Water policy of the republic of uzbekistan in central asia

Abstract. Today, water and environmental security issues play one of the primary roles in the sustainable development of the world. On this basis, authoritative international organizations are increasingly asserting the importance of improving the situation in this area in order to ensure a decent environment for the lives of our next generations. Thus, in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement, humanity faces the task of keeping the global temperature rise at two degrees Celsius until the end of the century in order to avoid serious consequences for life on the planet. Uzbekistan, having a common border with all Central Asian States and as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, is objectively interested in turning the region into a zone of stability, sustainable development and good-neighbourliness.

We are open to deepening all-round cooperation with the countries of Central Asia on the basis of the principles of equality and consideration of each other’s interests. We are ready for constructive dialogue and search for solutions to problems based on reasonable compromises.

In order to discuss water issues and find mutually beneficial solutions for the use of resources of transboundary rivers in the region, the Uzbek side is actively working with neighboring countries. In particular:

  • there was signed the Agreement between the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of Turkmenistan on Cooperation on Water Management Issues” (March 2017);
  • there were established working groups with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan on water use;
  • the Uzbek-Kazakh joint working group on environmental protection and water quality of the Syr Darya river basin is functioning with the first meeting held in September 2018.;
  • an agreement was reached on the establishment of a Joint Bilateral Water Commission between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan (December 2017).

As the above factors show, water management relations between the countries of the region have significantly intensified in recent years, and there is a positive trend of solving transboundary water use issues.

However, as already noted, the huge environmental challenges we face require a more coordinated and integrated interaction of all countries of the region. In the context of industrialization, high demographic growth and urbanization, as well as increasing demand for food, the need for natural resources increases from year to year. Thus, more than 72 million people currently live in the region, and, according to UN forecasts, the population will reach 94 million by 2050.

At the same time, Central Asia is one of the regions most prone to environmental disasters. In particular, the World Bank estimates that if the end of the XXI century global average surface temperatures will rise by 4 degrees Celsius at the current rate, the increase in Central Asia will reach 7 degrees. At the same time, the greatest increase in air temperature is expected in the Aral Sea region.

In this regard, high risks of emergencies and natural disasters remain in Central Asia, which pose a great threat to regional security.

Thus, the countries of the region remain vulnerable to such dangerous phenomena as floods, breakouts of mountain lakes, landslides, mudslides, avalanches, or dust storms.

300 high-altitude lakes continue to be under the threat of a breakout. According to the calculations of experts, if the average annual temperature increases by 2-4 degrees, the volume of mountain glaciers in Central Asia can be reduced to 78%.

However, the efforts of the countries of the region are mainly focused on disaster management, while in international practice, the priority is to improve systems for monitoring, forecasting and prevention of natural disasters.

The problem of providing the world’s population with water resources is becoming increasingly urgent. According to the UN, water issues have already affected all continents, jeopardizing the sustainability of ecosystems and socioeconomic development. It affects more than two billion people living in more than 40 countries. By 2030, the global water deficit on the planet could reach 40%.

The assessment of future demand for water on the basis of modeling showed that the demand for water for irrigation and environmental needs is not being met at present, and in the conditions of climate change, the shortage of water resources in Central Asia will significantly increase. For example, by the 2040s, even with an increase in the flow of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya river basins, the total deficit of water for irrigation in Uzbekistan, according to estimates, can reach 8%, with constant flow - 15%, with a decrease in flow, the water deficit can reach 33%.

In addition, speaking about water and environmental problems, it is impossible to ignore the problem of the Aral sea, which is a convincing proof of the mutual influence of problems of water use, environment and strategic security.

Today, a new salt desert with an area of more than 5.5 million hectares has appeared on the dried-up part of the Aral sea. Dust storms rage over it for more than 90 days a year, carrying annually more than 100 million tons of dust and poisonous salts into the atmosphere for many thousands of kilometers. The negative consequences of the drying up of the Aral sea have long gone beyond one region and acquired a wholeplanet nature.

In this regard, it is necessary to note the large-scale measures being implemented by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and other countries of the region to overcome the negative consequences of the drying of the Aral sea and improve the environmental and socio-economic situation in the Aral sea region.

For example, by the end of 2019, we plan to plant protective forest plantations on 500 thousand hectares of the drained bottom of the Aral sea. Up to 1.2 million hectares are expected to be afforested by 2028.

In addition, the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea Region was established, the main objectives of which are to ensure a coordinated approach to solving urgent problems in the Aral sea region related to the livelihoods of the population, including aspects of health, economic development, environmental situation, social protection and others.

The Fund is also engaged in providing integrated assistance to the development process of the Aral sea region by combining the efforts of the government of Uzbekistan, UN agencies and the donor community, mobilizing technical and financial resources for the development of the region and attracting new knowledge, innovative technologies and approaches to the region for its sustainable development.

The Fund does not duplicate the activities of IFAS, but is a structure aimed at accumulating funds in the interests of the entire region. In this regard, we call for the active participation of the countries of the region in the activities of the Fund, which will help to attract donor funds for the region more effectively.

Dear colleagues,

Taking into account the above factors, I would like to draw your attention to several points that are key to ensuring water and environmental security and sustainable development of Central Asia.

Addressing the issues of water resources use and improving the environmental situation in Central Asia is a common task of the countries of the region, and only through joint efforts we can achieve concrete results taking into account the interests of all countries of the region.

To date, there is no other alternative to addressing these issues, except to achieve regional agreement through the adoption of legal instruments that promote constructive and civilized dialogue.

Effective solution of water and environmental security issues in the region cannot be achieved without fruitful cooperation and active interaction with the countries of the region.

In this regard, we propose to consider the following issues.

The first is the development and adoption of a regional Strategy on adaptation to climate change, which provides for: a) regional dialogue between the countries of the region to analyse and develop proposals to mitigate the effects of climate change with active involvement of international organizations; b) development of environmentally friendly, low-carbonic renewable technologies in cooperation with international financial institutions; d) prevention of further desertification of pastures and loss of vegetation through afforestation and forest coverage; e) development of measures for the accelerated introduction of new agricultural technologies of growing agricultural products that improve productivity and adaptation of crops to new agro-climatic and soil conditions.

The second is the signing of a regional Agreement on cooperation in the field of emergencies and natural disasters and the adoption on its basis of a Regional program for the prevention and elimination of emergency situations and natural disasters, which provides for: a) taking measures to unify and harmonize national legislative frameworks; b) creating a reliable system of regional emergency and natural disaster warning; c) conducting research and monitoring projects on disaster risk reduction and information exchange between emergency authorities of the region.

At the same time, we propose to create a Coordinating Working Group on cooperation in the field of emergency situations, consisting of the corresponding emergency structures of the Central Asian countries. WG meetings shall be held periodically in each of the countries of the region to identify key areas of interaction.

In this context, I would like to note that Uzbekistan shows interest and encourages other countries in the region to join the activities of the Center for emergency situations and disaster risk reduction, established on the initiative of Kazakhstan, in which Kyrgyzstan also participates.

The third is to sign a regional Agreement on the conservation of the ecosystem of water basins, which provides, first of all, the issues of compliance with sanitary and environmental releases for water bodies.

For example, to date, in order to ensure a favorable ecological state in the region of the Aydar-Arnasay lake system, annual discharges of water from the Chardarya reservoir of at least 1.5 cubic km of water are required.

However, currently, due to the absence of a regulatory document (bilateral agreement between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan) on mandatory discharges of water from the Chardarya reservoir, the replenishment of the lake system is periodic due to the limits of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

At the same time, it is important to ensure the water quality of transboundary water resources. In this regard, we welcome the participation of other countries of the region in the Joint Uzbek-Kazakh Working Group on environmental protection and water quality of the Syr Darya river basin, the second meeting of which is scheduled in September this year in Nur-Sultan.

We are ready to discuss all the above issues in the framework of the plenary sessions of the International High-Level Conference “Aral Sea as the Zone of Environmental Innovations and Technologies” under the auspices of the UN, which is scheduled in October this year in Nukus.

Year: 2019
City: Almaty