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Strengthening cooperation on water quality in Central Asia

Water quality is a serious problem in Central Asia, but until now there was no formal cooperation between the countries in the region. A new regional working group on water quality, established under the project “Strengthening cooperation on water quality management in Central Asia” funded by Finland, aims at changing this. The group met for the first time in Almaty on 24-25 November, at a meeting organized by UNECE in cooperation with the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC).

Representatives from the water, environment, hydro-meteorological and health authorities of the five Central Asian countries held lively discussions focused on issues such as dangerous pollution and their sources, cooperation on monitoring and building capacity for improved national policies. The need for basin-level cooperation for example on the Syr Darya river was stressed as was the link between declining water quality and climate change. Cooperation on water quality is part of the Aral Sea Basin Programme 3 (ASBP 3), approved by all five Central Asian states.

The working group agreed on priorities for a work plan aiming to improve cooperation between the countries sharing rivers such as Syr Darya and Amu Darya. This work plan will include training on water quality management, strengthening of monitoring laboratories and pilot monitoring exercises.

The project aims to establish a platform for water quality cooperation in Central Asia and also to make information on water quality publicly available. Particularly in downstream parts of the major rivers of Central Asia, water quality is a significant problem for the health of the population. The work initiated under this project is expected to contribute to a better understanding and rehabilitation of water quality, including of drinking water.