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International water issues
In 1925, an agreement with Turkey was reached on the use of water from the Chorokhi River, allocating half of the average surface water flow to each country. This agreement dealt only with water flow and did not consider the sediment flow, estimated at 5 million m3/year. About 46 percent of these sediments form the sand beach and are an important resource, as tourism is of prime importance to Georgia’s earnings. Turkey plans to construct a cascade of 11 dams on the Chorokhi River, which will affect the sediment flow and thus the beaches on the Georgian shore. Georgia is pressing for a reconsideration of the agreement, which should not only deal with the allocation of water but also address the issue of sediment flow.
In 1997, Georgia ratified the agreement between the Governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan on environmental protection. In 1998, Georgia ratified a similar agreement with Armenia. According to both agreements, the governments will cooperate in creating specifically protected areas within the transboundary ecosystems.
The implementation of the “Ecoregional Nature Protection Programme for Southern Caucasus” is part of the Caucasus Initiative, launched by the German Ministry of Cooperation and Development. The programme covers the three Caucasus countries, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, and will facilitate the protection and sustainable use of water resources in the region.
Measures are already being taken in support of the development of protected areas in Georgia. Within the Black Sea Integrated Management Programme, supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank, implementation of the system of protected wetland areas in the coastal zone of Georgia is in progress (Tsiklauri, 2004).
From 2000 to 2002, USAID, in collaboration with Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), implemented the South Caucasus Water Management Project, designed to strengthen co-operation between water-related agencies at all local, national and regional levels, and demonstrate integrated water resources management. In parallel, between 2000 and 2006, the EU and the Technical Assistance Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) have developed the Joint River Management Programme on Monitoring and Assessment of Water Quality on Transboundary Rivers; its aim is the prevention, control and reduction of trans-boundary pollution impact. The programme covers four basins, including the Kura River Basin. In addition, regional organisations such as REC, Eurasia Foundation and numerous local foundations are promoting national and regional activities in the field of water resources management and protection (UNEP, 2002).
The main objective of the USAID/Caucasus-Georgia Strategic Plan (2004-2008) is to ensure continued support for the South Caucasus Regional Water Management Programme as a principal component of its regional conflict-prevention and confidence-building objectives. It hopes to maintain the dialogue between the three countries that has already contributed to confidence-building measures (USAID, 2006).
From 2002 to 2007, the NATO-OECD has developed the South Caucasus River Monitoring Project. Its general objectives are to establish the social and technical infrastructure for an international, cooperative, transboundary river water quality and quantity monitoring, data sharing and watershed management system among the Republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (OSU, 2008).
The project Reducing Transboundary Degradation in the Kura-Araks River Basin, currently being implemented by the UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre in collaboration with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), has involved four of the basin countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Efforts are being made to involve Turkey in the project. The project preparation phase is 18 months and began in July 2005. It is co-funded by Sweden. The project aims to ensure that the quality and quantity of water throughout the Kura-Araks River system meets the short and long-term needs of the ecosystem and the communities relying upon it. The project will achieve its objectives by fostering regional cooperation, increasing capacity to address water quality and quantity problems, demonstrating water quality/quantity improvements, initiating required policy and legal reforms, identifying and preparing priority investments, and developing sustainable management and financial arrangements.