Central Asia is facing growing challenges in the field of environment and water resources. Part of the problems – like the drying out of the Aral Sea or unsafe uranium tailings – is inherited from the past. Increasing environmental pollution and strain on water resources is the result of economic development, population growth, aging infrastructure and obsolete technologies. Irregular weather patterns caused by climate change are going to further aggravate these challenges, especially in the medium and long run. Part of these challenges can be effectively met only through regional efforts. Regional cooperation requires effective decision support based on the transparent and cooperative management of relevant information.
While there are currently efforts under way to develop information exchange as a basis for planning and decision making, strengthening the availability of reliable information would be a key contribution to environmental protection and water management in Central Asia. However, for various reasons exchange of information within and between States remains difficult. Important bottlenecks include a low capacity for collecting, managing and quality-controlling the information, as well as insufficiently developed or even deteriorating monitoring networks.
60 representatives of Central Asian countries, international organizations and donors gathered in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 9-10 June to discuss this issue and identify potential solutions at the meeting “Further development of regional cooperation among the countries of Central Asia in the management of information on the environment and water resources”. The meeting was organized by UNECE upon request by the Inter-state Commission on Sustainable Development composed of Ministers of Environment of the five Central Asian Countries. Participants included representatives of relevant government agencies, decision-making and executive bodies of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, the Scientific and Information Centres of the Inter-State Commission on Sustainable Development and the Inter-State Commission for Water Coordination, the Regional Centre for Hydro-meteorology, international and regional organizations, the civil society and interested donors.
Participants discussed a broad range of institutional, legal and technical issues concerning the development of a unified regional information space. Such an information space would support decision-making at the national and regional levels, facilitate scientific research and education and contribute to awareness raising and Central Asia's participation in international processes.
It was concluded that there is a need for the development of a unified regional information space, covering the environment and shared water resources. UNECE was requested to develop a proposal on continued work for the development of such a unified regional space for water and environmental information with the full involvement of relevant regional institutions, the civil society and interested donors.
The meeting also included a presentation of a text-book on dam safety for experts in Central Asia that has been produced with support from UNECE. The safety of dams and other water infrastructure has become a source of concern after two accidents in 2010 and 2013 in Kazakhstan. UNECE is engaged since some time in Central Asia to raise the capacity as well as legal and institutional framework for safety of these installations.
The workshop was organized by UNECE in the framework of the UNECE-German Agency for International Cooperation Project “Regional Dialogue and Cooperation on Water Resources Management in Central Asia” funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.
Mr. Marton Krasznai
Note for editors:
The German Agency for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)) is an international cooperation enterprise for sustainable development with worldwide operations, which supports the German Government in achieving its development policy objectives.
The Berlin Water Process was launched at the first “Water Unites” Conference (Berlin, 1 April 2008). The Process is an important part of the water and environment pillar of the European Union’s Central Asia Strategy. The Transboundary Water Management in Central Asia Programme is implemented by GIZ under the Berlin Water Process to optimize cooperation in the Central Asian water sector and improve the lives of people in the region. The UNECE-GIZ project is part of this Programme.