06ASTANA152, ASSESSING KAZAKHSTAN’S WATER NEEDS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ASTANA152 2006-09-29 05:52 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO4234
RR RUEHAST RUEHCN RUEHDBU
DE RUEHAST #0152/01 2720552
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290552Z SEP 06
FM USOFFICE ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0274
INFO RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0001
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ALMATY 0241
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 0032
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 0029
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 0028
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 0029
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0014
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 0029
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ASTANA 0295

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000152 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR OES/ETC, OES/PCI, OES/STC, SCA/CEN, EUR/ACE 
EPA FOR OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, TASHKENT FOR EPUTNAM 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: SENV EAID KZ
SUBJECT: ASSESSING KAZAKHSTAN'S WATER NEEDS 
 
REF: ASTANA 146 
 
1. Summary:  Kazakhstan faces major challenges in the water 
sector.   Recent GOK activities reflect an increasing awareness 
of the severity of the problem.  Domestically, it created the 
"Water Supply Sector Program 2002-2010," a 115 billion tenge 
($900 million) program intended to ensure a sustainable supply 
of clean drinking water.  In a push to erase the damaging legacy 
of Soviet-era resource management, Kazakhstan made regional 
water use a primary theme at a recent meeting in Astana of 
Central Asian leaders.   Nevertheless, despite Kazakhstan's 
commitment, daunting challenges remain.  The deterioration of 
existing water supply infrastructure is taking place faster than 
rehabilitation.  In rural areas, access to clean drinking water 
has greatly decreased in recent years.  Regionally, efforts to 
effectively manage the resources of the Syr Darya Basin have 
achieved little success.   Moreover, the growth of Western China 
may further threaten Kazakhstan's water security.   The United 
States has provided significant assistance to various water 
programs in Kazakhstan.   Most USG water-related projects have 
ended, however, leaving the U.S. with fewer opportunities to 
demonstrate its commitment to an issue of great importance to 
Kazakhstan.   End summary. 
 
Clean Drinking Water:  Emerging Commitment, Distant Result? 
 
2.  The deterioration of existing water supply infrastructure in 
Kazakhstan is taking place faster than rehabilitation. 
According to a UNDP survey, only 36% of rural inhabitants are 
connected to piped water.   As a result, in rural areas access 
to good quality drinking water has greatly decreased.  In the 
Pavlodar oblast, 43% of settlements use water that does not meet 
national standards.  Half of the 840 villages in the Almaty 
region do not have access to safe drinking water.  In the Ili 
River and Lake Balkhash regions, water must be trucked into 42 
settlements because villagers currently drink untreated water. 
 
 
3. In order to combat the critical state of its drinking water, 
Kazakhstan introduced the "Water Supply Sector Program 
2002-2010," a 115 billion tenge ($900 million) program aimed at 
creating a sustainable supply of healthy drinking water.  Key 
elements of the two-stage program include the construction and 
reconstruction of water supply systems and facilities, the 
rehabilitation and decentralization of large group water 
pipelines, and the introduction of new water treatment 
technologies.  From 2002-2004, 33 billion tenge ($257 million) 
was spent under the program, with two billion tenge ($15 
million) coming from foreign loans and grants.  Kazakhstan also 
co-financed a $34.6 million loan from the Asian Development Bank 
for Rural Area Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) to 800 rural 
villages in four oblasts. 
 
4. In addition to the water supply program, Kazakhstan recently 
enacted a series of water-related laws and policy documents.  In 
2003, a new water code was introduced to address water use 
rights, water management, and use and protection of 
transboundary water resources.  The GOK has also issued the 
"National Strategy and Action Plan to Combat Desertification" 
and the "National Environment Action Plan for Sustainable 
Development." 
 
5. Despite Kazakhstan's efforts, major obstacles remain. 
According to a UNDP report, a growing number of water-pipes in 
the country do not meet sanitary requirements.   Moreover, a 
report funded by the Asian Development Bank warned that the 115 
billion tenge allotted for water sector reform and improvement 
will have limited impact, if not managed effectively. 
Kazakhstan lacks qualified and experienced water experts to 
implement the reforms.   The report's authors estimate that 
without additional professional staff to oversee the "Water 
Supply Sector Program 2002-2010," only 25% of the Kazakhstani 
planned water supply sector program will be introduced by 2010. 
The increase in population served with water will be as low as 
ten percent.  They also believe that many of the projects 
implemented will be of poor quality and unsustainable. 
 
Transboundary Issues: Competition for Limited Resources 
 
6. More than 50% of Kazakhstan's water resources begin outside 
the country's borders.  As a result, the failure of the Central 
Asian nations to create a viable multilateral approach to 
replace the Soviet system of water management poses a continued 
 
ASTANA 00000152  002 OF 003 
 
 
threat to Kazakhstan's water security.  The greatest point of 
contention remains management of the Syr Darya basin, shared by 
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.   The four 
countries have yet to create an effective water resource 
management program to balance the summer irrigation needs of 
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with
 the winter energy needs of 
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. 
 
7. At a summit meeting in Astana on September 1, the presidents 
of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan made water 
use a primary theme.  The four leaders agreed to form a working 
group to discuss the creation of a regional water and energy 
consortium to regulate the transboundary transfer of natural 
resources and to resolve water disputes.   Promises of future 
discussions, however, did not lead to the establishment of any 
framework for concrete action. 
 
8. The leaders agreed at the summit to revive the International 
Fund for saving the Aral Sea.  The Fund will be chaired by 
Kyrgyzstan and based in Kazakhstan, with an information center 
in Almaty.  At a news conference at the conclusion of the 
summit, President Nazarbayev expressed his support for a plan to 
divert Siberian waters to save the Aral Sea and to provide 
Central Asia with additional water resources.  Anatoliy 
Ryabtsev. Chairman of Kazakhstan's Committee on Water Resources, 
told ESTH officer at a subsequent meeting that Kazakhstan does 
not intend to divert Siberian waters.  According to Ryabtsev, 
Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov first proposed the plan several years 
ago, but Kazakhstan has never seriously considered the idea. 
 
9.  The six member states of the Eurasian Economic Community 
(EEC) - Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and 
Uzbekistan - discussed water use in Central Asia at an August 
15-17 summit meeting in Sochi.  Russia forwarded an initiative 
to establish a Eurasian hydro-power consortium.  Plans for the 
consortium's structure and operations are expected to be 
detailed in time for the next EEC summit. 
 
10.  Kazakhstan also faces increased water pressures because of 
Western China's rapid economic growth.  China's increasing 
hunger for water may significantly impact Kazakhstan's Ili and 
Irtyush Rivers.  The Ili River, which originates in China, 
provides Lake Balkhash with 80 percent of its water.  The 
Irtysh, which also originates in China, supplies a number of 
lakes in Kazakhstan as well as the Irtysh-Karaganda Canal. 
Water Resources Committee chairman Ryabtsev told ESTH officer 
that China and Kazakhstan have established a successful 
framework for water resource cooperation.  Some 
environmentalists, however, dispute the government's appraisal. 
 The Kazakhstani NGO Tagibat (Nature) says that new factories in 
Western China and its growing population are draining both 
rivers and could create an environmental disaster worse than the 
Aral Sea.  The UNDP agrees that Lake Balkhash, only slightly 
smaller in area than Lake Baikal, is in danger of drying out. 
 
U.S. Contributions 
 
11.  In 2003, the U.S. EPA began to fund the Clean Water 
Financing Program, creating a network of financially sustainable 
village water systems in rural areas of the Almaty oblast.  The 
program attempts to create a sense of ownership among users 
through their commitment to pay a portion of the capital 
(construction) costs and the full cost of the system's operation 
and maintenance.  After the initial construction costs are 
collected, participating villages organize themselves into a 
series of democratically elected committees to allow them to 
independently manage their water systems.  The USG has spent 
over $250,000 on the project, and today six village projects 
have been completed, bringing safe drinking water to more than 
8,000 people in the Almaty Oblast.  (See reftel) 
 
12.  USAID has financed several major programs in Kazakhstan. 
From 1993 to 1997, as part of the Aral Water Basin Program, 
USAID spent $5.5 million to bring clean drinking water to 
Kazakhstanis living along a 240 kilometer pipeline stretching 
from Aralsk to Kazalinsk.  The project rehabilitated 
well-fields, provided chlorination equipment, and rebuilt 
infrastructure.  More than 150,000  people gained access to 
clean water as a result of the project.  From 2001 to 2005, 
USAID conducted the Transboundary Water and Energy Project, 
aimed at supporting activities to help leaders in Central Asia 
to develop and agree on measures to improve water and energy 
 
ASTANA 00000152  003 OF 003 
 
 
cooperation in the Syr Darya Basin.  The U.S. spent $3.3 million 
dollars on the project.  In 2004, USAID initiated a limited 
program of support for Water User Associations (WUAs) in the 
heavily irrigated region of Southern Kazakhstan.  WUAs are 
self-managing groups of farmers which coordinate irrigation and 
drainage network use in order to ensure fair and equitable water 
distribution.  The program provides training to WUA staff on how 
to operate as a democratic non-governmental organization and 
also offers technical training on improved water management. 
 
13.  USAID also recently installed a unified communications 
network, utilizing meteorburst technology to enable the rapid 
collection and distribution of critical, real time weather and 
water resource information among participating countries in the 
region.  The master station for the network will be located in 
Kazakhstan, and the GOK has allocated the necessary budgetary 
resources for the station's operation and maintenance.  USAID 
provided $60,000 for the establishment of a Water Training 
Center at the Agricultural University in Almaty, which has 
become the main water management training facility in Kazakhstan 
and hosts national and Central Asian water specialists 
participating in vocational training and international round 
tables. 
 
Next Steps 
 
14.    Kazakhstan has established a series of regional water 
basin authorities but poor communication and coordination 
severely diminishes their effectiveness.  The GOK appears eager 
for additional U.S. expertise and guidance in the area of water 
basin management.  Water Resources Committee chairman Ryabtsev, 
told ESTH officer that any additional U.S. assistance with 
Kazakhstan's efforts to increase access to clean water would be 
welcomed. 
 
15. Comment:  President Nazarbayev has stated that a key 
priority for Kazakhstan is to become one of the fifty most 
developed countries in the world.  This goal will be difficult 
to achieve if a large number of Kazakhstanis remain without 
access to clean drinking water.  As a result, Kazakhstan can be 
expected to continue to devote resources to improving its water 
supply as it strives to achieve a higher level of development. 
End comment. 
MILAS

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