The sub-regional workshop on the Caucasus for the preparation of the second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters under the UNECE Water Convention was held from 8 to 10 December 2009 in Tbilisi, Georgia. The workshop was organized jointly by the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia and UNECE, in cooperation with the Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus.
The workshop promoted discussion of key issues related to transboundary waters in the sub-region, including climate change, hydrological extremes and water-related disasters; the impact of mining, including tailing dams; and the institutional and legal foundations needed to support good water governance and cooperation.
Some 45 participants attended, including government officials, as well as representatives of NGOs from the following countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Russian Federation and Turkey, as well as experts from international organizations/projects.
During the discussions, more cooperation on monitoring of water quality and quantity was called for, and concerns related to data quality control and a lack of harmonization in methods were raised. However, there are some encouraging examples of joint monitoring. High water use in agriculture and limited wastewater treatment are among factors that put pressure on water resources, but the significance of some earlier concerns like impacts of mining has reduced. On-going and recent legal reforms of the water sector, progressive approximation to EU directives and introduction of a basin approach currently shape the management of water resources in the sub-region. There is need for institutionalization of cooperation to ensure continuity and sustainability of projects and for political commitment of the countries to take measures to improve the status of water resources.
Work in the break-out sessions allowed for the main concerns and developments in each transboundary river basin and aquifer to be identified among the riparian countries. With basin and aquifer specific information from the riparian countries to be provided as follow-up to the workshop, the assessment of the Caucasus is being prepared for the review of the Water Convention’s Working Group on Monitoring and Assessment, the body supervising the process.