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Shavkat Khamrayev
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources,
Head of Central Water Resources Administration,
Republic of Uzbekistan

On behalf of the delegation of Uzbekistan, let me salute the participant of the 5th World Water Forum and express deep gratitude to the Government of Turkey for hospitality and organization of this event.

The title of the Forum - Bridging Divides for Water - is of direct importance for the future of Uzbekistan. For the country situated in the mid- and downstream of the major rivers within the Aral Sea basin and which suffers from ever growing water shortage, the challenges related to changes in water resources are of key concern for economic development and population needs provision.

1. Status of water resources in Uzbekistan and situation in Prearalie

The common weal in the republic depends on a possibility to ensure water supply for almost 29 millions of people, for irrigation of 4.3 million ha, for industry and for the environment.

At present, the total annual water use in the republic is 55.1 km3, of which irrigated agriculture - 49.7 km3, domestic and drinking water supply for urban and rural population – 3.4 km3.

In terms of orography, Uzbekistan is located within the two Central Asian river basins, that are Amudarya and Syrdarya, occupying their western and north-western areas, where Pamiro-Alay and Tien-Shan mountain systems change by plains. This explains the relatively low water availability in the Uzbekistan’s rivers as compared to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and dependence on neighbors for guaranteed provision with surface water since only 11-12% originates in the country out of the total usable water resources in the country.

Shortage of water and deterioration of water and land resources are observed throughout the country. Most irrigated area is subjected to salinization, water-logging, water erosion, agro-biodiversity losses and other very hazardous processes. This hampers the development of agriculture and other economic sectors and increases the problems of low-income rural population. There is close relationship between water quality, health, and low-incomes of population. Almost one fourth of people in the republic (more than 6 millions) suffer from negative effect of polluted water. Various surveys undertaken in the rural area (WB, 2002; ADB, 2005) showed that undoubtedly low-incomes of rural population were linked with the irregular supplies of irrigation water and the deterioration of land (salinization and water-logging).

Undoubtedly, level lowering in the Aral Sea affected the wind regime in Prearalie, that is reduction of breeze circulation.

Drying-out of huge areas of 4.5 Mha and enough stirring wind activity in 1970-1980 have caused sudden increase in dust storms in and outside Prearalie.

The exposed seabed has formed a salt desert called Aralkum, from which annually 15 to 75 Mt of salt and dust are spread with the wind. The intensive salt and dust transfer increases salinization of arable land and pastures.

In the last decades, many natural freshwater lakes disappeared, tugay areas halved, and reed area decreased 6 times.

2. Available water tendencies and forecasts, including in light of climate change

Future changes in water resources depend on two major factors, such as climate change and economic activity.

Intensive climate warming is observed throughout the Central Asia. This phenomenon is occurring in both cold and warm seasons. For Uzbekistan, records also show steady trend towards warming. The mean warming rates are 0.29°Ń for every decade since 1950-ties. This is twice as high as the mean warming rates in the world. The Fourth Report of IPCC (2007) indicates that since early 1950-ties the global warming rate has reached 0.13°Ń per decade.

A visual regional indicator of climate change is the change in frequencies of high and low air temperatures. For example, in Prearalie, the days with the temperature higher than 40°Ń increased twofold, while for the rest territory of Uzbekistan this is increased on average half as much again.

Number of days with low temperatures also decreases throughout the republic.

Water resources in the Aral Sea basin’s rivers and their sources of feeding are very sensitive to climatic changes. The major factors influencing river runoff under conditions of warming are as follows:

The Uzbekistan’s rivers respond differently to climate warming due to differences in types of their feeding. Runoff in the rivers with snow feeding decreases faster as temperature rises. This fits simulation results that indicate to continuous reduction of snow cover in mountain river basins.

Rivers with substantial glacier feeding are more “inert” since the temperature rise makes melting of high-altitude snow and glaciers more intensive, thus creating certain compensating conditions for runoff generation. Due to continued glacial degradation, which will be ever increasing with temperature growth, runoff will decrease, maybe more intensively here as well.

Assessment of water resources in light of climate change for the future, as made under preparation of the Second National Message of the Republic of Uzbekistan on climate change, as well as by modeling of mountain river runoff formation showed the following:

The assessments indicate that changes in air temperature and precipitation in the long-term, by 2050, probably, will result in runoff reduction in the rivers Syrdarya and Amudarya. For this period, the expected runoff changes will be within 2-5 % for Syrdarya and 10-15% for Amudarya.

However, given the current situation in irrigated agriculture, climate change will cause sharper water deficit and additional risks for agriculture. Mid- and downstream of Amudarya are more vulnerable to climate change and this raises particular concerns.

It is expected that anthropogenic climate changes will lead to more frequent and severe droughts.

During dry years, when hydrological drought occurs, water-related situation is particularly critical.

Analysis of minimally low-water level conditions through extreme climatic scenarios shows that runoff in the Amudarya and Syrdarya river basins may decrease by 25-40% during growing season.

The Aral Sea basin (Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers) is expected to face the following:

3. National and regional measures for adaptation of water management to climate change

Though reduction of water resources in expected in the middle of XXI century, adaptation to consequences of climate change is one of primary objectives as early as now.

Moreover, in this context, “The improvement of water and land resources planning and management” is very important, and the basic adaptation measures are as follows:

Successful implementation of the national adaptation strategy is only possible in case of bridging the countries in area of water management and use.

4. The impact of artificial change in transboundary river regimes on water resources, and the efforts of upstream countries to expand hydropower capacities unilaterally

A negative consequence of water and environmental problems is the breach of natural river regime, which occurred as a result of increased use of Amudarya and particularly Syrdarya (due to the change in operation mode of Toktogul reservoir) for hydropower generation purposes. Instead of summer water abundance in the rivers and dry winter, winter floods with heavy ice regime in mid- and downstream and low water conditions in summer, up to complete drying of channel, occurred along the Syrdarya river. This complicates diversion for water supply in the scarcest summer time and contributes to morbidity. Water salinity exceeded 1.5-1.8 g/l in lower reaches.

The rational use and development of water and energy resources in Amudarya and Syrdarya basins have been and still are the most complex regional challenges before Central Asia.

At present, new large-scale hydropower projects are developed along transboundary rivers in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: in the upper reaches of Amudarya, Syrdarya, and Zerafshan, such as Kambarata HEPS in Kyrgyzstan and Roghun and Yavan HEPS in Tajikistan.

However, implementation of those projects can change significantly regimes of Syrdarya and Amudarya and can have negative effect on water availability for population, major economic sectors and, especially, irrigated agriculture. Putting of Roghun waterworks facility into operation could critically complicate situation in mid- and downstream of Amudarya under operation of Roghun and Nurek in power-generation regime. The change in river regime would infringe on interests of the downstream countries. Besides, it is necessary to bear in mind that the proposed construction is located in the higher seismisity zone, where Richter magnitude 8-9 earthquakes are registered. What catastrophic consequences may bring this for hundred thousand people.

Investments in the construction of hydropower stations in any water basins, including transboundary rivers, should be based on international law and take into account interests of all riparian countries. The investments should only be made after an independent international project expertise, which identifies an impact of such projects on water, environmental and socio-economic conditions in downstream countries.

The optimal development of water and energy potential, based on consideration of interests of each country, could and should be achieved through IWRM and interstate cooperation. This, in turn, would improve food and energy independence, expand export capacities, and save investment resources.

Water and energy management at transboundary level should be undertaken jointly by the countries and meet international norms. Moreover, it should be aimed at both generation of economic benefit and avoidance of potential conflicts. In this context, it is necessary to develop a strategic plan and set clearly objectives of transboundary river water use that must contribute to safety in and sustainability of the region.

Uzbekistan cooperates closely with a number of international organizations, including United Nations Development Program, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency, Global Environmental Facility and others.

The issues of transboundary river water sharing in the region were addressed at the 13th World Water Congress “Global changes and water resources: confronting the expanding and diversifying pressures” (September 2008, Montpellier, France), where the Special session “Future trends of water and food security in Central Asia, implications for reaching the Millennium Development Goals” adopted a resolution, which stressed a need for elaboration of the common transboundary water sharing strategy by the six countries in the region in order to achieve stability in Central Asia.

The EU-CA Ministerial Conference (December 2008, Ashkhabad) placed emphasis on a need to solve water problems on the basis of the effective international water law and the agreement and expertise of all new projects on transboundary water sources in order to avoid damage to downstream riparian countries. Representatives of the European Union advocated a proposal to incorporate the item that discussions of environmental and water issues, including transboundary waters, should be based on relevant international legal framework into the final document of the Conference.

The International conference “Problems of the Aral Sea, their impact on population gene pool, flora and fauna and international mitigation measures” (March 2008, Tashkent, Uzbekistan) adopted its final document - Tashkent Declaration - which stated the following: promote sustainable management of transboundary rivers and exclude artificial reduction of volume and regime of their runoffs.

Today, Central Asia is a region, which needs stronger international cooperation and coordination of efforts in searching ways for mitigation of the Aral crisis consequences and development of effective tools for shared water use.

The international cooperation in water-related area in the region should be based on such regional strategy and concept, which provide for: 1) the development of national strategies; 2) the mechanisms of dispute resolution and consensus-building among the countries; 3) the availability of common territory, security, and mutual cooperation.

5. Position of the Republic of Uzbekistan regarding transboundary river water sharing

It is particularly important to strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation as concerns the development of water and energy potential of transboundary rivers in the region. Taking into account extra importance of water resources for Central Asia, Uzbekistan has been supporting always a wise approach to water use.

The President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov in his speech at the Summit of the Heads of Member States of Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek on 16th August 2007 stated the following Uzbekistan’s approaches: