On November 26, the first Small Basin Councils Forum of Central Asia and Afghanistan started in Bishkek. The event brought together representatives of the Small Basin Councils, relevant ministries and departments of the region, as well as international organizations and projects. The forum is held within the framework of the USAID-CAREC project Smart Waters.
«This forum is another great opportunity to share experience on successful transboundary cooperation in the field of shared water management. I hope participants will use this opportunity and share their ideas», said Gary Linden, Director of USAID Mission in Kyrgyzstan, in his opening speech.
In Central Asia, there are more than 200 small transboundary rivers, which have a number of issues that impede the efficient use of water: deterioration of infrastructure, lack of water accounting, the use of outdated technologies and other challenges. Small basin councils attract all water user groups to address these issues: civil society, farmers, producers and hydropower. CAREC, with the support of USAID and other international organizations, has been promoting the creation of Small Basin Councils (SBC) on small transboundary rivers since 2012.
“The advantages of Small Basin Councils are that you work at the level of local self-government and problems can be solved at the local level without delay. There are problems that require instant solutions. In addition, there are representatives of all stakeholders in the SBC: environment, technical inspection, local government, municipality, hydromet, ”said Omurbek Elemanov, local coordinator of the SBC of the Aspara River Kyrgyz part.
Small basin councils are advisory bodies, within the framework of which different types of water users find the best solutions for water management. The main tool for finding solutions is stakeholder meetings. It is worth noting that meetings take place both between water users within country belonging to the basin, and between water users of all countries in the basin.
On the first day of the forum, participants discussed the principles of basin planning, positive experience and challenges. “Basin planning is a key element in promoting Integrated Water Resources Management at the local level. Such an approach allows addressing specific problems, as well as taking into account the opinion of all stakeholders, ”explained Anna Inozemtseva, deputy manager of the Smart Waters project.
The concept of “Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)” was proposed in 1992 at the International Conference on Water and the Environment in Dublin, and at the conference in Rio de Janeiro was included in Agenda 21. The main goal of IWRM according to Agenda 21 is to meet the fresh water demand of all countries for their sustainable development. IWRM is considered as a process, which in each case has its own characteristics.
During the first day of the forum, an exhibition of project areas, small transboundary rivers of the region, where the project is being executed was also held. Smart Waters project specialists and representatives of the SBC presented the results of work and current challenges. Representatives of the SBC noted that the most important result of the work is a friendly and productive dialogue. “Now we are solving problems very well. Take last year's irrigation season for example. If there was not enough water in the Kyrgyz part, and in Kazakhstan there were too many resources, the parties could solve such problems without high-level management. They solved everything quickly, ”explained Omurbek Elemanov, Omurbek Elemanov, local coordinator of the SBC of the Aspara River Kyrgyz part.
On the second day of the forum, participants will learn about the involvement of the local population in the work of the Basin Councils, as well as the implementation of innovative and scientific approaches. In particular, the parties will discuss drip irrigation, water accounting systems and GIS mapping. In addition, the forum will include panel discussions “The Future of Basin Councils”, as well as a panel session with representatives of international organizations.
Smart Waters project is implemented by CAREC with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development USAID during the period 2015-2020. Overall objective of the project is to enhance regional cooperation on shared water resources. Specifically, Smart Waters addresses the knowledge dis-lock in the region in water sector, builds working relations among water managers and specialists, and demonstrates the potential of the basin management approach and cooperation with the academia.