08ASTANA2437, KAZAKHSTAN: UN TRANSBOUNDARY WATER CONFERENCE DISCUSSES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA2437 2008-12-09 11:35 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO1865
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV
RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2437/01 3441135
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 091135Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4070
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0905
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0307
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1012
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 0125
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0472
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0387
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 0964

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 002437 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EEB/ESC, OES/PCI 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL SENV ENRG KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  UN TRANSBOUNDARY WATER CONFERENCE DISCUSSES 
CHALLENGES TO CENTRAL ASIA WATER COOPERATION 
 
ASTANA 00002437  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2. (SBU) SUMMARY:  The UN Trans-boundary Water Conference took place 
in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on November 17-18.  The key element of the 
Conference was the presentation of a water management project 
developed by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) that 
is an integral part of the European Union's (EU) Central Asia 
Strategy.  The International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) 
Executive Committee (EC) also officially inaugurated its new 
permanent office in Almaty.  The GTZ program is due to begin in 2009 
and envisions a number of pilot projects such as developing 
"national competence centers" for water, climate change, and energy. 
 UN Assistant Secretary General Udovicki referred to the "compound 
crisis" of food, water, and energy security, and said UNDP can help 
make national water management frameworks more sustainable, help 
countries capture the benefits of renewable energy and carbon 
finance, and help countries respond to the threats posed by uranium 
tailings.  She noted that effective regional solutions to the water 
management problem can only be built on successful national and 
local water management initiatives, citing Kazakhstan's successful 
rescue of the northern part of the Aral Sea as an example.  Although 
climate change hangs like a Damocles sword over Central Asia's 
long-term development prospects, she said, it also presents 
development opportunities for attracting carbon financing.  The 
Central Asian regional representatives each commented on the EU 
program.  The Uzbekistan representative stressed international 
agreements and the trans-boundary nature of the water issue, while 
Tajikistan insisted that Uzbekistan is the largest consumer of water 
today because of the inefficient irrigation system built during the 
1960s, and rhetorically asked who will compensate Kyrgyzstan and 
Tajikistan for the release of their water downstream.  This discord 
caused the EU organizers great discomfort and they finally had to 
"pull the plug" on the persistent and stubborn Tajikistan 
representative.  END SUMMARY. 
 
THE UN TRANS-BOUNDARY CONFERENCE AND EU WATER MANAGEMENT PROJECT 
 
3. (SBU) The UN Trans-boundary Water Conference took place in 
Almaty, Kazakhstan, on November 17-18, hosted by the U.N. Economic 
Commission for Europe (UNECE), the government of Germany, the 
International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS), the UN 
Development Program (UNDP), and the Government of the Republic of 
Kazakhstan.  The main objective of the conference, according to the 
organizers, was to assess short- and long-term challenges in the 
field of cooperative water management in Central Asia in order to 
generate more coherent, efficient, and better targeted action to 
address these challenges. 
 
4. (SBU) The key element of the Conference was the presentation of a 
water management project developed by the German Agency for 
Technical Cooperation (GTZ), with support from the German Foreign 
Ministry and UNECE.  Conference participants -- representatives from 
Central Asian countries and regional experts responsible for water 
management -- were invited to comment on the project and to indicate 
their willingness to participate.  This project forms a key part of 
the European Union (EU) Central Asia Strategy and the EU approach to 
water cooperation in Central Asia.  Along with security and energy, 
water and environment issues formed the third "main pillar" of the 
EU Central Asian Policy. 
 
IFAS EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE NOW PERMANENTLY IN ALMATY 
 
5. (SBU) During the Conference, the inauguration of the IFAS 
Executive Committee (EC) also took place.  The EC and the IFAS 
chairmanship had previously rotated between Central Asian capitals 
every two years, most recently in Dushanbe.  Now the IFAS EC will be 
permanently located in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with the government of 
Kazakhstan agreeing to host and cover most of the EC costs. 
 
GTZ PROJECT'S PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS 
 
6. (SBU) GTZ's draft proposal for trans-boundary water management in 
Central Asia contains the main points of the German Water Initiative 
 
ASTANA 00002437  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced in 
Berlin in April 2008:  managing trans-boundary water based on 
Central Asian proposals; transferri
ng know-how regarding sustainable 
water management; starting a new course on sustainable water 
management at the Kazakh-German University in Almaty; networking 
among water experts from Germany, the EU, and Central Asia; and 
supporting activities in Central Asia undertaken by Germany's water 
industry (a world leader, according to GTZ).  This program is due to 
start in 2009 and run until 2011/2012, with a possible extension 
beyond.  The project envisions a number of pilot projects that would 
address the institutional development of "national competence 
centers" for water, climate change, and energy; a vulnerability 
analysis and adaptation strategies for climate change; the 
development of criteria for hydropower utilization, water reuse, and 
sanitation; and the efficient use of water for irrigation. 
 
7. (SBU) The proposed trans-boundary rivers included in the project 
are:  the Isfara and Chadzhabarkan rivers on the 
Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border; the Murghab Basin on the 
Turkmenistan-Afghanistan border; the Serafshan River on the 
Uzbekistan-Tajikistan border; and the Aral-Syrdarya basin on the 
Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan border.  The project would involve creating 
regional and bilateral agreements as well as guidelines for water 
monitoring and data exchange, determining river basin objectives and 
their monitoring and assessment, developing long-term river basin 
management plans, and creating financing "concepts" for the river 
basin infrastructure. 
 
UNDP: CLIMATE CHANGE CAN PRESENT DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES 
 
8. (SBU) During the first session, UN Assistant Secretary General 
Kori Udovicki referred to the global "compound crisis" of food, 
water, and energy security and their interconnection, with water at 
the core of the problem in Central Asia.  She said the UNDP can 
address these security issues in Central Asia by making national 
water management frameworks more sustainable; helping Central Asia 
respond to climate change threats by capturing the benefits of 
renewable energy and carbon finance; and helping Central Asia 
respond to human security threats posed by uranium tailings and 
other water-related environmental hot spots. 
 
9. (SBU) Udovicki noted that the trans-boundary nature of Central 
Asia's water resources is a development challenge that requires 
regional cooperation.  Although cooperation has been disappointingly 
absent in the past, she said the recent decision of the five Central 
Asian presidents in Bishkek on October 10 represents a positive 
renewed commitment, and UNDP stands ready to help implement it.  She 
also noted that effective regional solutions to the water management 
problem can only be built on successful national and local water 
management initiatives, citing Kazakhstan's successful rescue of the 
northern part of the Aral Sea as an example, where water levels and 
fish stocks are rising.  With UN support, she said, Tajikistan and 
Kyrgyzstan are increasingly applying integrated water resource 
management principles in their national policy contexts.  (NOTE: 
IFAS water scholar Dr. Viktor Dukhovny has said that international 
organizations are supporting Uzbekistan's claim that regional waters 
should be treated as trans-boundary and therefore subject to 
international agreements, and at the same time "contradictorily" 
supporting Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan's water projects as part of 
their strategy to treat these rivers as national resources that they 
can use as they see fit, regardless of the needs of downstream 
countries.  END NOTE.) 
 
10. (SBU) Udovicki said that Central Asia is at the heart of Eurasia 
and its integration, and it can play a bridging role between Europe 
and Asia.  Water is at the top of the process of globalization, she 
said, and the "New Deal" of the future is a green New Deal. 
Udovicki also said that climate change hangs like a Damocles sword 
over Central Asia's long-term development prospects, and global 
warming is accelerating the melting of Central Asia's glaciers, 
threatening the region with the "specter" of permanent drought. 
However, climate change also presents development opportunities for 
attracting carbon financing to invest in sustainable water and 
 
ASTANA 00002437  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
energy use projects. 
 
11. (SBU) UNDP Senior Economist Ben Slay noted that the main 
problems Central Asia faces are sustainable water, energy, and land 
use, poverty reduction, and food/energy/water insecurity.  He cited 
Tajikistan's severe 2007-08 winter, subsequent spring drought in the 
region, and escalating global food prices as examples underscoring 
the need for better winter contingency planning as well as better 
coordination among international agencies.  This is compounded by 
the water-energy nexus that results in electricity shortages, food 
security concerns because food is now too expensive for the poor, 
and the current global financial crisis that is affecting economies 
as well as assistance programs. 
 
REGIONAL DISSONANCE UPSETS EU ORGANIZERS 
 
12. (SBU) Following the formal presentations, regional 
representatives had a chance to offer their comments.  The 
Kazakhstan representative noted that a more complete risk analysis 
should include risks to energy supply, especially to downstream 
countries (e.g., Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan).  Because of the threat 
of reduction of water resources, Kazakhstan needs to re-engineer its 
canal and irrigation system to be more efficient.  He called on all 
Central Asian countries to adopt a common approach for near- and 
far-term solutions and to take a regional perspective.  By contrast, 
the Kyrgyzstan representative agreed that the degradation of the 
water supply infrastructure is a serious problem, but he insisted 
that water be treated as a national strategic resource.  All 
regional decisions, he maintained, can only be made on the basis of 
the social, economic, and political situation of all countries in 
the region.  The Tajikistan representative said the people of his 
country are on the precipice of a great disaster, and the lack of a 
"rational" and effective management of water is at the core of the 
problem.  He noted three areas of concern: increasing population 
growth, inefficient use of water storage, and the need for more 
efficient use of water in downstream countries. 
 
13. (SBU) The Uzbekistan representative emphasized the need to 
regard these waters, in accordance with existing international 
agreements, as trans-boundary waters.  Uzbekistan seeks a regional 
solution that does not damage the interests of other countries.  The 
Tajikistan representative returned to the microphone and countered, 
saying that the existing irrigation system to support cotton 
production, built during the 1960s, is the principle cause of the 
water problem today.  Because of this inefficient cotton production 
system and wasteful irrigation, Uzbekistan is the largest consumer 
of water.  Who will compensate Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for the 
release of this water downstream, he asked rhetorically.
 (NOTE: 
Tajikistan's outburst caused the EU organizers considerable unease, 
because they were seeking an EU-style, cooperative solution to the 
water problem and did not want this discordant tone in the 
conference.  They kept trying to stop him, but he persisted in 
defending the upstream countries' interests against the "Uzbek 
Usurper".  Realizing that the EU position also supported a 
trans-boundary perspective, the Uzbekistan representative discretely 
maintained his silence.  END NOTE). 
 
MILAS

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