September 11, 2008

Central Asian States Fail to Agree on River Water Use

Text of report by Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS

Almaty, 11 September: The Syr Darya basin countries have failed to agree on the most topical issue - rational use of river water. The heads of water and energy facilities in the Central Asian states admitted that they practically reached deadlock in Astana yesterday evening. They were expecting to reach a unanimous decision and conclude multilateral agreements for the nearest five years. They were also planning to prepare for the winter and spring-summer irrigation periods, but were hindered by the following "political" question: Should or should not the River Syr Darya be recognized as a transborder river?

Uzbekistan has principally been advocating for such status for a long time. Kyrgyzstan is categorically against it. The point at issue is that the transborder river status stipulates that the countries of the region become members of various international conventions. In particular, this stipulates that countries situated at the upper reaches of the river have to coordinate plans on building any kinds of hydroelectric power facilities with all users of the water. Moreover, the transborder status stipulates that everybody uses water free of charge.

Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Umirzak Shukeyev said that this issue is "not a matter of principle and was over-politicized". However, the sides "decided to take a time out for a week and try to eliminate this paragraph".

"We will have another meeting in Almaty on 17-18 September," Shukeyev told journalists.

Cyclicality is a characteristic feature of Syr Darya and its flow: for 4-5 years there is high water and then water shortage follows in the next 4-5 years. Now it is a period of shortage of water. As a result, the Kyrgyz Toktogul reservoir has accumulated only 9 cu. km. of water instead of 19.5. If neighbours of Kyrgyzstan fail to agree on providing its thermal power stations and boiler houses with fuel during the winter and fail to supply electricity in exchange for water, than the reservoir will already get empty in February. In this case, Kazakh and Uzbek cotton and rice growers will be left without irrigation water in spring and summer.

Originally published by ITAR-TASS news agency, Moscow, in Russian 0458 11 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Central Asia. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.