Water Shortage Primarily Management Problem, Agriculture Ministry Says

July 22. MFA

Water Shortage Primarily Management Problem, Agriculture Ministry SaysThe problem of water shortage as a potential obstacle to sustainable development is turning into a global issue. And Kazakhstan is no exception.

On July 15, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Agriculture, together with the OSCE Centre in Astana, the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, and the European Union held a round table on water resources management in Kazakhstan. Prospects for the application of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) plan at a national and basin levels were the main topics on the agenda.

“At the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002, it was noted that water crisis was primarily a crisis of management and lack of coordination between concerned parties, as well as of funding. Thus, we must recognise that the problem of shortage of quality water in some regions of Kazakhstan is a problem of management first, and of resources second,” Vice Minister of Agriculture Marat Tolibayev said.

Kazakhstan wants to halve the share of people without regular access to clean drinking water by 2015. As for the long-term goal of moving to sustainable water use, which is included in the “Strategy 2030,” it is directly dependent on water policy, Tolibayev said.

Surface water resources in Kazakhstan in an average water year constitute 101 cubic kilometres, 56 of which are formed domestically. The rest comes from the neighbouring China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia. Of all eight river basins that Kazakhstan has, only one is generated from internal resources, while the other seven are cross-border. This is to say that Kazakhstan is largely dependent on the inflow of water from abroad.

Beginning from 2002, Kazakhstan has been taking important steps to implement IWRM, and developed a National IWRM Plan.

“In all eight river basins, councils have been created and are working there now. Their main task is to coordinate efforts of state bodies managing water and land resources, environmental protection, ensuring water quality, and other. We have been funding a number of activities aimed at achieving sustainable water use. So the potential is there and it should be used,” Tolibayev explained.

The level of awareness and recognition of the importance of the rational use and development of water resources that are necessary to achieve sustainable development of both society and the wider region has increased in Kazakhstan, experts at the round table noted. However, there are still issues that need to be addressed.

“In the future, the problem of water resources in Kazakhstan is expected to grow due to global climate change, consolidation of farms, development of production, and, paradoxically, increase of people’s welfare,” Ekaterina Paniklova, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Kazakhstan, said. “Kazakhstan should take appropriate measures to adapt water infrastructure and water resources management system to the conditions of water scarcity,” Paniklova said.

Implementation of IWRM principles is important for Central Asia as a whole. “Water is being treated like a commodity here, and not like a natural resource, which contradicts the basic provisions of the UN Convention on the Transboundary Water Management,” Jeannette Kloetzer, Acting Head of the OSCE Centre in Astana, said. She added that the Centre, as always, stands ready to provide the necessary expertise and assistance in implementing IWRM principles in the region.

The importance of constructive cross-border dialogue and cooperation in inter-state river basins on the basis of international water conventions and international experience did not escape the attention of the conference attendees.

“Implementation of IWRM is one of the important areas of cooperation between the European Union and Kazakhstan. As noted by President Nazarbayev during the recent SCO summit in Astana, the issue of food security and water is gaining increasing importance in the world. As a major donour in this sector, the European Union will continue to support the sustainable management of water resources and the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan to enhance regional cooperation in water,” Norbert Jousten, Ambassador and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan, said.

At the event, the attendees also discussed best international practice and experience in implementation of IWRM principles, looked at the institutional and legal bases of water regulation in Kazakhstan, the National IWRM Plan, and activities of existing institutions.