09ASTANA482, KAZAKHSTAN: INTERNATIONAL FUND TO SAVE THE ARAL SEA HEAD

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ASTANA482 2009-03-17 10:14 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO1558
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK
RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHNEH RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHPW
RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #0482/01 0761014
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171014Z MAR 09
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4939
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 1380
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0757
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1460
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0444
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0940
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0853
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHAST/USOFFICE ALMATY 1323

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ASTANA 000482 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, OES/PCI 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON SENV AF ZK KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  INTERNATIONAL FUND TO SAVE THE ARAL SEA HEAD 
DISCUSSES REGIONAL WATER COOPERATION 
 
ASTANA 00000482  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2.  (SBU) SUMMARY:  Almabek Nurushev, Executive Director of the 
International Fund to Save the Aral Sea (IFAS), told us on March 12 
that IFAS would like to fashion a bilateral Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan 
agreement on use of water resources.  He maintained that the 
Interstate Coordination Water Commission (ICWC), the highest water 
decision-making body in the region, is unable to make binding 
decisions concerning the management of water resources.  Uzbekistan 
is not likely soon to move away from cultivating cotton, wheat, and 
rice to other crops, Nurushev argued.  IFAS is not in principle 
opposed to including Afghanistan in regional water cooperation, 
because it is a neighbor and also part of Central Asia.  However, 
Nurushev contended that Afghanistan would have to agree with the 
other countries in Central Asia on how to use the water.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
IFAS INTERESTED IN KAZAKHSTAN-KYRGYZSTAN WATER AGREEMENT 
 
3.  (SBU) During a March 12 meeting in Almaty, International Fund to 
Save the Aral Sea (IFAS) Executive Director Almabek Nurushev told 
Regional Environmental Officer (REO) and a visiting State Department 
official that he has been working with IFAS from the date of its 
founding 15 years ago, and said he knows all sides of the issues 
related to regional water resources and the Aral Sea.  He said the 
IFAS Executive Committee, rotating between the various Central Asian 
capitals, has been located in Almaty since November 2008. 
Previously, it was in Dushanbe during 2004-08. 
 
4. (SBU) Nurushev stressed that in Central Asia, "if there is no 
water, there is no life."  The city of Aktau in western Kazakhstan 
is essentially a desert, he said, and when it was founded, the 
Soviets put a soldier to guard each planted tree, illustrating how 
difficult it is to cultivate the desert and how scarce water is. 
Nurushev said desertification has become the order of the day in 
many regions, and this was one reason why so many water basins were 
created, including man-made basins.  Some served specific purposes, 
such as the Toktogul Basin in Kyrgyzstan, which was supposed to hold 
water in the winter to be released for spring irrigation.  Nurushev 
said that one of IFAS's goals is to craft an agreement between 
Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan that will resolve their bilateral water 
problems.  It would also like to develop general guidelines for 
managing Central Asian water resources, drawing upon experiences of 
cooperation in other parts of the world, such as cooperation in the 
utilization of Indochina's Mekong River. 
 
ICWC NOT ABLE TO MAKE BINDING DECISIONS 
 
5. (SBU) Nurushev noted that the Interstate Coordination Water 
Commission (ICWC) is the principal organization for the rational 
utilization and protection of trans-boundary water resources in 
Central Asia.   Despite the fact that it is the highest 
decision-making body on water, it currently has no legal or 
enforcement powers, he argued.  In 1992, the ICWC had five vice 
ministers on its executive committee, one from each of the Central 
Asian countries, and they were empowered to make major decisions 
that could be implemented.  But now only two countries (Tajikistan 
and Turkmenistan) have vice ministers on the committee. 
Kazakhstan's representative is the chairman of its Committee on 
Water Resources.  Kyrgyzstan has a representative from its Ministry 
of Agriculture's Department of Water Resources.  And Uzbekistan is 
represented by a deputy minister for water resources from its 
Ministry of Agriculture who does not have any decision-making 
authority.  According to Nurushev, these representatives have no 
power to make binding decisions concerning the management of water 
resources. 
 
ALTERNATIVE CROPS NOT LIKELY 
 
6. (SBU) Nurushev noted that Uzbekistan uses 80 percent of the water 
from the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya rivers, mostly for agriculture. 
The Amu-Darya, the main source of water for the southern and eastern 
 
ASTANA 00000482  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
Aral Sea, is split 50-50 between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.  There 
is virtually no water from the Amu-Darya that reaches the Aral Sea. 
If this continues, he said, the sout
hern and eastern Aral Sea will 
soon disappear.  (COMMENT:  Last fall, during a trip to the 
Karakalpakstan region of Uzbekistan, REO personally witnessed a very 
low level of water flow in the furthest downstream part of the 
Amu-Darya.  END COMMENT.) 
 
7.  (SBU) NOTE:  In contrast to the plight of the southern-eastern 
portion of the Aral Sea, the World Bank and Kazakhstan have managed 
to restore part of the northern Aral Sea by means of the Kok-Aral 
Dike, constructed to separate the two seas and maintain the 
integrity of the northern sea, which lies entirely within 
Kazakhstan.  As a result, water levels have risen, salinity levels 
have reduced, fish production has increased, and the ecosystem has 
been partially restored.  END NOTE. 
 
8. (SBU) Nurushev said that Uzbekistan, traditionally a large cotton 
producer, has considered the question of introducing alternative 
crops since the 1960s.  However, for Uzbekistan, cotton is a 
strategic commodity. (NOTE:  The Soviets decided to develop 
large-scale cotton monoculture during the Cold War, when it feared 
that the West would cut it off from imported cotton supplies.  END 
NOTE.)  He did not think it likely that Uzbekistan would soon move 
away from cotton, wheat, and rice to other crops.  Instead, he said, 
all of the Central Asian countries continue to research methods to 
become more efficient and reduce the amount of water used in 
irrigation of existing crops. 
 
SOVIET UNION PLANNED TO DIVERT RIVERS TO SAVE ARAL SEA 
 
9. (SBU) Nurushev noted that the Soviet Union had initially made a 
decision to save the Aral Sea which involved diverting water from 
the Volga, Ob, and Irtysh rivers in Siberia.  However, that project 
never made much headway, and Gorbachev eventually cancelled it.  Now 
the five Central Asian countries are stuck with the Aral Sea 
problem.  (NOTE:  There is still occasional talk in Russia of 
diverting rivers to save the Aral Sea, with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov 
leading the charge.  It's extremely unlikely this will ever move 
beyond talk, and that might be for the better.  Some of those 
Russian rivers, such as the Tom River, an Ob tributary, are among 
the world's most polluted water sources.  END NOTE.) 
 
AFGHANS NEED CENTRAL ASIAN AGREEMENT TO USE PANJ RIVER 
 
10. (SBU) Nurushev said that IFAS is not in principle opposed to 
including Afghanistan in water regional cooperation, because it is a 
neighbor and also a part of greater Central Asia.  He noted that 
IFAS had invited Afghanistan to participate in the 2006 Water for 
Life conference in Dushanbe.  He agreed that Afghanistan should also 
share in Central Asian regional water resources.  Nurushev said that 
as Afghanistan begins to develop its economy and agriculture in its 
northern region along the Tajikistan border, it would inevitably 
draw off water from the Panj River -- a tributary of the Amu-Darya 
that forms much of the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan -- 
and would thus reduce the overall amount of water available to 
Central Asia.  He said bluntly that Afghanistan would have to agree 
with the other countries in Central Asia on how to use this water. 
International conventions are not the only constraint, he said. 
There is also Islamic law, according to which upstream users need 
permission from downstream users for their water usage. 
 
DOUBTS ABOUT OUR EFFORTS IN AFGHANISTAN 
 
11. (SBU) When asked if the United States can succeed in 
Afghanistan, Nurushev waxed historical and noted that when the 
Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, Margaret Thatcher predicted that 
the Soviets would be stuck there for 300 years.  "The Soviets 
failed," he said, "why should the United States think it is any 
different?"  He then expressed some prejudices that are not uncommon 
in Central Asia, saying that the Afghan people only know how to 
fight, not work.  They know narco-business very well and have 
 
ASTANA 00000482  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
"Godfather"-like leadership structures (referring to the movie). 
Nurushev said, "Only 'civilized people' should sell drugs.  If you 
allow others (e.g., Afghans), then the result will only be a 
catastrophe." 
 
HOAGLAND

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