On May 17, was held at the framework of the XII Astana Economic Forum, a high-level panel session “Water as a Factor of Economic Growth and Security in Central Asia” which national needs and views on sustainable water resources management at the regional level were discussed. The organizers of the panel session are the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan, the World Bank, the International Water Assessment Center.
The panel session was chaired by the Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan Saparkhan Omarov. The moderator was Dr. Guy Bonvin, Switzerland’s special envoy for water resources in Central Asia. The session brought together senior officials from key ministries in the five Central Asian countries, as well as international experts.
In his welcoming speech to the participants of the session, Saparkhan Omarov noted: “Given that in the Central Asian region the main sources of water resources are transboundary, the issue of water management in the region requires a holistic approach. The water sector of the region, which combines water, food and energy, should be inextricably linked with national security, regional stability and sustainable economic growth”.
In his speech, the head of the World Bank’s office in Kazakhstan Ato Brown, said: “Today, the economies of the countries of Central Asia are not limited in water resources, but we see that the region produces much lower than the available water resources potential. The cumulative effects of climate change and the partial drying of the Aral Sea further exacerbate the water-related stress. With current water management policies, water scarcity can lead to a significant reduction in economic performance. At the same time, it is possible to get significant benefits for the region’s economy from more efficient use of water”.
Vice-Minister of Agriculture Yerlan Nysanbayev spoke about the main steps to create an international water and energy consortium in Central Asia. The first step he proposed was to discuss the development of a concept for creating a new financial and economic mechanism for interaction among countries in the Aral Sea basin with the support of international partners.
Luke Devin, Director of the Directorate for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and OSCE, the European External Relations Service, noted that “the EU welcomes the growing recognition that there are not enough national approaches, and will support, together with other development partners, the improvement of regional cooperation, which is crucial for the sustainable management of water resources in the region. "
Christoph Bosch of the Geneva Water Center presented an approach based on the overall benefits of transboundary and intersectoral water contexts: “Currently, investment in watershed services (IWIS) is a well-established mechanism worldwide that was first introduced in Central Asia based on Chu - Talas Agreement of 2000. IWIS is an economic agreement between various stakeholders of the basin, in which one party invests or buys a service from another to better manage collective water resources and promote growth and security”.
The panel session was attended by heads of institutes and centers of strategic research in Central Asian countries. On behalf of KazISS, the deputy director Sanat Kushkumbayev took part in the event.
In general, according to experts, the Central Asian region has great potential for obtaining the greatest benefits from the implementation of promising approaches to water management through enhanced and systemic cooperation in the field of transboundary waters, based on the strengthening of national water management capacity. The panel session was the first step towards developing a common vision for ensuring water security in Central Asia, where enhanced water management at the national level and systemic cooperation on transboundary waters will reap numerous benefits for all countries based on the principles of joint management of shared resources.