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Reconciling resource uses in transboundary basins: assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in the Syr Darya River Basin

Coordination between the water, energy, food and environment sectors is fraught with difficulties at the national level and the complexity increases substantially in transboundary basins. The “nexus approach” to managing interlinked resources has emerged as a way to enhance water, energy and food security by increasing efficiency, reducing trade-offs, building synergies and improving governance, while protecting ecosystems.
This publication contains the results of nexus assessment of the Syr Darya River Basin, shared by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, that has been carried out in the framework of the UNECE Water Convention’s programme of work for 2013–2015. The methodology employed was developed specifically for assessing the nexus in transboundary basins with multi-disciplinary expertise.
The assessment aimed to foster transboundary cooperation by identifying intersectoral synergies and determining measures that could alleviate tensions related to the multiple needs of the riparian countries for common resources. The process looked to generate relevant information to support decision-making, and it engaged diverse expertise and key actors in the basins. The participatory assessment process for the Syr Darya involved an intersectoral workshop for identification of the main intersectoral issues and possible solutions, detailed by a subsequent analysis, and followed by consultations of the various sectoral authorities concerned.
This nexus assessment summary describes the characteristics of the water, food and land, energy and ecosystem services, and their governance. The assessment shows multiple linkages in the Syr Darya Basin between the different basin resources, and concludes that strengthening transboundary cooperation on the integrated management of these resources will bring real benefits. Graphics illustrate the interlinkages identified. Climate change and socioeconomic drivers, and their effects on intersectoral dynamics, are also considered. Finally, a broad range of beneficial response actions are outlined. Solutions proposed span institutions, information, instruments, infrastructure as well as international coordination and cooperation.
Adoption of the nexus approach has a potential to improve resource use efficiency and security in the riparian countries. In contrast to national approaches presently employed, cooperation involving all the countries and sectors has a great potential to optimize the use of resources in the basin. Nevertheless, applying certain solutions at the country level – including, among others, improvement of efficiency in water and energy use, as well as well-targeted economic and policy instruments – can gradually build more favourable conditions for transboundary cooperation. A functioning transboundary and inter-sectoral cooperation is a prerequisite for the efficient management of existing infrastructure and optimization of new investments and trade.
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