PRESS RELEASE: Caspian Policy Center Releases Report and Holds Discussion on Water Management in Central Asia
New report explores the precarious state of Central Asia’s water resources and generates a discussion on sustainable ways to improve it.
Washington, D.C. — The Caspian Policy Center (CPC) today hosted a panel discussion with researchers and issue experts from Washington and the Greater Caspian Region to discuss the water management issues in Central Asia and current efforts to mitigate conflicts inflamed by transboundary water resources.
The webinar was held in conjunction with the release of a new report, “The Vital Resource: Water Management in Central Asia,” which looks at the precarious state of Central Asia’s water resources and the opportunities it presents for regional cooperation.
“As climate change leads to decreases in precipitation and higher levels of evaporation, Central Asia’s water-intensive agricultural practices must be carefully examined,” said Efgan Nifti, Chief Executive Officer of the Caspian Policy Center. “The region’s unequal distribution of water and energy resources has often brought upstream and downstream countries into conflict. As water resources dwindle and demands for energy increase, addressing these issues will be vital to regional stability.”
Nearly 90 percent of rivers in Central Asia are transboundary: downstream countries, such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, almost entirely rely on water resources that originate in upstream countries such as the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. Ambassador (ret.) Allan Mustard, Senior Fellow at CPC, moderated an insightful conversation among the webinar participants on the importance of bolstering regional cooperation to resolve Central Asia’s key water management issues.
The panelists, Ruby Shamayleh, Water and Environment Team Leader at USAID Central Asia; Philipp Saprykin, Deputy Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia; Dr. Kakhramon Djumaboev, Researcher at the International Water Management Institute’s Central Asia Office; Dr. Murodbek Laldjebaev, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Central Asia; and Aizhan Abilgazina, Research Assistant at the CPC, discussed the steps needed to secure transboundary water resources, establish relationships between energy generation and the water supply, and utilize sustainable agricultural practices.
“Because water is a foundational element of development and it is cross-cutting into many sectors such as energy, agriculture, and tourism, USAID’s economic development office has been providing assistance on water for almost two decades,” said Ruby Shamayleh. “And our main objective on water is to strengthen regional cooperation on transboundary water resources.”
Water is a foundational element for development in Central Asia and is a necessity for many economic sectors, especially for agriculture, transportation, and tourism. The speakers noted the importance of improving dialogues and relations among the regional countries to streamline their economies.
“The current and future state of energy use in Central Asia very much depends on efficient and rational uses of water sources,” said Dr. Djumaboev. “We need sustainable practices and some clear rules and regulations for transboundary cooperation that need to be made in coming years.”
“The adoption of the Caspian Convention shows that regional agreement is quite possible even on the most difficult issues,” said Philipp Saprykin. “Both Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have important experience in initiating this convention.”
Water mismanagement in the region has resulted in billions of dollars in economic damages, threatened job and food security, and resulted in the depletion of the Aral Sea. Panelists discussed implementing localized solutions that improve the efficiency of water use with data-driven methods and modeling techniques.
Additional key findings from the report include:
- It is necessary to increase water productivity through the introduction of better irrigation practices in Central Asia. Specifically, the region should adopt sprinkler and drip irrigation techniques that can reduce water consumption by 30-70 percent compared to flood irrigation.
- The region must diversify agricultural production away from cotton and towards more viable alternatives that do not require as much water.
- Interstate dialogues over multilateral agreements should focus on the development of functional legal frameworks that will provide clear guidelines on how to efficiently manage regional water management.
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The Caspian Policy Center (CPC) is an independent, nonprofit research think tank based in Washington D.C. Economic, political, energy, and security issues of the Caspian region constitute the central research focus of the Center. CPC aims at becoming a primary research and debate platform in the Caspian region with relevant publications, events, projects, and media productions to nurture a comprehensive understanding of the intertwined affairs of the Caspian region.
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