Policy of Uzbekistan on the use oftransboundary water resources


Sanjar Umirzakov,

independent researcher

Today in Uzbekistan, the issues of providing the population with clean drinking water and effective use of existing water resources are becoming more important than ever. This, in turn, requires the use of Amudarya and Syrdarya water, the largest water arteries that supply the region with the main water, against the background of global climate change, taking into account the interests of the basin countries.

In particular, according to the 2023 water intake allocation of the Interstate Water Management Coordinating Commission, within one year (from October 1, 2022 to October 1, 2023) it is determined that the amount of water taken from the Amudarya basin will be 55.4 billion cubic meters, of which 15.7 billion cubic meters will fall on the non-vegetation period (until April 1, 2023). However, since the amount of water in the Amudarya basin during the growing season of 2022 is quite uncertain, although it is within the normal range in April-May, it has decreased to 65-85% from June and was below the target level. Although the limit of water intake from the Syrdarya basin was 11.8 billion cubic meters from April 1 to September 30, 2022, 10.1 billion cubic meters of water was actually taken. It is clear from this that if the mechanism of effective use of transboundary water resources is not introduced in the region, it is inevitable that the countries of the basin will face the problem of water shortage in the future.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, at the same time, the Central Asian countries have enough water resources per capita (about 2.3 thousand m3) and stressing that the problem is not a shortage of water, but an irrational use. Also, according to the results of the research conducted by this organization, it was determined that Turkmenistan consumes 5319 m3, Kazakhstan 2345 m3, Uzbekistan 2295 m3, Kyrgyzstan 1989 m3 and Tajikistan 1895 m3 of water per year. With this, the countries of Central Asia were included in the top ten countries that consume the most water in the world.

The current situation related to transboundary water resources and the threat of an ecological crisis expected in the future require effective state policy in the field of use of transboundary water bodies in Uzbekistan.

Of course, Uzbekistan has been adapting the state policy in the field of water use to modern conditions and requirements. Since the first years of Uzbekistan’s independence, water use issues have been defined as an important direction of state policy. Only on May 6, 1993, the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Water and Water Use” was adopted, and on the international level, our country signed the “Convention on the Use and Protection of International Lakes and Transboundary Water Arteries” (Helsinki 1992 March 17, 1997) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Unnavigable Use of International Watercourses (New York, March 21, 1997) has been pursuing an independent policy.

Also, if the new development strategy of Uzbekistan for 2022-2026 envisages the implementation of a separate state program on radical reform of the water resources management system and water saving (goal 31), then on 11.2023 Saving water resources in the 3rd section of the “Uzbekistan-2030” strategy in September and organizational and practical measures on environmental protection issues are defined. At the same time, the decision of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated July 2, 2018 “On measures to increase the efficiency of the use of water resources”, July 10, 2020 “Development of water management of the Republic of Uzbekistan 2020-2030” The Decrees of June 23, 2023 “On the approval of the concept for the years” and “On the measures of effective organization of state management in the field of water management within the framework of administrative reforms” were adopted. In general, it is not an exaggeration to say that the adoption of such legal documents in our country is the legal basis of the reforms that should be implemented in the future in the management and rational use of water resources.

At this point, it is worth noting that in recent years, as a result of the international initiatives and political will of the head of our country, the foreign policy of Uzbekistan has taken a new shape. The Central Asian region was defined as the most important region in Uzbekistan’s foreign policy. It should be said that this approach in the foreign policy of Uzbekistan had a positive effect on the peaceful solution of the problems of the use of transboundary waters in the region.

For example, the President of Uzbekistan Sh. Mirziyoyev, in his statement at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, emphasized the need to approach the water problem under the auspices of the UN, taking into account the interests of all the countries of the region, announced his support for the draft convention developed by the regional center.

In his speech at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, the head of our country noted that the world is currently experiencing a critical environmental situation and three global crises, namely climate change, loss of biodiversity, and environmental pollution, are intensifying. Asia is becoming one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. President, inform the whole world about the measures taken by Uzbekistan to eliminate the consequences of the Aral tragedy, the negative effects of climate change in our region and the decreasing trends of the water supply level. Based on this situation, the position of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Water Resources, the creation of a platform for water-saving technologies in Central Asia, and the establishment of systematic cooperation within the framework of the Green Development Program adopted in our region are supported.

In this session, Sh. Mirziyoyev emphasized that it is appropriate to introduce the “Central Asian climate dialogue”, and the initiative to adopt the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly “Central Asia in the face of global climate threats: solidarity for common prosperity” was put forward.

On December 19, 2023, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution aimed at solving the urgent environmental problems that plague Central Asia. This initiative, co-sponsored by a coalition of several countries led by Uzbekistan, confirms our region’s commitment to collective action in combating climate change and supporting sustainable development.

According to Khalid Taimur Akram, executive director of the Pakistan Research Center, the resolution entitled “Central Asia Facing Environmental Challenges: Strengthening Regional Solidarity for Sustainable Development and Prosperity” states that climate change is the most serious obstacle to sustainable development of our time. expressed as one of the complex problems. The resolution includes recommendations for effectively countering climate and environmental threats in Central Asia, including sustainable agriculture, landscaping, rational use of water resources, energy efficiency, waste treatment, development of sustainable tourism, and creation of “smart cities”.

Leanne Berney, head of the UN-Water Technical Advisory Mechanism Program, said: “We welcome the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the resolution “Central Asia in the face of global climate threats: strengthening regional solidarity for sustainable development and prosperity”. The main priorities of this important resolution, such as rational use of water resources, reducing poverty, preserving ecosystems and strengthening food security, are fully compatible with the goals of the “UN-Water Resources” program. I am glad that the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev paid special attention to the problems of water resources in his speech at the 78th session of the General Assembly. The head of Uzbekistan mentioned the water problem six times in his speech. We are deeply encouraged by this. I confirm that the head of your country is determined to deepen cooperation with Uzbekistan in the implementation of international initiatives of the “UN-water resources”.

It is worth noting that 2023 is the year of the head of our state оn September 15, at the next summit of the leaders of the founding countries of the International Fund for Island Rescue in Dushanbe, emphasizing that the problems of water resources shortage and inefficient use in Central Asia require the development and implementation of new long-term decisions, the following series of proposals and launched initiatives:

first, to further improve the legal framework and modernize the institutional mechanisms of the International Fund for Island Rescue of Uzbekistan;

secondly, the revision of the main documents and agreements, including the revision of the fund’s charter adopted in 1990, joint analysis of the current structure, and the preparation of proposals for coordinating the work of organizations within the fund and increasing its effectiveness, its activities and developing “Rules and Procedures” that clearly regulate cooperation issues;

thirdly, to implement the processes of development and reform of the fund on the basis of the intersectoral principle, that is, taking into account modern environmental threats, on the basis of complex approaches in the order of “water – energy – food – food”;

fourthly, to instruct the management of the fund to critically review the current Program, determining the size of each regional project and the sources of financing, preparation of “road maps”, as well as an agreed schedule for their implementation;

fifth, to establish a regional platform for regular meetings of ministers of water resources, energy and environment;

sixthly, to consider the issue of involving Afghanistan’s representatives in the regional dialogue on the distribution of water resources.

At the end of his speech, Shavkat Mirziyoyev spoke about the Koshtepa canal being built by Afghanistan in the Amudarya, and the commissioning of this canal can radically change the order and the balance of water use in Central Asia and called for the creation of a joint working group to study all aspects of the construction of the canal and its impact on the water regime of the Amudarya.

In addition, as a result of the establishment of friendly relations with the neighbors by the President of Uzbekistan Sh. Mirziyoyev, conflicts over the use of transboundary water bodies have been resolved, and water problems are being solved. Efforts to continue active bilateral and multilateral cooperation with neighboring countries in the issues of integrated management of water resources, joint use of transboundary water resources and interstate water management facilities are being systematically implemented.

During 2017-2024, Uzbekistan’s water diplomacy with regional countries brought historic results. We can see that the policy of Uzbekistan during this period with the countries of the region regarding the use of transboundary waters helped to find diplomatic solutions to many problems in the field, as an example of the following historical agreements:

In 2017, the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan intergovernmental joint commission on water issues was established, and both countries reached the ratification of the agreement on the joint management of water resources of the Andijan (Kampirabad) reservoir in 2022.

In 2018, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan reached a mutually beneficial agreement on the Farkhod and Rogun hydroelectric power stations, and in 2022, the heads of state of both countries started the construction of the Yavon hydroelectric power station on the Zarafshan River.

In 2021, an agreement was reached between Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan on the use of the Toktagul reservoir. In January 2023, these countries approved the construction project of the Kambarota-1 hydroelectric power station, and an investment agreement was signed between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan regarding the construction of the Kambarota-1 hydroelectric power station.

On June 22, 2023, between the Ministry of Water Management of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan A tripartite protocol on the use of the “Bahri Tajik” reservoir in June-August 2023 was signed, and this agreement served to successfully conduct the 2023 summer vegetation period.

On August 21, 2023, in the village of Chok-Tal, Issyk-Kol region of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Ministry of Water Management of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the third meeting of the joint water management commission between the Water Management Service under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Kyrgyz Republic was held issues such as agreement and approval of plans were discussed.

In February 2024, at the initiative of the Swiss government, Blue Peace Central Asia, two hydroposts were opened along the cross-border Greater Fergana Canal and North Fergana Canal by the Minister of Water Management of Uzbekistan and the Minister of Energy and Water Management of Tajikistan. We will not be mistaken if we say that these hydroposts served to improve the potential of irrigation of agricultural lands, first to Uzbekistan, and then to Tajikistan.

Importantly, at the beginning of March 2024, the Chairman of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis Tanzila Narbayeva received the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Central Asia, the head of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, Kakha Imnadze. At the meeting, the current state of cooperation between Uzbekistan and the UN and its specialized agencies, including the regional center for preventive diplomacy for Central Asia, and plans for joint implementation in the future were discussed. Cooperation with the center covers issues such as ensuring peace and security, fighting terrorism, using the potential of women and youth in peacebuilding, conflict prevention and resolution, as well as joint and rational use of transboundary water and energy resources. Kakha Imnadze emphasized that mutual relations between the countries of the Central Asian region serve to ensure peace and stability in all aspects, and Uzbekistan has a special contribution to this.

As mentioned above, the initiative of Uzbekistan and these historical agreements reached as a result of political will are primarily aimed at meeting the water needs of our people, the economy of our country, and the future generation. After all, Uzbekistan is a supporter of rational and integrated use of transboundary water and energy resources, and constantly attaches importance to the ecological stability of Central Asia. Uzbekistan’s comprehensive approach to Central Asia is peace and economic development in the region and it is reasonable to conclude that it is aimed at promoting mutually beneficial cooperation.


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