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Saidi Yukubzod
Minister of Land Reclamation and Water Resources
of the Republic of Tajikistan

The role of water is rising at a very fast pace, as the world population grows and living space reduces. Over the past decades the humanity has come to understand more that at existing rates of consumer growth and level of technologies, water deficiency will restrain sustainable development of many countries in the near term.

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are the main flow formation zones in Central Asia. More than a half of water resources of the region are formed in Tajikistan. Fresh water resources in this country are enough to provide hundreds of millions of people with drinking water. Having sufficient water resources of drinking quality, we continue to develop water supply networks. At present, in large cities 93% of the population uses centralized water supply, while in rural areas this figure is no more than 49%. In the republic, about 2.9 millions don’t have permanent access to improved water sources, of which 2.8 millions live in rural areas. The whole infrastructure including in urban areas is more than 70% used up and requires serious rehabilitation and reconstruction. One of the major objectives of the Program for Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Tajikistan is to halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015.

To achieve this goal, the President of the country Emomali Rakhmon and the Tajik Government continually give attention to the improvement of drinking water supply to population, allocating funds from the state budget to these purposes. Capital investments are being made, using loans from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, and technical assistance from international governmental and non-governmental organizations. The population takes an active part in implementation of water supply improvement projects, making its contribution.

In our country, irrigated agriculture is the major activity for the rural population. Accounting for only 15% of GDP, the irrigated agriculture provides more than 95% of agricultural production. At the same time, about 2.5-3 millions of people are provided with job. Developing and improving the efficiency of irrigated agriculture directly influences the reduction of poverty in rural areas. Over the past 10 years, activities to rehabilitate and enhance the performance of irrigation systems, a basis for irrigated agriculture, were carried out intensively in Tajikistan. For these years, the Tajik Government have attracted about 200 million US dollars for rehabilitation of irrigation systems, using loans of international financial organizations, budgetary and other funds of governmental and non-governmental international organizations.

The process of agricultural management reformation and improvement of market mechanisms, in particular in irrigated agriculture, is going on. Within the next few years, it will enable to improve the efficiency of agricultural production and create an appropriate economic mechanism that ensures satisfactory financing for operation and maintenance of irrigation and drainage systems, thus ensuring steady functioning of irrigation systems. This, in turn, should favor sustainability and efficiency of irrigated agriculture.

However, the pace of fulfilling these tasks leaves much to be desired, and we are searching for opportunities to attract larger financial and material resources for irrigation and drainage systems rehabilitation, institutional development, and water management improvement. In this context, we hope for cooperation with international financial institutions, grants of donor countries and, of course, for own internal funds.

The efficiency of water resources management determines the efficiency of hydrological system operation. It is especially important in arid Central Asia, which faces water scarcity. As consumers grow and consumption rates decrease proportionally, the process of water resources management requires applying more effective approaches and technologies. Although our financial and technical capabilities are limited now, for example, on pilot basis, water distribution automation elements are implemented in the Khojabakirgan canal in Sogd province, with the technical assistance from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and should considerably improve water distribution and reduce water losses.

Under the overall economic reform and land reform in the country, the Tajik Government undertakes institutional development in water management. At on-farm level, Water Users Associations (WUA) are being established, projects and measures for management transition to basin principle are being developed. Therein, we are supported by donor countries, for which our country provides favorable conditions to implement their activities.

Hydropower resources of Tajikistan are widely known in the world. The potential cost-effective stock of hydropower resources in Tajikistan is more than 300 billion kWh per year. This is a clean and renewable energy. The construction of cascades of hydroelectric stations in the Amudarya and Syrdarya upstream will enable not only to obtain electricity, which is in deficit in Central Asian republics, but also irrigate additional thousands of hectares, improve water availability for thousands of hectares in the Aral Sea basin countries. At present, Sangtuda-1 and Sangtuda-2 hydroelectric stations are being constructed in our country in cooperation with the Russian Federation and Islamic Republic of Iran.

The first generating unit of the Sangtuda-1 hydroelectric station was put into operation in January 2008. Intensive negotiations are being conducted with interested investors and countries on the construction of largest Rogun hydroelectric station with a capacity of 3600 MW and average annual power generation of 13 billion kWh in Central Asia. Regional cooperation on the construction of cascades of hydroelectric stations, with due consideration of the interests of all the parties, will benefit our countries. We are sure that joint development of hydropower resources of Tajikistan should bring together our peoples and give a serious impulse to economic and political integration of the countries in the region.

In the post-Soviet period, the national legal framework, Water Code, was updated twice, in 2000 and 2007. A Law on WUA was adopted in 2006. The draft Law on Water Supply to Population is being considered. The Tajik Government issues decrees and instructions for efficient regulation of water relations in the country, continuously drawing attention to improvement of water regulatory framework. In the National Constitution, water resources like other natural resources are proclaimed as the public property and are provided for rational and efficient use. All legal improvements are aimed at better conditions for water use and at water resources protection, while keeping fundamental principles of the legislation:

It is well known that water is used in all spheres of human life, and this requires an integrated approach to water management. The principles of integrated water resources management (IWRM) were partially applied at Soviet times as well. Today, the IWRM-Fergana Project is implemented, particularly in the north of Tajikistan. We will apply the IWRM experience from Sogd province in other parts of the country during the transition to basin water management. Public participation in basin management through Basin Committees will enable to raise responsibility of water users for rational and efficient water use, involve them in water and land protection measures.

Under market economy and democratization of social relations, well-timed public awareness raising is an important factor in making proper decisions. Information on activities of water management organizations is disseminated through the mass media (press, radio and television), round tables, meetings, and press-conferences. Workshops and trainings, awareness raising campaigns for farmer-water users, engineers and technicians of water management organizations at local level also play a big role in dissemination and application of new knowledge.

Participation of women in water resources management at all levels should have a positive impact on rational and efficient water use, and enhance her status as an equal member of society. In water management system of the country, women hold high positions like chiefs of province water management organizations and many woman-professionals work in this system, in particular at the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources. Women are included necessarily in the membership of the Boards of newly established Water Users Associations (WUA), most of them are headed by women. The projects for rehabilitation of drinking water supply systems provide for the establishment of community Councils for Water and Sanitation or Water Committees, which should be headed by women. The Tajik Government gives big attention to women participation in management of economic sectors and provides all-round support for this.

It is evident that there is no alternative to water conservation for us. In the near term, the nature will not give us more water than we have, and annual water quantity fluctuations are within forecasts. However, the far future can be predicted hardly. The important way of water conservation is to reduce water losses and improve coefficient of irrigation system efficiency. At present, the coefficient of efficiency of inter-farm irrigation systems in Tajikistan, depending on technical conditions of the network and structures, is within 0.5-0.7. If one takes into account the coefficient of efficiency of on-farm irrigation network and field water losses, then water use efficiency in irrigation will be no more than 35%.

It is very easy and, at the same time, very expensive to save water by 10% in Central Asia countries and reduce water withdrawals, for example, by 10 billion m3. For that, it is necessary to use drip irrigation and other water-saving technologies in an area of around 2 million ha, and make investments of about US$8 billion. Today, this is large money for us, but we have no alternative. At present or in the future we will have to solve this problem. In Tajikistan, only research for assessment of water-saving technologies efficiency is carried out as yet. Currently, our country needs investments for rehabilitation of deteriorated hydraulic structures, pumping plants, and application of water-saving technologies for crop irrigation. Therein, we only rely on the assistance from donor countries, international financial institutions, and international governmental and non-governmental organizations. But there is a hope that as market principles in agricultural production improve, farmer-water user will also show interest in application of such technologies.

The training of highly qualified specialists in water management is a strategic issue. Over the past period, we failed to restore completely the system of personnel training, with due consideration of conditions of the present market period. Partly, it is connected with costs for passing of real long-term work practice by students. The only theoretical skills tend to be insufficient for effective water management. Owing to technical assistance of international organizations, a limited number of specialists pass short-term familiarization trainings in countries with developed irrigated agriculture. Assistance is provided by ICWC Training Center located in Tashkent. However, it is obvious that without own training center and systematic qualification improvement of water specialists, it will be hard for us to change radically the quality of our specialists.

The Interstate Commission for Water Coordination (ICWC) and the International Fund for the Aral Saving (IFAS) has been serving still as a basic platform for regional cooperation in water and power management in Central Asia. Tajikistan takes an active part in the structures of these organizations. Although the financial support provided by donor countries for measures within the framework of IFAS reduced when its head office was located in Tajikistan, our country diligently carried out activities aimed at the implementation of adopted long-term plans for water use efficiency improvement and environmental protection in the Aral Sea basin. The speech of the President of Tajikistan and President of IFAS Mr. Emomali Rakhmon at the 3rd World Water Forum in Japan can serve as an example for that. He put forward a number of proposals for institutional and legal improvement of water use and protection on a global and regional scale. They are aimed at improvement of trust and cooperation between countries, prevention of water-related disasters, improvement of well-being and living conditions of population. Based on these proposals, in Central Asia, we could enhance our cooperation by implementing the following proposals:

1. Development and adoption of an international universal water convention. The existing Conventions have been developed by countries, where the problem is not water resources deficiency; they are aimed at regulation of interstate water relations in large. For example, in arid Central Asia the main question is whether the potential water shortage is real. There are a lot of such regions as well as conflicts caused by water problems in the world. The development and adoption of such universal convention would support joint sustainable development of countries in similar regions.

2. Giving the IFAS a status of UN organization to coordinate activities of international organizations and donors, and proclamation of the Aral Sea basin a priority pilot region for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

3. Establishment of a Central Asian Sub-regional Center for Asia-Pacific Water Forum in Dushanbe.

4. Development of a Central Asian sub-regional water doctrine.

In Tajikistan we firmly believe that transboundary basin countries should cooperate and direct their efforts to providing favorable conditions for such cooperation. The cooperation should cover not only water problems, but also other economic sectors, above all, transport and trade. People living in one river basin are doomed to cooperation and peaceful development anyway.

The doors of Tajikistan for cooperation are open to all near- and far-abroad countries.