Water Diplomacy in Central Asia

Local news, 17.11.2022

The primary success of Uzbekistan's external policy represents a cardinal reform in the Central Asian region - namely, the development of good-neighborly relations with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.


Water Diplomacy in Central Asia
Water Diplomacy in Central Asia ©FDFA

The experience of farming, crop irrigation, and construction of ground and surface irrigation structures has been formed and mastered for thousands of years throughout the Central Asian region. Our ancestors did not waste a single drop of water, they used it efficiently and lived a harmonious and favorable life at the watersides.  They controlled the beds of rivers and streams, excavated canals, and obtained water, planted various crops, and improve settlements. Therefore, water has long been one of the most important assets for the peace and well-being of the Central Asian people and it still has such value today.

In 21st century, the humanity has achieved the highest level of development, the need for water is constantly increasing. At the same time, both waterways and water resources of all republics of the Central Asian region are closely integrated, therefore it is impossible not to conduct "water diplomacy" with neighboring countries.

Taking the example of the Syr Darya basin, water from the Republic of Kyrgyzstan comes from numerous streams such as Norin, Sokh, Okburasoy, Aravonsoy, Mailisoy, Shokhimardonsoy, Isfairamsoy. From Uzbekistan, water is supplied to the territory of Kyrgyzstan from the Right Bank, Savai, South Fergana, and Karkidon intake canals.

To Tajikistan, water is supplied through the Big Fergana and North Fergana canals. At the same time, an average of 300 m3 /s of water is supplied from the Syrdarya River through the territory of Uzbekistan to the reservoir "Bakhri Tajik" in Tajikistan during the growing season. Due to this, an average of 500-550 m3 /sec of water is released from the reservoir "Bakhri Tadjik".

On the other hand, water from the reservoir "Bakhri Tadjik" is delivered to the arable fields of Sughd province of Tajikistan through pumps and the "Yukori-Dalvarzin" canal. In addition, through water released from this reservoir, Bekabad district of Tashkent region of Uzbekistan is under irrigation through the canals " Lower-Dalvarzin" and "Bekabad"; Jizzak and Syrdarya regions are irrigated through canals "South Mirzachol" and "Dostlik"; and arable lands in Yettisoy and Makhtaral regions of Turkistan region of Kazakhstan are irrigated through canal "Dostlik".

Besides these, water discharged from the reservoir "Chorvok" through canals "Zakh", "Khonum" and "Katta Keles" is used for irrigation of crop areas of Saryogoch, Kazgurd and Keles districts of Turkestan region of Kazakhstan and crop areas of Tashkent, Zangiata, Kibray and Chinoz districts of Tashkent region.

From the Chordara reservoir in Kazakhstan it is also possible to supply water to the Arnasoy reservoir in Uzbekistan. 

Central Asia. Water Diplomacy
Central Asia. Water Diplomacy ©FDFA

From the Amu Darya River water is taken through the cascade of pumping stations "Amu-Zang" in Surkhandarya region, "Karshi Main Canal" in Kashkadarya region and the pumping station "Amu-Bukhara Machine Canal" in Bukhara region. In turn, water is supplied to the territory of Turkmenistan via Karshi main canal. It should be noted that six pumping stations of the cascade of pumping stations of the Karshi main canal are located on the territory of Turkmenistan, and Uzbek water professionals use these pumping stations by crossing the border.

Turkmenistan draws water from the Amu Darya to its territory through the Karakum Canal and other canals, as well as through small pumping stations.

Tuyamoyin reservoir, which supplies water to Khorezm region of Uzbekistan, the Republic of Karakalpakstan and Doshkhovuz region of Turkmenistan, is formed from the border areas of the two countries. Water released from the Tuyamoyin reservoir to Dashkhovuz region is supplied through main canals "Turkmendarya" and "Left Bank" and through canals "Khanyap", "Jumaboy Soqa", "Kilichniyazboy" and "Kipchok-Bozsuv" through lower part of Tuyamoyin hydrounit from the left bank of Amudarya.

Moreover, Karatogdarya, one of the main inflows of Surkhandarya, originates from the territory of Tajikistan, and through several canals, such as Jonchekka-1, Jonchekka-2, Khatib, Shodmonkazak, and Dayub, it takes water from the territory of the neighboring state to Surkhandarya region.

As a result of improved relations between the two countries in recent years, additional water has been flowing from the Varzob River in Tajikistan into the South Surkhan Reservoir through the Great Gissar Canal.

These data confirm that "water diplomacy" is extremely important and strategic in relations between the countries of our region.

To be honest, in our recent history, that is, in the couple of decades prior to 2017, the region has experienced problems regarding joint use of water resources.

The expedient policy of Sh.M.Mirziyoyev after his election as President in Uzbekistan, friendly and reliable relations with the leaders of neighboring countries have established a solid basis for the joint use of transboundary water resources in the Central Asian region.

For instance, on March 15, 2018, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the first Joint Consultative Meeting of Central Asian leaders in Astana noted that addressing all vital development issues of Uzbekistan, which shares a border with all the republics of the region, ranging from border protection to rational distribution of water resources, is directly linked to relations with neighboring countries.

On November 29, 2019, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in his speech at the second consultative meeting of Central Asian leaders held in Tashkent city made a proposal to develop mutually agreed approaches to solving water use problems.

At the conferences of Central Asian leaders, at the same time during high-level visits of the President of Uzbekistan to neighboring countries, the issues of joint rational use of transboundary water resources are being under consideration, and the unresolved problems of many years are being solved.

Nowadays, Uzbekistan consistently develops relations with Central Asian countries on water issues both at multilateral level - within the framework of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea and the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination, and at bilateral level - within the framework of intergovernmental working groups on use of water resources. As a result of mutual cooperation and agreements reached in recent years with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan, successes in improving water availability in the Syrdarya and Amudarya basins are being achieved.

Namely, the trilateral agreement between the Ministry of Water Resources of Uzbekistan, the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan on the use of the Bakhri Tachik reservoir in June-August 2022, and also within the framework of mutual cooperation the Republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan signed an agreement on electric power exchange to release additional water for irrigation from the Tokhtagul reservoir. 

Uzbekistan Projects Water Diplomacy
Uzbekistan Projects Water Diplomacy ©FDFA

Analysing, about 20 intergovernmental and intersectoral documents related to the water sector were signed with the Central Asian republics in 2021-2022.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan shows its initiative among Central Asian countries in adopting water-saving technologies and expanding opportunities to use modern technologies in water management in order to reduce water shortages.

In Uzbekistan with personal support of President Sh. Mirziyoyev and due to subsidies and benefits created by the Government, the system, which was effective in previous years consistently continues to justify the work on introduction of water-saving technologies. To date, water-saving irrigation technologies have been introduced on an area of 904.4 thousand ha, and its scope has reached 24% of irrigated areas.

And it is a fact that equipment and water-saving irrigation technology components were mainly imported from foreign countries. Therefore, importance is also given, in order to reduce imports and increase the number of enterprises of local production with a view to meet the internal demand.

However, if before 2019 the number of such local enterprises was only 3 in Uzbekistan, now it has reached 46. Due to the localization of production by these enterprises, the cost of production has been reduced from 25 million soums to 20 million soums per hectare, saving foreign exchange costs for imports. At the same time, the possibility of export to neighboring republics became available.

The Water Resource Management and Irrigation Sector Development Strategy of Uzbekistanis adopted for 2021-2023 and the Water Sector Concept for 2020-2030 was approved in order to improve land and water resources efficiency use, sustainable water supply to population and all sectors of economy of Uzbekistan, improve reclamation of irrigated lands, broad introduction of market principles and mechanisms and digital technologies in the water sector, and ensure reliable operation of water facilities. 

On the basis of these documents, the Ministry of Water Resources takes measures for effective water management, introduction of water-saving and digital technologies, irrigation and reclamation works, laser land leveling, and timely implementation of agro-technical measures.

Consequently, 6.5 billion m3 of water was saved during the past period of 2022, including 5.5 billion m3 during the irrigation season. Precisely due to the introduction of water-saving technologies and laser land leveling, 2.0 billion m3 of water was saved.

Water specialists in the Central Asian republics often meet and regularly interact. There is no nation among water professionals; the expression "water professionals are one people, one nation" is often used.

Indeed, regardless of the republic in which they serve, water professionals are united by such noble goals as ensuring the water to the population and sectors of the economy, serving the welfare of the country.

Water professionals in the Central Asian region, pursuing a noble goal, share the noble goal of rational use of transboundary river waters, efficient water management and reduction of water scarcity in the region, and conscientiously perform their honorable duties.

Shuhrat Suyunov,

Head of the Information Service of the Ministry of Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan.