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Development Account Projects

Water Quality in Central Asia


The countries in Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) are dependent on each other with regard to the water resources of transboundary rivers (such as SyrDarya, AmuDarya, Chu, Talas and Zeravshan), lakes in transboundary river basins (Aral Sea and Lake Balqash) and transboundary groundwaters (e.g. transboundary aquifers in the Syr Darya, Amu Darya and Chu-Talas basins), some of which are also influenced by human activities in countries outside the region (i.e. Afghanistan, China and Iran). Water quality is an important aspect of integrated water resources management that has not been seriously addressed neither on the national nor regional levels.

In particular the management of water quality in rivers – which is the focus of the project - is inefficient and insufficient as water quantity and its allocation, mainly for irrigation and hydropower production, is in the centre of the attention. There is a need to improve national policies and regional cooperation with the ultimate aim to improve water quality as demonstrated in a recent assessment under the UNECE Water Convention. The transboundary impact on water quality from human activities in countries outside the region (Afghanistan, China, Iran) will not be dealt with in this project.

The principles of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (further Water Convention) and its Protocol on Water and Health as well as the EU Water Framework Directive are important international frameworks guiding the national as well as transboundary developments in this field. The Secretariat of the UNECE Water Convention is hosted by the UNECE and in-house expertise is available on the issues dealt with in the project. UNECE manages several projects in the water sector of Central Asia and is involved in the EU Water Initiative as the strategic partner of the European Commission and countries in Central Asia.

The UNECE co-sponsored a meeting in Almaty in spring 2005 on water-quality management in a regional context, organised by the Global Water Partnership, the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC), Interstate Commission for Water Coordination (ICWC) and UNDP.  In the meeting’s conclusions, proposed directions were given for future work.

The Central Asian Initiative on Sustainable Development (CAI) is an initiative supported by Central Asian Governments and aim to establish, through cooperation with donors, multi-sectoral partnerships between governments, local authorities, private sector, NGO and CBO for addressing major environmental problems in Central Asia (CA) and promotion for sustainable development. A coordinated approach to the water management is declared as one of the key focuses of CAI. CAREC is developing the water initiatives support program based on multi-sectoral approach in Water Management.


To contribute to the development of efficient and coordinated national policies with regard to water quality aspects of integrated water resources management in Central Asia.

Expected Accomplishments:

  • A proposed step-by-step plan to develop coordinated national policies on water-quality aspects of integrated water resources management in Central Asia

  • Improved capacity among water experts and officials in the field of water-quality aspects of integrated water resources management

  • Improved coordination of joint assessments, monitoring and information exchange with regard to water quality

Implementation Status:

The five countries sharing water resources in Central Asia have for the first time established a platform for technical cooperation on water quality management. A working group on water quality management is developing a concept of a diagnostic study, cooperation on the development of national policies on the management of water quality as well as joint quality monitoring. Training workshops on permitting and water-quality standards as well as monitoring and assessment of transboundary waters have been held to raise the capacity in the region. The project has contributed to the inclusion of water quality issues in the draft Aral Sea Basin Programme 3.

Link:    http://www.unece.org/env/water/centralasia.htm