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Cooperation for protecting Central Asian climate and water source

Civil society networks from Central Asian countries agree on cooperation in the frameworks of the UNECE Transboundary Water Convention

16.10.2012 | WECF, BIOM, Social Ecofund Kazakhstan



Almaty - 35 representatives of civil society organisations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Switzerland and Germany created the network of Central Asian NGOs on “Climate. Water. Energy. Health”, during the “Central Asian Water Meeting” held on September 12th in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
 
Public participation is essential to raise awareness and push for good governance in the area of water management and climate protection. The NGO participants exchanged experiences of local legislation and practices, and exchanges with representatives of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the International Fund for the Aral Sea, the German GIZ and the Ministries of health and environment of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
 
The meeting focussed on
the benefits of transboundary cooperation for climate protection and water management within the framework of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) and its Protocol on Water and Health.
 
The civil society representatives developed a resolution with recommendations which were consequetively presented to Central Asian government representatives the next day at the 2nd workshop of the EU-Central Asian Strategy Partnership, held in Almaty from 13-14 of September. The recommendations will also be presented to the Meeting of Parties of the Water Convention in November of this year.
 
Sascha Gabizon, Director of WECF comments
“Climate change is a fact in Central Asia, with temperatures raising faster then globally. Due to the over-consumption of water in the region, the Aral Sea – once among the largest lakes world wide – is mostly dry. Estimates say that one-hundred million tons of salt dust from the sea bed is spread into the environment, also into the higher atmosphere. Salt dust from the Aral sea is now found on the glaciers of the Central Asian and Himalaya mountains, leading to their rapid melting, resulting in floods and droughts. Immediate action is needed. The Central Asian countries should of course move to less water consuming agriculture, and should work together on water monitoring and retention dams, instead of each one country for itself”.
 
Civil society participants recommended
to re-focus on the Aral Sea and recommended that even if the sea can not be restored, as a minimum the bottom of the Aral Sea should be kept moist, to retain the salt dust. There is no transboundary cooperation on the river basin, therefore the participants recommended the establishment of Interstate Basin Councils, for the Chu-Talas Basin and other basins. Many such basin councils function successfully in other parts of the region, for example the Dniester basin between Ukraine and Moldova. Participants also recommended creation of an independent Public Council of the Aral Sea Basin. Furthermore, NGOs called for increases transparenc and  accountability of the existing Interstate Commissions.
 
Civil society participants called to re-focus on the Aral Sea and recommended that even if the sea can not be restored, as a minimum the bottom of the Aral Sea should be kept moist, to retain the salt dust. There is currently no transboundary cooperation on the river basin, therefore the participants recommended the establishment of Interstate Basin Councils, for the Chu-Talas Basin and other basins. Many such basin councils function successfully in other parts of the world. Participants also recommended the creation of an independent Public Council of the Aral Sea Basin. Furthermore, NGOs called for increased transparency and  accountability of the existing Interstate Commissions.
 
Participants recommended sharing of best practices among the countries on climate and water, such as for example the progressive legislation on Energy Performance of Buildings in Kyrgyzstan. Renewable energy is an area where regional cooperation can benefit all countries. Central Asia has a vast potential for wind, solar and hydro power energy. The creation of a common Central-Asian Energy market would create a strong incentives for private and international investments in renewable energy. On the issues of water sanitation the participants recommended establishment of several resource centers throughout the region on efficient energy, water and sanitation for households and small enterprises. Finally, the participants all agreed that the countries could no longer address their environmental problems by one-theme-focused legislation. To resolve such complex issues as soil degradation, water contamination, unstable and uneven water supply and inefficient use, the national governments together with the civil society have to apply the new NEXUS concept and link mitigation efforts to water security, energy security and food security.

Note to the Editors
:
The meeting in Almaty was co-organized by the Social-Ecological Fund (Kazakhstan), the BIOM Ecological Movement (Kyrgyzstan), MAMA-86 (Ukraine) and Women in Europe for a Common Future(WECF) as one of 4 regional water meetings of the project “Towards a stronger role of civil society organizations in the promotion and implementation of the UNECE Water Convention and its Protocol on Water and Health”, supported by UNECE. WECF ensures the overall coordination of the project activities.
 
The UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) provides an important legal framework for transboundary water management and contributes to improving transboundary water management in the pan-European region.
 
The UNECE/WHO-Europe Protocol on Water and Health to the Water Convention aims to protect human health and well-being through reducing water-related deaths and diseases by improving water management.
 
Kazakhstan is a party to the Convention since October 23, 2000, but has not signed the Protocol on Water and Health. Kyrgyzstan is not a party to the Convention nor of the Protocol, but is implementing the “target setting” tool of the Protocol on Water and Health.
 
Both the Convention and the Protocol require Parties to ensure the provision of information to the public as well as public participation. In Central Asia, public participation in water management has been lately facilitated with the amendment of national water legislations and the reorganization of water resources management, giving more space to civil society organizations to participate effectively in the relevant decision making processes. Public participation in the activities of joint bodies is still in the early stages, with the cooperation between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on the rivers Chu and Talas showing the most advanced development in this area.
 
Contact:
Kaisha Atakhanova, Social Eco-Fund Kazakhstan
Vladimir Korotenko , Environmental NGO BIOM , Kyrgyztsan
Sascha Gabizon, WECF International, Germany, Tel +49-89-23239380