Tajikistan Ready to Give Drinking Water to Neighbours, Says President
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has said his country is ready to provide drinking water from its lake to people in Central Asia. In his speech at a Tajik-hosted international conference on reduction of the danger of water-related natural disasters on 27 June, President Rahmon also blamed a drought in Central Asia for lack of some foodstuffs in the country. The Tajik president also said that his country would not implement hydro-energy projects to the detriment of its neighbours. The following is an excerpt from Rahmon’s speech, broadcast on the state-owned Tajik Television First Channel on 27 June, incorporating passages that have already been filed by BBC Monitoring; subheadings have been inserted editorially:
Esteemed participants in the conference, dear guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure and satisfaction that I welcome all participants in and guests at the conference, who have come to sunny and hospitable Tajikistan to discuss and take specific decisions with regard to reducing negative effect of water-related natural disasters.
The international decade of the action Water for Life, the formation of the global mechanism the UN – water resources, the activities of UN regional commissions, the establishment of the Asia- Pacific Water Forum, regular international meetings and other measures at various levels testify to special attention by the international community and the presidents of great countries to both the unchanging importance of water and destructive natural aspects relating to it.
At the same time, we think that the time is ripe to implement measures that are mentioned and taken at these events.
The present time demands that we take urgent measures, because despite all these efforts, the water problem has not lost its topical importance on a world scale in general. On the contrary, it is gradually becoming more pressing.
The safety of water, in particular protection against water- related natural disasters, will facilitate the resolution of the most serious ecological, economic and social problems in an all- round manner.
[Passage omitted: remarks about natural disasters in the world]
Tajikistan, 93 per cent of whose territory is mountains, is threatened more by water-related natural disasters.
Flooding, water shortage, mudflows, mudslides, hail and large landslides cause large damage to our country’s economy every year and unfortunately, human losses also occur as a result of these disasters.
The number of people who have died as a result of mudflows and floods in the past 10 years has exceeded 300.
Expenditure on the prevention and elimination of the danger of natural disasters in Tajikistan in the past eight years has stood at over 65m dollars.
Most of these funds has been spent on moving people from dangerous places, providing financial aid to them and reinforcing the banks of rivers.
The main difficulty of these activities lies in the fact that mudflows occur in areas of mountainous rivers, narrow valleys and gorges.
Water, food shortages
According to a calculation by our specialists, every year 50 to 250 t of productive soil are washed away from 1 ha of land.
Fertilizers washed away from the soil alone are worth approximately 20m to 25m dollars in total.
Furthermore, a drought occurred in the Central Asian region this year, whose consequences we are already feeling in a shortage of some kinds of foodstuffs and an increase in their prices. Yesterday, correct and accurate information was presented to me that today 500 cu.m. less of water a day flows into the reservoir of the Norak hydroelectric power station as against [the figure] last year [as heard]. And it is over 400 cu.m. [of water] a day in the reservoir of Qayroqqum, that is to say less than that last year [sentence as received]. That is to say there is a water shortage of 30 to 35 per cent in Tajikistan this year as against [the figure] last year.
Imagine yourselves what kind of damage this will cause not only to Tajikistan, but the whole of the region.
In Tajikistan alone, where almost 60 per cent of water in Central Asia originates, cotton and grain did not rise from the soil in over 60,000 ha of cultivated land this year due to a shortage of water. That is to say they did not grow. The land was left empty. Judge yourselves and draw a conclusion.
[Passage omitted: the president suggested that a special session of the UN General Assembly on water issues be held; remarks about the problem of the Aral Sea]
Water in the basin of the Aral Sea mainly originates in Tajikistan, 64 cu.km. or 55.4 per cent, and Kyrgyzstan, 29.3 cu.km. or 25.3 per cent. However, most of water in the rivers of the region is used by Kazakhstan, 15.29 cu.km. or 11.4 per cent; Turkmenistan, 27.07 cu.km or 20.26 per cent; and Uzbekistan, 71.69 cu.km. or 53.64 per cent.
I would like to note here that despite [the country's] great resources [of water], people in Tajikistan are not fully supplied with pure drinking water, even in the country’s capital.
[Passage omitted: further remarks about the problem of the Aral Sea]
I have suggested many times that the basin of the Aral Sea be declared a priority pilot region so as to achieve the [UN] millennium development goals. However, we understand well that the inclusion of the Aral fund [the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea] in the system of the UN demands specific time and efforts.
That is why, as the first step, we signed a memorandum of mutual understanding with the UN Economic Commission for Europe and its Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
As the next step, we suggest that the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea be given an observer status in the UN General Assembly.
I hope that the countries of the region will support this proposal and participants in today’s conference will reflect it in their final documents.
Drinking water for Central Asian people
The danger of the bursting of the dam of the Lake Sarez, which has 17 cu.km. of water, poses a threat to the life of over six million residents of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
I have suggested many times and I say once again that we are ready to use the purest water of this high mountain lake so as to quench the thirst of millions of residents of Central Asia.
Specialists have calculated that the current volume of water in the Lake Sarez will be enough for 40 million people in Central Asia forever. It is the purest water, which is a serious problem in the region today.
A progressive world trend shows that the cost of water will increase in the near future in comparison with the costs of oil and gas. And as early as today, the shortage of water in the region and the world shows how invaluable this natural resource is.
[Passage omitted: the president spoke of his visits to Senegal and Algeria]
Therefore, we consider as necessary setting up an international consortium to determine bases for implementing this proposal and protect people from the danger of the bursting of water of the Lake Sarez.
Support for this proposal is in the interests of only and only people in the region.
Last winter’s unusually cold weather clearly showed that the capacity of the electricity industry in the Central Asian region was not completely enough for satisfying seasonal needs in cold winter. A decrease in [the amounts of] water reserves in Tajikistan’s reservoirs and hydroelectric power stations made this situation in our country more difficult.
Only one conclusion can be drawn from this situation that if there are no large reserves of oil and gas [in some countries], it is necessary to use the region’s great hydro-energy resources, 90 per cent of which are in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, as soon as possible.
In particular currently, about 15 places that are suitable for building reservoirs and hydroelectric power stations have been designated in Tajikistan.
At the same time, this will make it possible to regulate up to 67 cu.km. of water through a series of hydroelectric power stations on the River Vakhsh every year, which accounts for 58 per cent of the average annual amount of water in all rivers of the basin of the Aral Sea.
In this case, millions of hectares of land, in particular that in the downstream countries of the region, will be saved from the danger of flooding and drought.
Here once again I would like to stress particularly one point that none of the programmes or plans of developing Tajikistan’s hydro-energy sector will be implemented to the detriment of the neighbouring countries.
[Passage omitted: the president noted the need for measures concerning water-related issues; thanks to the participants in the conference]
Originally published by Tajik Television First Channel, Dushanbe, in Tajik 1605 27 Jun 08.
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