06ASTANA934, CHINA – KAZAKHSTAN: WILL WATER DAMPEN THE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ASTANA934 2006-12-26 10:50 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO3690
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHTA #0934/01 3601050
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261050Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8033
INFO RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 7081
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1292
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 7819
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 1975
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 7768

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000934 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/CEN (O'MARA) 
DEPARTMENT FOR OES/ETC 
DEPARTMENT FOR OES/PCI 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: SENV PGOV PREL KZ
SUBJECT: CHINA - KAZAKHSTAN: WILL WATER DAMPEN THE 
RELATIONSHIP? 
 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: Kazakhstan, already coping with its 
shrinking water sources, now faces a new challenge as a 
result of western China's rapid development.  Two of 
Kazakhstan's primary water sources, the Ili and Irtysh 
rivers, begin in China, and China has already admitted to the 
Kazakhstanis that some pollution of the rivers is inevitable. 
 Moreover, the two countries have not reached an agreement on 
water use. One Kazakhstani official stated publicly that 
"China is reluctant to discuss strategic water use issues 
with Kazakhstan."  This reluctance was reaffirmed during 
President Nazarbayev's recent trip to China, with the two 
sides again failing to reach an agreement on the use and 
protection of transboundary water resources. End Summary 
 
Blessed with Oil, but Not Water 
------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) Kazakhstan's water resources, never ample, continue to 
shrink.  In the last five decades, water resources have 
decreased by 16.6%, from 120 billion cubic meters of 
available water in the 1950s to not more than 100 billion 
cubic meters today.  Poor water management practices and 
wasteful internal consumption have contributed to the 
problem, but Kazakhstan is also heavily dependent on 
effective regional cooperation - 50% of its water resources 
begin outside the country's borders. 
 
3.  (SBU) While Kazakhstan has in recent years focused 
primarily on productive management of the Syr Darya basin, 
shared with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, two of 
Kazakhstan's major water sources, the Ili and Irtysh Rivers, 
originate in China.  The Ili River provides Lake Balkhash, 
the 15th largest lake in the world, with 80% of its water. 
The Irtysh River supplies a number of lakes and the 
Irtysh-Karaganda Canal. Anatoliy Ryabtsev, Chairman of 
Kazakhstan's Committee on Water Resources, told ESTH Officer 
that China's use of the Irtysh adheres to international norms 
but admitted that Kazakhstan lacks full information on 
China's use of the Ili. 
 
Nazarbayev Returns Home Empty-Handed on Water-Sharing 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
4. (SBU) Kazakhstan has failed to achieve an agreement on 
water-sharing with China, and Kazakhstani officials have not 
hidden their displeasure in public statements.  Ryabtsev 
stated on Kazakhstani television on December 4 that "China 
consumes more and more water as its economy grows. The amount 
of industrial pollutants discharged into the river by China 
has also increased.  They keep violating our requirements." 
Deputy Water Chairman Amirkhan Kenshimov, speaking at a UNDP 
Human Development Report presentation on November 16, 
complained that "China is reluctant to discuss strategic 
water use issues with Kazakhstan." 
 
5. (SBU) In a recent meeting with ESTH Officer, Ryabtsev 
reported that Kazakhstan - China water cooperation is 
improving.  The two sides have already concluded three 
water-related agreements on information sharing and water 
quality, he said.  Even achieving a dialogue with China is a 
great achievement, Ryabtsev believes. 
 
6. (SBU) Nevertheless, Ryabtsev admitted to ESTH Officer that 
his strong statement on Kazakhstani television accurately 
reflects his views.  Kazakhstan is particularly worried about 
the Ili, he said, with public reports that China intends to 
divert more water from the river to develop its oil industry. 
 Moreover, Kazakhstan has information that China has started 
to build a new water use facility for the Ili.  The Chinese 
have already admitted to Kazakhstan that the country's 
industrial growth is surpassing its ability to prevent the 
Ili's pollution. Ryabtsev told ESTH Officer that Kazakhstan 
will be "firm and decisive" on water-sharing, and that China 
"fears sanctions" by Kazakhstan. Thus far, he added, the 
Chinese, rather than the Kazakhstanis, have made concessions 
on water issues. 
 
7. (SBU) Ryabtsev believes that the water use question must 
be resolved at the highest level.  According to press 
reports, President Nazarbayev raised the issue during his 
December 19-21 visit to Beijing.  Although agreements were 
signed on the exchange of hydrological information and 
scientific and research cooperation on transboundary rivers, 
 
ASTANA 00000934  002 OF 002 
 
 
the two sides again failed to reach accord on transboundary 
water use.  Referring to this failure, Nazarbayev said that 
"we cannot say that Kazakhstani-Chinese cooperation is 
developing in a completely positive way." 
 
8. (SBU) Comment: While China-Kazakhstan relations remain 
healthy, China's growing thirst for natural resources is a 
potential cause of discord.  In recent months, Kazakhstani 
politicians and media have criticized China's 
"overparticipation" in Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector. &
#x000A;Transboundary water use is also of great concern, with 
Kazakhstan's existing vulnerabilities likely to worsen if 
China overuses the Ili and Irtysh rivers. Kazakhstan may use 
the levers it has with China - access to energy and trade 
routes - if pushed on the water issue.  End comment. 
MILAS

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