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News: February 2011

UNECE HELPS KAZAKHSTAN AND KYRGYZSTAN TO COOPERATE TO ENSURE SAFETY OF THE KIROV DAM

Source: UNECE, 8.02.2011

A bilateral Kazak-Kyrgyz working group will review the safety of the Kirov dam and produce a joint safety assessment by April 2011. This working group was established today in a meeting in Bishkek.

Representatives from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan agreed that the group would work under the Kazakh-Kyrgyz Chu and Talas Rivers Commission.

Kazakhstan has recently raised concerns about the safety of the Kirov dam, which is situated on the Talas River, on Kyrgyz territory upstream of the major Kazak city of Taraz. Kyrgyz authorities agreed to develop cooperation on the safety of this dam in response to this concern. The two countries requested UNECE to support and facilitate this work.

This positive example of cooperation is a response to the need to ensure the safe exploitation of the ageing water infrastructure in Central Asia, in particular the hundreds of dams and reservoirs built 40 to 50 years ago. Dams and reservoirs are of major importance for the economy and future development of the region they ensure drinking water supply by contributing to seasonal and long-term regulation of river flows; and they provide a reliable source of water for irrigation, industrial water uses, and hydropower.

Dams and reservoirs are also efficient means of addressing floods and droughts. Today, ageing dams and lack of funding for their adequate maintenance, coupled with population growth downstream from the dams, represent increased risks to life, health, property and the environment. Less than a year ago, the failure of the Kyzyl-Agash Dam in Kazakhstan caused the flooding of the nearby village, killing at least 43 and leaving some 300 people injured.

The dam safety project funded by Finland, a component of the UNECE Water Convention work programme, is implemented in cooperation with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. The project assists Central Asian countries in establishing effective national legislation and technical regulatory frameworks, as well as in strengthening regional cooperation on dam safety. The project has already resulted in the development of legislation on dam safety and cooperation in this area between the countries in the region. The project is part of the Environment and Security Initiative.