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UNECE helps Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to cooperate to ensure safety of the Kirov Dam

Geneva/Bishkek – Friday, 4 February 2011 --

A bilateral Kazak-Kyrgyz working group will review the safety of the Kirov dam and produce a joint safety assessment by April 2011. This working group was established today in a meeting in Bishkek.

Representatives from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan agreed that the group would work under the Kazakh-Kyrgyz Chu and Talas Rivers Commission.

Kazakhstan has recently raised concerns about the safety of the Kirov dam, which is situated on the Talas River, on Kyrgyz territory upstream of the major Kazak city of Taraz. Kyrgyz authorities agreed to develop cooperation on the safety of this dam in response to this concern. The two countries requested UNECE to support and facilitate this work.

This positive example of cooperation is a response to the need to ensure the safe exploitation of the ageing water infrastructure in Central Asia, in particular the hundreds of dams and reservoirs built 40 to 50 years ago. Dams and reservoirs are of major importance for the economy and future development of the region — they ensure drinking water supply by contributing to seasonal and long-term regulation of river flows; and they provide a reliable source of water for irrigation, industrial water uses, and hydropower.

Dams and reservoirs are also efficient means of addressing floods and droughts. Today, ageing dams and lack of funding for their adequate maintenance, coupled with population growth downstream from the dams, represent increased risks to life, health, property and the environment. Less than a year ago, the failure of the Kyzyl-Agash Dam in Kazakhstan caused the flooding of the nearby village, killing at least 43 and leaving some 300 people injured.

The dam safety project funded by Finland, a component of the UNECE Water Convention work programme, is implemented in cooperation with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. The project assists Central Asian countries in establishing effective national legislation and technical regulatory frameworks, as well as in strengthening regional cooperation on dam safety. The project has already resulted in the development of legislation on dam safety and cooperation in this area between the countries in the region. The project is part of the Environment and Security Initiative.

For further information please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/water/damsafety.htm or contact:

Mr. Bo Libert
UNECE Regional Adviser on Environment
Phone: +41 (0)22 917 2396
E-mail: bo.libert@unece.org

Note to Editors:

The project “Capacity-building for cooperation on dam safety in Central Asia” was initiated in 2006 with a major financial contribution from Finland. It aims to help Central Asian countries to set up or revise national dam safety regulatory frameworks, to achieve their harmonization and to promote subregional cooperation for information exchange and notification in case of accidents or emergency situations related to hydro-technical infrastructure. An overview of dam safety issues in Central Asia has been prepared in the framework of the project (see UNECE publication “Dam Safety in Central Asia: Capacity-building and Regional Cooperation” http://www.unece.org/env/documents/2010/wat/Publication/MPWAT%2026%20_E.pdf)

The Kazakh-Kyrgyz Chu and Talas Rivers Commission was inaugurated in 2006 with the support of UNECE. The establishment of the Commission created a mutually beneficial way for Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to share responsibility for water infrastructure used by both countries. A UNECE project in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) — started in 2008 and funded by Finland — supports the further broadening of cooperation to improve the joint management of the Chu and Talas Rivers, to include, among other things, protection of ecosystems and stakeholder participation in river management.

The Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative was established in 2003 and includes the OSCE, the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNECE and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The ENVSEC Initiative works to assess and address environmental problems, which threaten or are perceived to threaten security, societal stability and peace, human health and/or sustainable livelihoods, within and across national borders in conflict prone regions.

Ref: ECE/ENV/11/P01