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Kazakhstan: strengthening transboundary water cooperation with the help of the UNECE Water Convention

Published: 18 October 2010


The two-day national seminar on the “UNECE Water Convention and its role in international law” opened today in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to discuss the place of the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) in facilitating the transboundary water cooperation of Kazakhstan and the promotion of cooperation over shared water resources in the Central Asian region.

In particular, the seminar focuses on analysing the mechanisms for transboundary water cooperation provided for in the Water Convention in the context of specific examples of such cooperation by Kazakhstan: on the Irtysh, Ural and Tobol Rivers with the Russian Federation; on the Black Irtysh and Ili Rivers with China; in the Aral Sea basin shared by the five Central Asian states; and in the Chu and Talas River Basins shared with the Kyrgyz Republic.

A Party to the Water Convention since 2001, Kazakhstan is largely dependent on transboundary waters. In an averagely water rich year, transboundary rivers bring around 44 per cent of the total volume of water resources available in the country. This places transboundary water cooperation high on Kazakhstan’s agenda and calls for its active role in promoting cooperation over shared water resources in the whole Central Asian region, where the challenges of climate change and the expected increase in water use due to demographic trends and economic development is a challenging background for developing long-term solutions for cooperation over shared waters.

The Guide to Implementing the Convention, adopted by the Meeting of the Parties to the Water Convention in 2009, will be presented to the participants at the seminar. The Guide is a comprehensive commentary that provides explanations of the Convention’s legal and technical requirements, as well as providing examples illustrating good practices in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region.

Participants will also have an opportunity to learn about the experience of well known joint bodies for water cooperation, such as the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River. Other issues to be discussed include State responsibility for transboundary pollution, monitoring and data exchange for transboundary rivers, adaptation to climate change and payments for ecosystem services.

Representatives of the secretariats of the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification will also participate in the meeting, in order to strengthen synergies in the common work to achieve sustainable management of water resources in the region.

The seminar is being organized by UNECE and the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Kazakhstan, with organizational support from the Regional Environmental Center of Central Asia, in the framework of the programme “Regional Dialogue and Cooperation on Water Resources Management in Central Asia”. The programme is financed by the Government of Germany through Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in the framework of the Berlin Water Process.

For further information please visit: or contact: Francesca Bernardini, Secretary to UNECE Water Convention, tel.: +41 (0)22 917 2463,

Note for Editors:

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.

Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) 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 GTZ 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/10/P32


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