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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture
The General Authority of Water Resources (GAWR) of the MAWR carries out water management. MAWR, established in 1996 after the merger of the Ministry of Agriculture with the Ministry of Water Resources, performs the following main functions (GoU, 2011b):
- conducts monitoring of compliance with water legislation, cooperatives (shirkat) and private farms, considers infringement and takes appropriate decisions;
- participates in the development and implementation of branch and regional agriculture and water management development programmes in conjunction with other concerned ministries, agencies, state committees, local and government state bodies;
- together with other ministries, agencies and state committees coordinates the development and implementation of measures directed at the development of multi-sectoral agriculture and rights protection of rural producers;
- together with the Ministry of Economics and the State Demonopolization and Competition Development Committee, within the coordinated programmes, the Ministry of Finance carries out a review of agricultural market conditions in the regions for the purpose of identifying practices of artificial increase of prices, abuse of a monopoly situation in the market and unfair competition;
- prevents or addresses infringement of legislation concerning agriculture, water resources and water use;
- monitors use of budget funds of subordinate enterprises and organizations;
- conducts financial and economic analysis and provides methodical assistance to auditing commissions of cooperatives;
- together with other agencies develops a development strategy on rural industrial and social infrastructure;
- participates in the coordination of economic and social development of construction by industrial, project enterprises, organizations, agencies and their associations subordinate to the MAWR.
Institutional organizations dealing with water management at state, provincial and district level fall under the MAWR. They are responsible for water distribution and delivery to the farm inlet, to assist water users to implement advanced technologies, for water use and water quality control. The special land reclamation service, under the MAWR, monitors the main reclamation indicators of irrigated land (groundwater level, drainage discharge, soil salinity, state of the collector-drainage network) at national, provincial and local level. It also plans the required measures for irrigation and drainage network maintenance and for the reclamation of degraded lands, including leaching, repairing and cleaning of drainage-collectors and network rehabilitation. MAWR is also in charge of agricultural research and extension, on-farm agricultural and land reclamation development, and on-farm operation and maintenance of the irrigation network.
After Uzbekistan gained independence there was a change in the water resources administration from that of a regional and district-based administrative water management system, established with the creation of the USSR, into an irrigation basin water management system based on hydrological principles. The latter involved the creation in 2003 of the Basin Authorities of Irrigation Systems (BAIS), composed of the Authorities of the Main Canals (AMC) and Irrigation Systems Authorities, following the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. 320 d/d on 21 July 2003, for ‘improvement of water management’.
The Central Asia Scientific Research Institute of Irrigation (SANIIRI) undertakes research on the water resources development sector. This autonomous institute, linked to MAWR, was responsible for all Central Asia. It also manufactures irrigation equipment.
The Goskompriroda (State Committee for Nature Protection) is in charge of water quality monitoring and control of industrial and municipal pollutants.
Uzbekistan is a member of the IFAS, the ICWC, and the Amu Darya and Syr Darya River Basin Water Organizations (BWOs).
The Association of Uzbekistan for Sustainable Water Resources Development (AUSWRD) was established in 1998 and promotes cooperation in water resources development for Aral Sea basin workers. It also aims to share information on water issues, influence government decisions with regards to water and provide education on water use and sanitation. The AUSWRD vision is to have Uzbekistan become an example for sustainable water use.
In 2011, the government adopted the decision to create the National Committee on Large Dams, to represent the country’s interests at the International Commission of Large Dams (ICOLD). According to this document, its main tasks are to promote the interest of Uzbekistan in ensuring the security of large dams, and Uzbekistan’s position regarding the rational use of transboundary water resources. The committee will also improve the system to ensure the security of dams by studying the experience of other countries and exchanging scientific, technical and other information with similar foreign committees. The committee will also participate in the work of ICOLD.
After the demise of the USSR, the newly emerging states began to change their agricultural policies. In Uzbekistan changes included: (1) preventing social unrest by redistributing land to families; (2) increasing wheat production for food security; (3) implementing a quota system for cotton and wheat; (4) changing agricultural subsidies; (5) distributing large collective farms (Abdullaev et al., 2009).
During the Soviet period, cotton was produced on large-scale collective farms, typically 2 000–3 000 ha. The farms managed all aspects of the production system, including agricultural machinery and irrigation. Because the farms were believed to be inefficient, after independence their land was split into smaller, although still collective, farm units known as shirkats. However, no restructuring was undertaken of other system assets such as irrigation. The result was land management units no longer matched the input units, resulting in poor performance of irrigation and drainage networks, with cotton yields being lower than they were during the 1980s.
A second trend in farm management after independence was the emergence of individual farms, which began in 1992. The government had originally considered individual farms experimental, they were allocated low fertility land with poor water supply. At the beginning of 2003, the government began to transform the collectives into individual farms. Under the new policy, priority was given to the development of individual farms as the major producers of agricultural commodities. Between 2004 and 2006, 55 percent of collective farms were transformed into individual farms. By 2004, individual farms occupied 17 percent of agricultural land and hired 765 300 workers.
The final transformation was the rise of the so-called dehkan farms. These are the legalized family plots from which most of the population earns their income. The state now encourages family plots to be registered as legal entities so they can acquire credit and benefit from other financial instruments. Dehkan farms are allowed to grow any crop except cotton and sell output on the open market. They cannot join the cotton and wheat quota system. Much of the production, primarily fruits and vegetables, grown on dehkan farms is exported to the neighbouring Russian Federation and to Kazakhstan. However, what is most striking about dehkan farms is their large contribution to agricultural GDP, an estimated 25 percent in 2004, despite their relatively small area (Abdullaev et al., 2009).
During the first land reform, the state and collective farms were transformed into different economic organizations, but continued to function in the same way as former collective farms. Only a small portion of the land held by the state and collective farms was privatized, but they depended on the collective farms for water allocation and distribution. In the second land reform, collective farms were abandoned, collective farm land was leased to farmers, and water user associations (WUAs) were introduced. The second reform started in 1996, with the government contracting SANIIRI to establish a framework for WUAs in Uzbekistan. Three years later, at the end of 1999, SANIIRI completed its research on establishing WUAs. The second wave of land distribution took place at the beginning of 2000. Unprofitable collective farms were privatized, and their land distributed to former employees. Land privatization was accompanied by irrigation management, transfers and the introduction of Farm Organizations (FO) and WUAs (Wegerich, 2002).
Until 2003, the management of major irrigation canals and water reservoirs was solely under state control. All irrigation infrastructure at the main system level was managed territorially, through provincial and district-level water management organizations. Each of the territorial units (district, province) had state production quotas for cotton and wheat. As water was such a crucial factor, each governor tried to appropriate more water for his or her district. The resulting territorial fragmentation of water resources management led to inequitable water distribution and head-tail water disputes.
On 21 July 2003, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan issued the earlier mentioned decree No. 320 (related to the creation of the Basin Authorities on Irrigation Systems) to reform the water management system by transferring water management from an administrative-territorial system to a basin approach. The main goal of this reform was to consolidate water management through the establishment of WUAs and Canal Management Organizations (CMOs), operating within single hydraulic units, in order to ensure equal access to water for different users and improve water use efficiency (Abdullaev et al., 2009). By the end of 2010 there were 1 486 successfully functioning WUAs, providing water services to more than 80 000 water users, including farmers. On 29 December 2009, the “Water and water use” law was revised and the previously used WUA concept related to irrigation was renamed into the Water Consumers Association (WCA). The distinction between them was clarified as follows: “water user” refers to not affecting the actual amount of available water (such as fisheries and hydropower) and “water consumer” refers to reducing the actual amount of available water (such as irrigation).
Karakalpakstan and Khorezm are located in the driest part of Uzbekistan. Over the last three decades, the drying up of the Aral Sea has further aggravated the water shortage problem. Since mid-2000, Karakalpakstan and Khorezm have been suffering from the worst drought in 100 years. About 90 percent of the rice crop and 75 percent of the cotton crop were lost in 2000 and 2001. The Western Uzbekistan Rural Water Supply Project was launched in 2002 with a loan from the ADB. It provided urgently needed assistance by responding to the worsening consequences of drought during the previous years in the Aral Sea area of northwest Uzbekistan. The Project covered Karakalpakstan and Khorezm by: improving potable water supply and providing support to sanitation and personal hygiene practices to about 700 000 rural population in the Project area, of whom over 60 percent were poor, by introducing water conservation measures, educating the public about the value of water and promoting health awareness campaigns.
In 2001 and 2002, USAID and MAWR implemented a large-scale pilot project on the Pakhtaabad canal which serves more than 20 000 ha of irrigated land and about 100 000 farmers in Andijan (Uzbekistan) and Jalalabad (Kyrgyzstan). Although Andijan and Jalalabad are high-yield farming areas, ineffective water management in the last decades had diminished irrigated land and reduced yields. The pilot project demonstrated how cost-effective technologies and automated systems could improve water control and management along major existing watercourses (USAID, 2003b).
To improve the situation in the water resources management sector, the government of Uzbekistan, international organizations, and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are developing and implementing a number of projects, dealing with urban water supply, improvement of irrigation and drainage systems, improvement of sewerage systems and wastewater treatment facilities.
The Water Supply, Sanitation and Health Project (1999–2007), was prepared by the government with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assistance in support of the Aral Sea area. The objectives of the project were to improve water supply, sanitation and health in the project area (Karakalpakstan and Khorezm) through the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation facilities and the strengthening of the financial, operational and managerial capacities of water supply and sanitation utilities (UNDP, 2000).
In 2004, the government and the World Bank signed a US$74.55 million Drainage, Irrigation and Wetlands Improvement Project, to increase productivity of irrigated agriculture, employment and incomes in Karakalpakstan, to improve water quality of the Amu Darya river by safe disposal of drainage effluent, and enhance the quality of wetlands in the Amu Darya delta. It also developed institutions to improve water management, operation and maintenance of irrigation and drainage systems, and promoted sustainable irrigated agriculture through participatory irrigation management. The Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources was responsible for the timely implementation of the project.
MAWR has initiated reforms of irrigated agriculture to increase crop productivity and system operators’ administrative efficiency. An important reform is the restructuring of the Zeravshan river irrigation systems into one basin administration under the control of a single operating agency. USAID works with the ministry and the basin’s operating agency and is also collaborating closely with the government to implement substantial improvements to the main delivery canals of the Surkhandarya river irrigation system and the Zeravshan river basin. Over 3.5 million people are directly engaged in farming in these areas (USAID, 2003a).
In 2010, the World Bank launched the Fergana Valley Water Resource Management Phase-I Project, which deals with increasing water use efficiency and rehabilitating the irrigation and drainage infrastructure in Fergana Valley to promote economic development.
During the Soviet period, Uzbek cotton was among the most highly subsidized crops. Inputs were provided to collective farms at large discounts, and credits were allocated to state-owned enterprises by the government banking systems at concessional interest rates. The state still controls, monopolizes and subsidizes input markets. Starting in 1993, the government established a range of state-owned agencies for agricultural inputs, which provide inputs such as machinery and fertilizers. Credit subsidies, both through low rates and write-offs, especially for collectives, also existed. In 2004, the government provided approximately US$400 million in subsidies, equivalent to approximately 43 percent of the value of the cotton crop. It also provided subsidies to the agricultural sector of which $261 million or 65 percent went to irrigation service provision (Abdullaev et al., 2009).
In 1995 a land tax was introduced. The amount payable depends on irrigation and land quality, which is calculated by province on the basis of a soil fertility parameter. For example, in 1997, in Karakalpakstan, the tax varied from US$0.64/ha for the lowest fertility class to US$6.5/ha for the best fertility class. In the south of the country, the tax varied between US$1.1 and 11.2/ha. A WCA is in charge of operating and maintaining the on-farm water infrastructure through irrigation service fee (ISF) collection. However, most WCAs are still not able to take full responsibility and generate sufficient investment for the infrastructure maintenance.
Policies and legislation
A water law was approved in May 1993. It introduced the notion of water rights. Within the general objective of water savings, Article 30 emphasizes the need for water pricing, although it still leaves room for subsidies to the water sector.
The legal framework is constantly being improved and in 2009 a new law was approved on ‘Introducing amendments to some legislative acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan in connection with the deepening of economic reforms in agriculture and water management’. The law is said to be a successful in the water sector, because it clearly governs the relationship between water users, increases their responsibility concerning the rational and economical use of water, determines the status of water consumer associations (former water users associations) and reflects the basic principles of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM).
A policy framework for water supply and environmental sanitation is being developed, which besides providing water supply and sanitation to areas currently without, will contribute to a reduction in water-borne and water-related diseases and improve the nutritional status of the population in general and children in particular (UNICEF, 2003).