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Capacity building for cooperation on dam safety in Central Asia

See short movie on YouTube produced by UNTV (2011): "Dam safety in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan" in English and Russian

Dam safety has long been the the area for UNECE activities. In March 1989, at their session, Senior Advisers to ECE governments on Environmental and Water Problems have endorsed Recommendations to ECE Governments on Dam Safety with Particular Emphasis on Small Dams (Eng, Fre, Rus). The Recommendations focused on measures to be taken at legislative, policy, financial and operational levels to increase the safety of dams, including small dams.
In Central Asia, concern over the safety of more than 100 large dams and other water control facilities, located mostly on transboundary rivers, has grown significantly in recent years. Ageing dams and their inadequate maintenance, coupled with population growth in flood plains downstream from the dams, have resulted in increased risks to life, human health, property and the environment. Failure of a dam could have disastrous consequences in downstream regions and countries.
Effective national regulatory frameworks for dam safety and subregional collaboration on dam safety are therefore critical for Central Asia. This was also highlighted in the UNECE-UNESCAP report "Strengthening cooperation for rational and efficient use of water and energy resources in Central Asia". Dam safety was one of the main directions starting in the 2008-2009 Work Programme of the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA).
Central Asian countries, with the exception of Uzbekistan, presently lack adequate institutional and legal frameworks for dam safety. There are also no established procedures for notification of co-basin countries in case of accidents or emergency situations with dams. The UNECE project therefore aims to

  • To prompt the countries concerned to set up or revise national dam safety regulatory frameworks in order to achieve their harmonization, and
  • To promote subregional cooperation for information exchange and notification in case of accidents or emergency situations with dams.

The project was implemented by UNECE in collaboration with the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. For the full project outline, click here. The project has been part of the Environment and Security Initiative.
Central Asian Government agencies dealing with the safety of dams and other large hydraulic structures as well as Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice will participate in the project. The project is supported by the governments of Finland and the Russian Federation.

A first phase of the project took place in 2006-2007 with two meetings held 10-11 April (meeting documentation) and 15-16 November (meeting documentation). Both meetings took place in Almaty with the participation of experts from all five Central Asian countries. The UNECE publication "Dam Safety in Central Asia: Capacity-Building and Regional Cooperation" (see English and Russian versions) was a result of the first phase of the project.
A second project phase started in the end of 2007 and was finalized at the end of 2011. This phase focused on support to the introduction or revision of national legislation, the development of a regional cooperative framework and capacity development including training. For project and meeting reports of the second phase please click here.The final report of the second project phase can be found here.
On the initiative of the donor (Finland) the project was evaluated in autumn 2010.  The report evaluated the project positively and concluded that “… the project is integrally building confidence and trust in a region where the respective five countries rarely cooperate on concrete matters. In addition to providing a forum for dialogue, the project also establishes more permanent outputs (legislation, standards, identifies institutions responsible for damsafety) and builds capacity and expertise, which serve as concrete vectors for confidence building and practical cooperation.”

A third phase of the project started in 2012 with the continued cooperation with the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (EC-IFAS). It focuses on the following directions of work:

1. Legislations and institutions at the national level: Improvement, implementation and enforcement of national legislation, institutional strengthening.

2. Training on the safe operation of hydrotechnical installations: Capacity building of officials and experts as well as of support to development of national training programmes.

3. Regional cooperation: Support to development of harmonised technical documentation, exchange of relevant data and information, early warning systems to ensure preparedness in the case of increased risks for accidents and others.

4. Safer operations of individual dams: Support to bilateral cooperation to ensure the safety of individual dams or dam systems on transboundary rivers.
For more information as well as project and meeting reports of the third phase please click here.

Last update date: January 4, 2021