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Strengthening action in Uzbekistan on water and sanitation and protection of water resources from accidental pollution in the face of climate change

Duration: December 2023- December 2026

Implementing entity: Protocol on Water and Health & Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents at UNECE

Funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

Project Beneficiaries


The main beneficiary of the project is Uzbekistan. The other Central Asian countries, i.e. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan will also benefit from the project through regional exchange and specific regional activities.

A flyer on the Strengthening action in Uzbekistan on water and sanitation and protection of water resources from accidental pollution in the face of climate change


The project’s overall objective is to improve governance and capacity in the areas of water and sanitation, prevention of accidental water pollution, and resilience to climate change, including through transboundary cooperation and regional exchange.


Uzbekistan faces significant challenges in the water sector, particularly as the most populated country in Central Asia with severe water stress. The inefficient use of water exacerbates this issue. Access to water and sanitation services is low, with only 71% of rural population having safe drinking water and 32% of wastewater treated. This, coupled with social disparities, hampers social development, human rights, and contributes to pollution.

Climate change impacts, like droughts and floods, pose additional threats, damaging infrastructure and increase the risks of “natural hazards triggered technological disasters” (Natech), threatening rural and urban communities, including their capacities to access public infrastructure and safely managed WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) services in sufficient quality and quantity. Accidents, like the accidental dam damage and outburst of the Sardoba Water Reservoir in Uzbekistan, showcase vulnerabilities. Diminishing freshwater reserves, unsustainable practices, and reliance on water for development worsen existing water stress, especially in the western region.

Another development need in the water sector relates to the financing of WASH services, including the restructuring of water tariffs, which are too low for cost recovery purposes but at the same time need to be designed in a way that ensures affordability. The Uzbek government is also looking at financing models that engage the private sector and promote innovation, including public private partnerships.

The safety and sustainability of the mining industry, a vital component of Uzbekistan's economy, are intertwined with water security. Uzbekistan has 41 TMFs, with potential transboundary effects, emphasizing the need for regional cooperation to prevent accidents and pollution. A comprehensive, multi-hazards approach is urgently required to mitigate risks posed by TMFs and address the interplay of natural, climate-related, and technological hazards. The fragmented water management in Uzbekistan necessitates integrated planning and coordination to effectively tackle these challenges.

Project Stakeholders

At the national level target cooperation will be Ministries of Health, Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Emergency Situations, Ministry of Mining Industry and Geology as well as Specialized Analytical Control Center in the field of environmental protection.

At the local level administrations at oblast and district levels, water and wastewater operators, operators of tailings facilities and NGOs will be crucial for the effective implementation of the project, including to strengthen multi-stakeholder coordination and cooperation.

At the regional level, collaboration with the International Water Assessment Centre (IWAC) will be important as IWAC has conducted relevant work on preventing accidental water pollution and strengthening tailings safety in Central Asia. The Joint Uzbek-Kazakh Working Group on Environmental Protection and Water Quality in the Syr Darya River Basin will play a key role in strengthening transboundary cooperation on the prevention of accidental water pollution among up- and downstream countries in the Basin.

Project outputs

Outcome 1: Strengthened national governance, policies and legislation on water and sanitation, mine tailings safety and prevention of accidental water pollution, and climate resilience, through accession to and implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health and the Industrial Accidents Convention.

Outcome 1.1: Concrete steps towards accession to the Protocol on Water and Health and the Industrial Accidents Convention are being taken, evidenced by the development of draft ratification laws, endorsement of roadmaps for ratification/accession by the government and other similar steps that demonstrate government commitment to an advancement in the accession process.

Outcome 1.2: The country adopts national targets, policies and/or measures devised as a result of governance processes supported under the project.

Outcome 1.3: Gender-balanced participation is ensured for all meetings organized under this Outcome – and the participation of women is increased progressively for each year of the project.

Outcome 2: Fostered transboundary cooperation and regional exchange in the areas of water and sanitation, mine tailings safety and prevention of accidental water pollution, and climate resilience.

Outcome 2.1: Central Asian countries have participated in regional exchange and trained in the areas of water, sanitation, mine tailings safety and climate resilience.

Outcome 3: Increased political and public awareness on water and sanitation, the safe management of mine tailings and prevention of accidental water pollution, and climate resilience.

Outcome 3.1: Information and communication materials produced under the project are effectively disseminated. 

Outcome 3.2: Awareness-raising activities and products targeted to specific stakeholders or the public on water and industrial safety issues reached their intended audience.

Envisaged Project Activities

In order to reach the Project’s objectives, the following activities are envisaged:

Activities under Outcome 1:
  1. Organization of a national workshop on accession to the Protocol on Water and Health;
  2. Development of a baseline analysis of the situation in the country in the areas covered by the Protocol;
  3. Development of targets on water, sanitation, hygiene and health under the Protocol on Water and Health, accompanied by a strategic outlook. The targets will tackle aspects such sanitation, wastewater standards, and other areas of need for the country identified through the baseline analysis. They will include targets at the national, sub-national, and local/municipality level;
  4. Organization of two consultations throughout the target-setting process. For instance, one could discuss the baseline analysis and the issues emerging from it (to be possibly covered by the targets) and the other one the draft targets;
  5. Organization of a targeted meeting/roundtable on investment opportunities for implementing targets, including a session on PPPs;
  6. Targeted support to policy/legislation development/revision, based on the targets set (e.g. in the area of wastewater standards);
  7. Organization of a country mission to Uzbekistan, including a workshop, to raise awareness of the benefits of accession to the Industrial Accidents Convention, improve implementation of its provisions and advise on the steps to take towards accession;
  8. Support in the development of an updated self-assessment and action plan under the Strategic Approach of the Assistance and Cooperation Programme;
  9. Support in establishment of the national governance mechanism on tailings safety and preventing accidental water pollution;
  10. Support in implementing the recommendations from previous UNECE projects; including on the alignment of national policies and legislation with the Industrial Accidents Convention, its tools and other international standards.
Activities under Outcome 2:

1. Organization of a Subregional workshop for Central Asian countries on the exchange of good practices on tailings safety and prevention of accidental water pollution;
2. Support to the Joint Uzbek-Kazakh Working Group in the Syr Darya River Basin, also involving Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan;
3. Support for participation of Uzbek delegates to relevant meetings and international processes to expose them to international good practices and share Uzbek experience, including meetings organized under the Protocol.

Activities under Outcome 3:

1. Development of information and communication materials on the project, such as press releases, social media posts, information on the UNECE website, and other communication products (possibly a video) in English and Uzbek (where appropriate);
2. Dissemination of project results in relevant national events and international meetings or conferences;
3. Awareness-raising activity targeted to specific stakeholders, based on the gaps identified in the baseline analysis and the targets set under Outcome 1 (e.g. water operators, municipalities or regions, specific institutional settings such as schools, rural authorities…);
4. Sensitization of the public in a target municipality or region on water issues (e.g. water saving, water quality, sanitation, water availability), in collaboration with local partners.

Linkages with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


The project supports Uzbekistan in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably for the Protocol on Water and Health: SDGs 1.4, 3.3 and 3.9, 4.a, 5.1, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.a and 6.b, 9.1, 11.5, 12.4, 13.1, 16.10, 17.9, 17.14, 17.16 and 17.18.

For the Industrial Accidents Convention: SDG targets 3.9, 3.d, 6.3, 9.1, 9.4, 11.5, 11.b, 12.4, 13.1, 16.6, 16.7 and 17.6.