Chu and Talas rivers project
The Republic of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic share the waters of transboundary Central Asian rivers Chu and Talas, which provide essential resources for irrigation of the vast agricultural lands in both countries as well as opportunities for the generation of hydropower. Whereas all facilities for rivers’ regulation, such as dams, water reservoirs and canals, are located upstream in the territory of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan depends on the operation and proper maintenance of these facilities. This situation prompted the two countries to establish a legal basis for the joint operation of water management infrastructure.
In January 2000 the Agreement on the Use of Water Management Facilities of Intergovernmental Status on the Rivers Chu and Talas was signed by the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic (Rus, Eng). The Parties agreed that operation and maintenance costs for the facilities specified in the Agreement would be shared on a pro rata basis in accordance with the water volume received by each Party. Under Article 5 of the Agreement, the Parties committed to establish a permanent commission to determine the operation mode for water infrastructure and the share of each Party in funding operation and maintenance costs. The Agreement became effective in February 2002 upon ratification by the Parliaments of both sides.
In 2003 OSCE, UNECE and UNESCAP initiated the project "Support for the Creation of a Transboundary Water Commission on the Chu and Talas Rivers between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan" (Chu-Talas I) with funding from the United Kingdom, Sweden and Estonia. The project facilitated the establishment of a bilateral Commission in 2006. In particular, the project allowed developing the Statute of the Commission (Rus, Eng). The main activities of the Chu-Talas Commission focus on (a) approval of water resources allocation in the Chu and Talas river basins between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan; (b) determination of measures to maintain water facilities of inter-State use and provide for their routine and capital repair; and (c) approval of a financing plan for the above measures. The final project report can be accessed here (Eng).
The establishment of this sustainable coordination structure, that includes a permanent secretariat as well as experts and working groups, enabled joint and transparent decision-making on water allocation and maintenance costs by the two Parties, as well as relevant information sharing, efficient implementation of joint projects, prevention and rapid settlement of problematic situations in the Chu and Talas river basins.
The follow-up project “Developing cooperation on the Chu and Talas Rivers” (Chu-Talas II), funded by Finland, was implemented by OSCE and UNECE in 2008-2011. The project’s goals were to broaden the bilateral Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan cooperation, enhance the understanding of the two countries on the available water resources, improve access to information, involve new stakeholders into the process of river management and promote activities for the protection of water ecosystems.
The practical outcomes of the Chu-Talas II project included the development of proposals to improve the 2000 Agreement by inclusion of additional water facilities, introduction of integrated water resources management principles, and establishment of basin councils. The project raised awareness of the work of the Commission through the new official web-page and local media. In 2008-2009 the Commission carried out a joint examination of water management facilities. As a result, damage evaluation acts were prepared on the technical condition of the main waterworks along with needs assessment for repair and rehabilitation works for the following years. In addition, a joint study on the relation of groundwater and surface water resources in the Chu river basin was prepared. These results are displayed in the Project Report “Development of cooperation on the Chu and Talas Rivers (Chu – Talas II)” (Eng). More detailed information can be found in the extended version of the report (Eng).
For more detailed information on the Commission’s activities and achievements please see the Commission’s web-site and the reports of the Commission on its activities in 2006-2007 (Rus, Eng) and in 2008-2009 (Rus, Eng). Successful cooperation between the countries is the topic of a short movie on YouTube produced by UNTV in 2011 (Rus, Eng).
The governments of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have expressed a strong wish for continued involvement of the UNECE as well as other supporting organizations and donors in the further Chu-Talas work. Future activities could facilitate further development of the legal and institutional basis, improve the information exchange and dialogue with stakeholders and the public with regard to protection and use of the shared water resources, enhance monitoring of dams and groundwater resources. The planned directions of work also include the development of Operation Rules for individual water facilities and sharing the experience of Chu-Talas cooperation with other countries.