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International water issues

The main rivers in Tajikistan are classified as transboundary, because they cross the boundaries of two countries (Vakhsh, Panj, Kofarnihon and Zeravshan rivers) or four countries (Amu Darya, Syr Darya). The supply of water for irrigation suffers difficulties only in drought years.

During the Soviet era, sharing of water resources among the five Central Asia republics was based on the master plans for the development of water resources in the Amu Darya (1987) and Syr Darya (1984) river basins. A regional water strategy was prepared with the establishment of the ICWC in 1992, by the newly independent states (Agreement of 18 February 1992). Existing principles continue to be respected until the implementation of a new water-sharing agreement. The agreement included the construction of Kambarata 1 reservoir in Kyrgyzstan and Rogun reservoir in Tajikistan. The new agreement ‘Agreement on joint actions to address the problem of the Aral Sea and socio-economic development of the Aral Sea basin’, was signed by the Heads of the five states in 1996.

Over the years, the main achievement of the ICWC has been the conflict-free supply of water to all water users, despite the complexities and variations of dry and wet years. The ICWC meets twice annually to set surface water withdrawal quotes, taking into account the main rivers water flow prognosis for the October–March and April–September seasons. For Tajikistan the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources (MLRWR) participates in the ICWC meetings and takes decisions at the interstate level concerning management of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers water resources.

Uzbekistan is not in agreement regarding construction of reservoirs in the mountain areas of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Disputes between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan regard the management of the Kayrakkum reservoir in Tajikistan (UNDP, 2004). Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan state that the reduction of the Aral Sea is caused mainly by inefficient water use for irrigation (<30 percent). Afghanistan has notified that it plans to develop irrigation and hydropower in the Amu Darya river basin.

In 1993, with the development of the Aral Sea basin programme, two new organizations emerged: the Interstate Council for the Aral Sea (ICAS) to coordinate implementation of the programme and the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) to raise and manage its funds. In 1997, the two organizations merged to create IFAS (UNDP, 2004).

The partnership between the European Union Water Initiative (EUWI) and its Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) programme seeks to improve the management of water resources in the EECCA region. The partnership was established between the European Union and the EECCA countries at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2002. A significant component is the ‘Integrated water resources management, including transboundary river basin management and regional seas issues’ (SIWI, 2010).

In 2002, Central Asian countries and the Caucasus formed the CACENA Regional Water Partnership under the Global Water Partnership (GWP). Within this framework, state departments, local and regional organizations, professional organizations, scientific and research institutes and the private sector and NGOs cooperate to establish a common understanding of the critical issues threatening water security in the region (SIWI, 2010).

In 2004, experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan produced a regional water and energy strategy within the framework of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (UN-SPECA). In collaboration with the EUWI and the UNECE is developing integrated water resources management in the Central Asian States. In cooperation with Germany and other EU countries, UNECE may play a role in the implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia in the water and energy sectors (SIWI, 2010).


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