In recent years, Uzbekistan has paid great attention to the accelerated development of social and economic spheres of the state. This, in turn, leads to a sharp increase in the republic’s needs for water.
In addition, due to global climate changes, population growth, dynamic development in various sectors of the economy and the growing demand for water in Uzbekistan, the shortage of water resources is growing every year. Moreover, due to the reduction in the volume of existing fresh water, the risk of water scarcity and drought increases significantly.
According to World Bank research, the water resources in the Syrdarya basin may decrease by 2-5%, and in the Amudarya basin by 10-15% by the year of 2050. In turn, the shortage of clean drinking water can lead to a decrease of the total gross domestic product of the region by 11%, and the uncoordinated use of water resources can cause the loss of at least 1.75 billion dollars annually. State administration in the field of water use in the republic is carried out by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, local government bodies, as well as specially authorized state administration bodies regulating water use directly or through basin (territorial) administrations. The Ministry Of Water Resources Of The Republic Of Uzbekistan (surface waters), the State Committee of Geology and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Groundwater) are specially authorized bodies of state administration in the field of water use regulation within their powers.
In order to further improve the sphere of water use and protection, to effectively counter emerging new threats, a number of institutional and regulatory changes are being implemented in the industry. In particular, the Law № 733 dated November 30, 2021 amended and supplemented the Law “On water and water use”, expanded the powers of the Cabinet of Ministers in the field of regulation of water relations. Particularly, they are empowered to implement measures aimed at the development of water management, rational and efficient use of water, mitigation of the negative impact of water shortage, approval of other water use programs, as well as approval of the procedure for state support for the introduction of water-saving technologies.
At the same time, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On measures to improve the efficiency of water resources use” dated July 2, 2018, Decrees “On approval the water sector development concept of Uzbekistan for 2020-2030” dated July 10, 2020 and “On measures for the effective organization of public administration in the field of water management in the framework of administrative reform” dated June 23, 2023 were adopted. As a result, a set of measures is being carried out in all surface water bodies of our country to identify violations in the field of water management, eliminate the causes and conditions of irrational water management, compliance with the rules of water use and water consumption.
In addition, Uzbekistan pays special attention to ensuring the efficient use of water resources, the widespread introduction of water-saving technologies in the cultivation of agricultural crops and their state support, as well as improving the meliorative condition of irrigated lands. In particular, goal № 31 of “The Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026 years” provides for the implementation of a separate state program for the radical reform of the water resources management system and water saving, as well as saving at least 7 billion cubic meters of water, reducing electricity consumption at water facilities and managing water facilities on the principles of public-private partnership. The 34th goal of this strategy provides for increasing the level of provision with drinking water the population of the republic to 87%, updating wastewater systems in 32 large cities and 155 district centers.
Also, on September 11, 2023, the strategy “Uzbekistan-2030” was adopted. The 3rd section of the strategy defines organizational and practical measures for saving of water resources and environmental protection. Particularly, increasing the efficiency of water use in the republic by 25%, increasing the total area of land covered by water-saving technologies for irrigation of agricultural crops to 2 million hectares, including bringing drip irrigation technology to 600 thousand hectares, introducing a system for developing and continuously monitoring the balance of water resources of the republic for a long term, bringing the annual capacity of domestic enterprises for the production of water-saving technologies up to 300 thousand hectares, ensuring the installation of meters for all consumers of drinking water, the quality of drinking water, the level of availability of drinking water, the introduction of performance indicators of water supply and sewerage enterprises (goal 62). At the same time, the development of the irrigation system, water-saving technologies and the management of the industry provides for the widespread introduction of mechanisms of the private sector and public-private partnership, the introduction of an automated management system at least 100 large water facilities, expanding the volume of the Tuyamuin reservoir by 1 billion cubic meters, the improvement of water supply by 1.2 million hectares and the creation of drinking water reserves (goal 64).
On April 1 of this year, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On urgent measures to increase the efficiency of water resources use” was adopted and according to the decree the main directions for improving the efficiency of the existing water resources use in 2023 are defined:
– use of existing water resources with strict distribution among water consumers;
– improvement of state support for the introduction of water-saving technologies;
– introduction of modern information and communication technologies in water resources management.
By this resolution, from January 1, 2025, the information system “Water Accounting” will be introduced in all regions of the republic, which allows filling out the issued acts between water supply organizations and water consumers in electronic form at the end of each month and approving them by means of electronic digital signatures.
The Republic of Uzbekistan pays attention to the issues of ensuring water security not only at the national, but also at the regional and international levels. The Head of our state constantly pays special attention to water problems at various summits and meetings, noting the need to attract the world’s leading experts in this field and make extensive use of the capabilities of international organizations, including the UN. In particular, in his speech at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, Shavkat Mirziyoyev expressed support for the draft conventions “On the use of water resources of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya reservoirs” developed by the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy, recalled the problems of ensuring security and stability in Central Asia, including the joint use of shared water resources of the region. In September of this year, the Head of our state, during his speech at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, supported the creation the “Post of special representative for water resources” and during the creation of the Platform for Water-saving Technologies in Central Asia, noted the need to introduce the “United Nations – Water Resources” mechanism and the most advanced technologies.
It should be noted that the draft Convention “On the use of water resources in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Reservoirs for Central Asia” developed by the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy can become an acceptable alternative document for all states of the region as a solution to the water problem in the Central Asian region. Furthermore, at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly “Nature knows no borders: cross-border cooperation is the main factor in the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of biological diversity” the Republic of Uzbekistan is one of the first states in the region supporting international and regional initiatives to adopt resolutions “Comprehensive UN Conference on Comprehensive Consideration of Midterm Efforts for Sustainable Development on 2018-2028 years”.
One of the main factors determining the social, economic and ecological condition of the Central Asian states and ensuring regional security is the sphere of joint use of transboundary rivers, on which the views of the countries of the region have not always coincided. Moreover, the interests of the other side were not sufficiently taken into account in the water relations of the countries of the high and lower reaches of the river, which also led to a deterioration in the economic, transport and political dialogue and the process of mutual integration. In this context, the issue of the use of transboundary waters requires legal regulation of relations between the states of the region in this area.
In this regard, the Republic of Uzbekistan considers the water issue as one of the important directions of its foreign policy by taking into account the interests of all states in the use of transboundary waters, joint and mutual elimination of existing problems, clear legal regulation of relations in this direction. In particular, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the second consultative meeting of the Heads of Central Asian states, held on November 29, 2019 in Tashkent, in the framework of implementation of comprehensive measures to address the problems of drought and water resources in the region and on August 4 this year in Ashgabat, at a trilateral summit with the participation of the Heads of states of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, mentioned the need to introduce advanced water-saving technologies in the region and modernize irrigation systems, intensify cooperation in such areas as digitalization of water management processes, joint development of infrastructure for the collection and maintenance of flood waters.
The Republic of Uzbekistan, without denying the role of regional and international organizations, also pays special attention to bilateral relations in regulating water relations in the Central Asian region and develops a kind of “water diplomacy” with neighboring countries. In particular, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan reached an agreement on the joint use of the capabilities of the “Kasan-Sai Reservoir” on November 6, 2017. This agreement reflects the issues of safety of water facilities, their operation, maintenance and water supply of reservoirs within the limits established by the agreement of the parties. It was agreed that the Uzbek side will participate in the maintenance and use of reservoirs, as well as in the reimbursement of financial costs for water received under the agreement.
Besides that, mutually beneficial agreements have been signed with Tajikistan, another water-resource rich state in the region. In accordance with this, Uzbekistan recognized international norms and expressed readiness to comprehensively consider the possibilities of participating in the construction of hydropower facilities in Tajikistan, in particular the Rogun HPP, in accordance with international standards. In January 2020, the two states held talks on the joint construction of two hydraulic structures in Tajikistan with a capacity of 1.4 billion square meters in the amount of 552 million dollars. It should be noted that Uzbekistan supports the proposal put forward by Tajikistan to declare 2025 the International Year of Glacier Protection and to create an International Fund for Glacier Protection, taking into account the negative impact of global climate change on world glaciers, especially in Central Asia.
Not only representatives of official circles, but also local and foreign experts express opinions on the issue of reducing water resources in the Central Asian region and ensuring water security in Uzbekistan. According to the information of the Ministry of Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan, 80 percent of water resources come from other countries, and only 20 percent from our country. The infrastructure created 30-40 years ago requires serious modernization. In his opinion, by 2030, about 7 billion cubic meters shortage of water may occur in our country. According to Managing Director and Partner of Boston Consulting Group I. Alekseev, about $19 billion of investments will be required to implement all water conservation initiatives in Uzbekistan. Of these, 4 billion will go to subsidies for the introduction of water-saving technologies for pumping stations and 6 billion for economic entities.
Chairman of the Senate Committee of the Oliy Majlis for the development of the Aral Sea region Boriy Alikhanov notes that “in order not to provoke a virus that causes an ecological pandemic, economic and political pathology, it is necessary to develop a collective understanding of careful attitude to water.” Also, according to the expert, by 2040, with a decrease in the inflow of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, the shortage of water resources in Uzbekistan may reach 33%. Uzbek political scientist, director of the research center “Mano” Bakhodir Ergashev notes the need to create a single body on water issues for all countries of the region – the consortium of water and energy in Central Asia.
Viola von Kraman, a German politician and member of the European Parliament, assessed Uzbekistan’s water policy, noting that in recent years water resources have been mismanaged, cities are immersed in toxic dust and the country is partially turning into a desert. These processes should be stopped otherwise more than 36 million residents of Uzbekistan will face an environmental catastrophe.
In general, ensuring water security in Uzbekistan requires not only internal reforms, but also joint efforts of the Central Asian states. Uzbekistan is active in this area by improving national legislation, promoting initiatives of regional importance, supporting projects of the UN and other international organizations. At the same time, the Uzbek side emphasizes the need to create and use a system that guarantees the rational and equitable distribution of transboundary rivers in the region, ensuring the interests of all States in the region, in accordance with generally recognized norms of international law. After all, timely adoption of adequate measures, foreseeing possible problems, will prevent possible conflicts in the region, especially in border areas, accelerate the processes of mutual integration.