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News: April 2012


Source: The Times of Central Asia, M. Levina, 6.04.2012

A second National Conference of Water User Associations has been held in Bishkek. The conference was aimed at involving the public in the process of water resources management and development of irrigation system

In Kyrgyzstan, there are about one million hectares of irrigated land and thousands of kilometers of irrigation canals. Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, the water reclamation system operated properly. After independence, collective and state farms were divided into many small farms, and the water industry faced the problems typical of such transitions. There was no relevant legal or regulatory framework regarding rights to land and water. Deterioration of irrigation and drainage infrastructure has led to unreliable supply and distribution. As a result, the agricultural sector faced major problems such as drainage and flooding.

Irrigation is a key resource for crop development in Kyrgyzstan. During the growing season, from April to October, there is a shortage of water resources in the country, which has led to conflicts among the stakeholders.

Goals and tasks

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, currently 477 Water User

Associations (WUAs) serve 732,000 hectares of irrigated land, which is more than 72 percent of all land available in the country.

The participants of the conference concluded that one of the main WUAs' problems is the lack of financing, as they must not only distribute the water, but also build new irrigation systems. For example, the Batken Oblast needs about 120 million soms ($1=46.5 soms) to complete reconstruction of the irrigation network, while the state has allocated 80 million soms. Many heads of associations, especially from the southern regions, complained that they could not buy pumps to irrigate fields. Without the help of foreign donors, the state cannot afford to restore the irrigation network and infrastructure.

The state has not yet developed a land reclamation policy. Farmers do not know in what cases they can expect state support in resolving conflicts. The state also needs to develop water use rules, for example, to solve the problem of payment for irrigation water.

WUA in the south

The Abu Hayat WUA has been working in the Aravan region in the south of Kyrgyzstan since 1997. 'After the collapse of collective farms, the irrigation networks were without control, and yet someone had to be responsible for their operation," said hydraulic engineer Ibragim Baikarimov, Abu Hayat WUA chairman. "Water User Associations have taken this responsibility."

Now the association unites 1,835 small farmers, who have 1050 hectares of irrigated land. WUA elected its management board, an audit committee, and a commission to resolve disputes which includes community elders, who have a great influence among the local community.

WUA has ten canals and keeps one irrigator for each canal, and they distribute the water among the farmers. "Our participation in the OSCE project 'Capacity Building Support for Water Users Associations in Southern Kyrgyzstan' helps to develop the association," said Ibragim. "First, we were trained by the Consultation and Innovation Center, which works closely with the OSCE. And now we are mentors and train other, less experienced WUAs. We discuss such important topics as the legal aspects of water use, water-saving methods of irrigation of crops, methods of water account payment, farming practices of crop production, financial accounting, and management of conflicts in the allocation of water resources."

Now the association has to develop a system of payment for water usage. "There are three options for payment. The first one depends on the size of the area, and the second on the number of irrigations. The third option provides payment for the amount of water consumed. Over time we will work on the third option, because the first two cannot ensure fair distribution of water, and as a result, many conflicts arose. If we organize a clear accounting of water consumed, every farmer will know how much water he uses. At the same time, we explain how much water each crop needs. Thus, we can save water and reduce conflicts."


Source: The Times of Central Asia, 6.04.2012

Widespread land degradation, water shortages, and desertification are expected to affect many parts of Central Asia

In a new report, the bank says more than 42 million people in the region were displaced by environmental disasters over the past two years alone.

In 2010, it said, more than 30 million people were displaced, some permanently, primarily by devastating floods in Pakistan and China.

In a video statement posted on the bank's website, Asian Development Bank Director Bart Edes said that "the fact that we see people displaced now and many of them becoming migrants gives us a taste of what is to come as climate change begins to have a greater impact."

"So we are releasing this report to present governments with policy options, with actions that they can take to address this challenge and to turn migration, climate-induced migration from a threat to an opportunity," Edes said.

The report predicts that widespread land degradation, water shortages, and desertification are expected to affect many parts of Central Asia.

The region has already experienced some of the world's most dramatic environmental crises of recent years, with water problems predominant among them.

The shrinking of the Aral Sea and the decline of two major rivers feeding the sea — the Amu Darya and Syr Darya — has led to significant environmental changes in the region.

At the beginning of the millennium, a drought associated with environmental degradation prompted some 250,000 people, or 20 percent of the total population, of Karakalpakstan — an Uzbek autonomous republic surrounding the southern end of the Aral Sea — to migrate to Kazakhstan and Russia in search of better economic opportunities.

The report says poverty and problems of governance further add to the vulnerability of local populations to environmental disasters — such as drought, a loss of agricultural productivity, and resulting food insecurity.

The report notes that a study conducted in Karakalpakstan indicated that nearly half of the respondents wanted to migrate due to poor environmental conditions.

The report said a large part of Central Asia's population lives in areas at high risks of increased water shortages caused by climate change.

The report stresses that the impact of climate change in Central Asia is worsened by a high degree of social and economic vulnerability. Poverty is widespread, average incomes are low.

and governance is often weak. Many people rely on agriculture for livelihood. In Kazakhstan — the region's most prosperous country — the report says the biggest risk from climate change is what it calls "drying," which would contribute to erosion and desertification.

It says such "drying" will also contribute to a rural to urban migration of people who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Kazakhstan has already experienced considerable rural-urban migration due to poverty and a lack of economic opportunities in villages.

In Tajikistan, about 95 percent of the country is vulnerable to floods, mudslides, water and soil erosion, and desertification, the report says.

It predicts that constantly rising temperatures in Tajikistan may further shift the existing pattern of glacier volume — potentially leading to a widespread decline in water availability by more than 30 percent. The report predicts that water shortages Jstimulate outward migration from the af-fected areas.

Hundreds of thousands of people from Central Asia leave the region every year to seek work in Russia and other countries. The report says migration plays an important role in the development of the region, notably through remittances.

The report urges governments to mitigate the impact of climate change on migration flows by embracing adaptive measures and new development strategies.

It also emphasizes the need to protect migrants' rights during environmental upheavals.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have both adopted the 1990 International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Kazakhstan is considering ratification.


Source: The Times of Central Asia, 6.04.2012

The rationing or cutting the supply of electricity is not new to the population Tajikistan.

Presently, Tajik households receive five to six hours of electricity daily. This situation is unsustainable, and may lead to increased protests. Officials say planned new cuts mean supplies will be available to some regions for only three to four hours per day. Now, Tajik authorities have announced plans to increase household electricity tariffs by 20 percent, starting in April, in conjunction with increased energy rationing.

The state-run energy company Barqi Tojik announced the new plans for the supply of electricity, which are already rationed in Tajikistan. The announcement was immediately condemned by the opposition, the Islamic Renaissance Party, which said the move will only add to the impoverished Tajik people's financial hardship. Officials say a drastic drop in water levels at Lake Norak, where the country's largest hydropower plant is located, has resulted in a diminished capacity to generate electricity.

This situation is not new in Central Asia, where bad management creates a situation of extreme discomfort mostly effecting people from the lower socio-economic strata. Already in the past the rationing of energy has created large protest in Kyrgyzstan that at the end terminated in a revolution that ousted the former president Bakiyev. In Tajikistan protest is mounting and there is no surprise if the opposition will use the energy problem to stage protest and create instability.


Source: The Times of Central Asia, 6.04.2012

More efficient use of water resources and resolving potential disputes over water were the focus of a training seminar that took place on March 10 in Jalalabad, southern Kyrgyzstan, with the support of the OSCE Osh field office, according to the press release of OSCE.

Representatives of 16 Water User Associations (WUAs) and local governance bodies from across the province discussed ways of working together, and shared experiences and best practices in establishing constructive and efficient co-operation.

Ambassador Andrew Tesoriere, the Head of the OSCE Centre in Bishkek, said that "Today's event bringing together important stakeholders - water users associations and local self-governance bodies — makes an important practical contribution to increasing understanding within communities, boosting agricultural production and ensuring sound management of the environment."

The seminar is a part of the project "Capacity Building Support for Water Users Associations in southern Kyrgyzstan". Under the project, the OSCE through its Centre in Bishkek trained 55 representatives of twelve WUAs, who in turn provided peer-to-peer mentoring to 36 other associations. In addition, irrigation equipment and construction material for canal renovation was provided to the associations, and coordination and cooperation between the associations and local self-governance bodies was promoted through organizing events and providing mini-grants for joint activities.


Source: The Times of Central Asia, 6.04.2012

Kyrgyzstan and Russia are preparing to sign an agreement on mutual efforts in developing Kyrgyzstan's energy sector and the building of four hydropower plants (HPPs) at the head of the river Naryn in northern Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz Ambassador to Russia Ulugbek Chinaliyev told Interfax last Saturday.

Expectations are that Inter RAO UES, OJSC RusHydro, which operates the majority of Russia's hydroelectric powerplants, and Kyrgyzstan will be involved in the construction, and the creation of an open stock company is planned for the work.

Initial estimates put Russian investments in carrying out the agreement at around $500 million. Chinaliyev said "the agreement is now being worked on in detail and could be signed in a compressed timeframe".

The two countries are also not striking from the agenda the building of the HPP Kambarata-1 in southern Kyrgyzstan, but the building of the four Naryn headwater HPPs could well begin earlier.