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August 2013

Central Asia countries discuss water cooperation at Dushanbe Forum

Source: The Times of Central Asia, 27.08.2013

Tajikistan hosted an international conference on water cooperation on 20-21 August. The forum gathered over 900 representatives from 70 states, as well as representatives from the UN, the CIS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the OSCE and other international organizations. The conference discussed long-standing problems concerning the use of Central Asian transborder rivers' water resources, says Tajik TV First Channel.

Delegations from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which are located on upper reaches of the regions two major rivers, voiced concern over "inefficient use" water resources in the region. Representatives from Uzbekistan urged the upstream countries to use water resources "fairly and rationally".

For many years, the Central Asian states have been failing to reach a consensus on regulation of water flows in Amu Darya and Syr Darya, rivers that have been the region's lifeblood for many centuries. Both upstream countries, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, want to build major power plants on these rivers to boost their ailing economies. But downstream states, most notably Uzbekistan, fear that huge dams of the power facilities will aggravate water shortage in their territory and carry the risk of flooding border areas.

Where does water go?

Speaking at the conference, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiyev said: "Kyrgyzstan possesses a considerable amount of Central Asia's water resources. All major rivers, which start in the country, are international and make considerable impact on the economic activities of all countries of the region. In this context, it is very significant to note that over the past few years Kyrgyzstan has been using only 20 per cent of the total volume of the country's water sources for its own need, with the rest flowing into the territory of neighbouring states".

"At the same time, we are closely watching the process when considerable part of water resources flowing from Kyrgyzstan to the Aral Sea basin is being used inefficiently," he said as shown on Tajik TV first channel on 20 August. According to Satybaldiyev, this is "disrupting nature's balance".

For his part, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon said that Tajikistan was "using only 10 per cent of the total flow of the basin". In his speech shown on Tajik TV first channel same day, he warned that global warming has already caused 1,000 glaciers in Tajikistan's mountains to melt. He also noted: "In conditions of this region, where most part of water resources is formed in one state but used in another, appropriate cooperation for sustainable management and effective management of water resources are key to long-term development".

On 22 August, Kyrgyz news agency issued an editorial commenting on the remarks by Satybaldiyev and Emomali Rahmon. "This means that the upstream countries give all their water to downstream states. But where does all this water go? Downstream states are also experiencing water shortages," said the editorial posted on the agency's website.

According the news agency, not a single official was able to answer this question during the conference.

Balanced approach

The Kyrgyz premier also urged a balanced approach to water issues in the region, reported the same day. "It is necessary to have a balanced approach to the use of water in Central Asia... Kyrgyzstan welcomes and is ready to continue mutually-beneficial cooperation with international organizations. Undoubtedly experience and knowledge of other states in water and energy cooperation is useful for us. At the same time, it is significant for us that proposals of the international community on the mechanisms and ways of cooperation take into account the real situation in the region. Copying mechanically or imposing certain regional conventions may not yield results and lead to unnecessary politicization of the discussion," Satybaldiyev told the conference.

Supporting Satybaldiyev's words, Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov said: "It is necessary to approach the water and energy problems of the region's states objectively and taking into account the current realities".

"The usage of own water and energy resources by Tajikistan never was and will never be in the detriment of downstream countries," Oqilov told a news conference that was held in Dushanbe on 21 August to sum up the results of the conference. Tajik TV first channel broadcast the news conference at 1220 gmt same day.

Speaking at a session held on the sidelines of the forum, Deputy Uzbek Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources Shavkat Hamroyev said that "mechanisms being used in other countries with transborder rivers should also be used in practice in Central Asian countries". "Transborder water cooperation should be based on the principles of international water law, and transborder water resources should be used fairly and rationally... No one has the right to inflict any significant damage on environment or on downstream countries," Asia-Plus news agency quoted Hamroyev as saying on 21 August. Shavkat Hamroyev headed the Uzbek delegation to the conference.

Conflict over power stations

Hamroyev's remarks echoed the words of Uzbek President Islom Karimov who, speaking in June this year, once again urged international examination into the energy projects of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

"Any hydroelectric plant, which is planned for construction on the upper reaches of the rivers, such as the Kambar-Ata and Roghun hydroelectric power plants [in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan respectively], must undergo an international and independent expert examination under the UN auspices and have to be agreed with the downstream countries along Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers." Karimov said as shown by Uzbek TV on 14 June. He made these remarks during a news conference in Tashkent same day following his talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Speaking at the same news conference, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev urged Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to enter into dialogue with downstream states to resolve the water dispute. "We want to send a friendly message to our neighbours that we ourselves need to address these issues. There are no insoluble problems and issues...Conduct an examination, convince the world and us, not Karimov and Nazarbayev but the peoples, that there will be no flood one day," Central Asian News website quoted Nazarbayev as saying on 14 June.

Islam Karimov believes the dispute over the use of Central Asian transborder rivers may even lead to a war. Speaking back in September 2012, the Uzbek president said: "Things can get worse, and it [the dispute] can cause not just serious confrontations but even wars. Therefore, when we speak about trans-border rivers, we must comply with what the world and the international community have decided, that is agreement of all countries that are along the courses of these rivers [Amu Darya and Syr Darya] is an essential condition". Kazakh TV channel K plus reported Karimov's remarks on 8 September 2012.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon describes the gigantic Roghun power plant as a solution to the country's acute energy problems. Rahmon has repeatedly said that Tajikistan will take into account interests of downstream states while building the plant. "It would have been impossible for downstream countries to cultivate millions of hectares of land if there were no hydroelectric stations and water reservoirs in Tajikistan," Interfax quoted the Tajik leader as saying on 29 August this year.

The Tajik authorities have been regularly raising regional water issues at various UN forums. At the initiative of Rahmon, 2003 has been declared the UN International Year of Freshwater, and 2005-2015, the International "Water for Life" Decade. However, these initiatives have not yielded results so far.

Food safety control discussed in Dushanbe

Source: The Times of Central Asia, 27.08.2013

Roundtable discussion on food safety supervision and training in the implementation of the WTO agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary standards finished in Dushanbe, the OSCE Office in Tajikistan said.

George Sand, Economic Officer at the OSCE Office in Tajikistan said that some animal and plant diseases, dangerous for people's health and safety continue to affect the commercial potential of Tajikistan.

The OSCE continues to develop its fruitful cooperation with Tajikistan in order to support opportunities for the development of trade and economic growth.

Experts and senior officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development of the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service of Tajikistan, as well as other departments of the country, including representatives of the relevant local and international organizations met to discuss important issues related to the modernization of the local systems of food safety and the development of international and cross-border trade.

Tajikistan became a full member of the World Trade Organization in March 2013.