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UNECE helps Kyrgyzstan in strengthening transboundary water cooperation for adaptation to climate change

Published: 26 September 2011


How can transboundary water cooperation help in adaptation to climate change? On 26 and 27 September 2011, this issue is being discussed at the national seminar organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in Kyrgyzstan, in cooperation with the State Committee on Water Management and Melioration of the Kyrgyz Republic.

The seminar is being held on the shores of the Issyk-Kul, the country’s largest lake, with a surface area of 6,249 square kilometres (km²), which will itself be significantly affected by climate change. According to the Kyrgyz Republic’s second assessment report (2009) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, by the year 2100 the water surface of the lake is expected to reduce between 232 km²–1,049 km².

With its vast arid and semi-arid areas, Central Asia is among the regions that are most sensitive to climate variability and long-term climate change, mostly owing to the expected reduction in water availability due to glacier melting, as most of the rivers in the region are fed from snow and glacier melt. In Kyrgyzstan, glaciers cover about 8,200 km², or about 4.2 per cent of the territory. In the short term, it is expected that the annual water flows will continue to increase due to increased melting of permanent snowfields and glaciers. The long-term effects, however, are expected to have a negative impact on the state of water resources by reducing in total annual flow, and causing changes in the seasonal distribution of surface water flow, with reductions during the hottest periods. Addressing such impacts requires close cooperation between the countries of the region and makes transboundary cooperation on adaptation to climate change of crucial importance for Kyrgyzstan and its neighbours.

The Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change, developed under the auspices of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and adopted in 2009, illustrates the steps needed to develop an adaptation strategy. It places special emphasis on the problems and requirements of transboundary basins, with the objectives of preventing and reducing transboundary impacts of national adaptation measures. The Guidance underlines the benefits of cooperation in adapting to climate change in transboundary basins, such as sharing the costs and benefits of adaptation measures, reducing uncertainty through the exchange of information, and enlarging the range of measures available for prevention, preparedness and recovery.

The Chu and Talas River Basin, shared by Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, participates in the programme of pilot projects on adaptation to climate change, where countries from different parts of the UNECE region apply the recommendations from the Guidance to develop joint solutions in adaptation to climate change. With a focus on water scarcity, the Chu Talas pilot project is expected to raise the adaptive capacity of the two States and their joint institution — the Chu Talas Commission — in face of the current and upcoming challenges. At the national seminar, other basins which participate in the programme of pilot projects, such as the Dniester and the Sava, will share their experiences and lessons learned in making transboundary cooperation instrumental to tackle adaptation to climate change.

The national seminar is organized in the framework of the “Regional Dialogue and Cooperation on Water Resources Management in Central Asia” programme, financed by the Government of Germany through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH under the Berlin Water Process.

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The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) of 1992 aims to strengthen national measures and transboundary cooperation for the protection and ecologically sound management of transboundary surface waters and groundwaters. Thirty-seven States and the European Union are Parties to the Water Convention. In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are Parties to this instrument. The Convention represents an important framework for adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins. Its programme of pilot projects supports countries in their efforts to develop adaptation strategies and measures in transboundary basins and to create positive examples demonstrating the benefits of and possible mechanisms for transboundary cooperation in adaptation.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is an international cooperation enterprise for sustainable development with worldwide operations, which supports the German Government in achieving its development policy objectives.

The Berlin Water Process was launched at the first “Water Unites” Conference (Berlin, 1 April 2008). The Process is an important part of the water and environment pillar of the European Union’s Central Asia Strategy. The Transboundary Water Management in Central Asia Programme is implemented by GIZ under the Berlin Water Process to optimize cooperation in the Central Asian water sector and improve the lives of people in the region.

Ref: ECE/ENV/11/P40

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