republic increased the volume of winter discharges from the Toktogul reservoir to obtain additional electricity.

The consequences of significant winter discharges from the reservoir caused a negative reaction of neighbouring countries. In this respect Kyrgyzstan offered Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to compensate for the lack of electricity in winter (in monetary terms or in the form of energy carriers). Upon acceptance and compliance with the terms of the agreement, the Toktogul reservoir will operate in the irrigation regime required by these states.

The total damage associated with the irrigation regime of operation of the cascade of Nizhne-Naryn HPPs includes:

  1. under-production of winter electricity in the amount of 2.2 billion kW/h;
  2. environmental damage (air pollution) due to CHP operation;
  3. damage from flooding of farmland during the construction and operation of the Toktogul reservoir.

As a result, the annual total damage is approximately USD 154.9 million. . (estimates of 2002)

At numerous official meetings, representatives of Central Asian states at all levels declare that this problem can be solved only through coordinated joint actions of all states. But, unfortunately, all these agreements mostly remain on paper in the form of minutes and resolutions, because so far everyone is doing nothing but pursue own interests.

In the area of water resources, the biggest issue requiring consensus is the development of agreed rules and procedures for the division of water resources among states. This problem requires taking into account not only the interests of all countries, but also the maintenance of ecological balance in river basins.

The problem cannot be solved immediately for the region as a whole. It should be solved for each international river basin, while understanding the need to manage the basin as a whole-Integrated water resources management (IWRM), and taking into account the interests of both mountain and plain areas.

The Central Asian states adopt regional Laws “On water”, but the situation does not change at the interstate level.

Thus, Kyrgyzstan adopted the Law “On interstate use of water bodies, water resources and water facilities of the Kyrgyz Republic”, which formulated the principles and provisions of state policy in the field of water resources. In this Law, the paramount is the recognition of water as a type of natural resources that has its economic value and is a commodity, as well as the need to establish a fee for water use in interstate water relations.

The decree of the President outlines the principles and provisions of the state policy in the field of water resources use of rivers formed on the territory of the Republic and flowing beyond its borders, the main of which are:

  • Agreements on the use of river water resources should aim at achieving mutual benefit in a fair and reasonable manner.
  • The Kyrgyz Republic assumes that each state has the right within its territory to use the water resources of the river in order to obtain maximum benefits.
  • The issues of water supply, regulation of river flow and payment of water use or distribution of benefits from the use of water resources are the subject of interstate negotiations.
  • The Kyrgyz Republic, which regulates the flow and supply of water to the state located downstream of the river, has the right to reimbursement for the construction, reconstruction and operation of reservoirs and other hydraulic facilities of interstate importance.

In connection with the current situation in the water and energy sector of Central Asia, Institute of Water Problems and Hydropower developed a draft Concept of the national policy of the Kyrgyz Republic in the use of water resources of transboundary rivers.

The concept takes into account the need to ensure the state interests of the Kyrgyz Republic in the new market relations with full cooperation with all Central Asian countries. It is intended to become a legal basis for solving state problems of national development and regulation of interstate relations in the field of water resources use.

The main provisions of the proposed Concept are:

  • adoption of the economic mechanism in water use, i.e. recognition of water resources to be the goods which has the price corresponding to market relations;
  • adoption of mutually beneficial conditions in water policy for all Central Asian states;
  • joint monitoring of transboundary rivers in order to improve the efficiency of control over the formation and use of water resources, as well as prevention and mitigation of damage from dangerous hydrological phenomena and their consequences at the interstate level;
  • creation of a system of state supervision over the safety of hydraulic structures;
  • ensuring a favorable environmental situation in river basins.

Only after the recognition and adoption of the basic provisions of this Concept by the governments of all CA countries can the transition to Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) be possible, since it is the principle of basin management of water resources of transboundary rivers that will allow them to be used effectively and rationally.

Of course, each country seeks to protect its national interests and use water on its territory, maximizing the benefits for the development of its economy. It is essential to realize the importance and necessity of cooperation in the use of transboundary rivers, giving priority to collective interests. And it is this principle that should form the basis of a new approach to the allocation of transboundary water resources.

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International relations

International relations



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