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UNECE supports policy response to recent accidents affecting dams in Kazakhstan

On 17 September, Kazakh authorities, UNECE and the Executive Board of the International Fund for the Saving of the Aral Sea organised a round-table on dam safety in Astana to discuss and plan for improved dam safety in Kazakhstan. Representatives from key authorities and stakeholders from Kazakhstan participated along with international experts.

Dams and reservoirs are efficient means of addressing floods and drought but ageing dams represent increased risks to life, health, property and the environment. In 2010, 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. Another accident in spring this year underlines the need for improved policies and control in this sector.

The discussion during the roundtable concluded that Kazakhstan needs to strengthen its legislation as well as institutional capacity to guarantee the safety of existing hydraulic infrastructure and that international experiences are important in this process. Support from UNECE was requested for further development of national legislation, capacity building and the development of an international training centre. 

Another issue discussed was the cooperation of Kazakhstan with neighbouring countries on transboundary rivers and their infrastructure. With the support of UNECE, safety assessments of the Kirov and Ortotokoi dams located in Kyrgyzstan upstream of Kazakhstan on the Talas and Chu rivers have been conducted. It was concluded that steps should now be taken to improve the safety monitoring of these dams in cooperation with Kyrgyzstan.

The roundtable was organised as part of the Environment and Security Initiative. The UNECE project “Capacity-building for cooperation on dam safety in Central Asia” aims at helping 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. It is also a component of the UNECE Water Convention and SPECA programmes of work and is implemented in cooperation with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.

For more information, visit:http://www.unece.org/env/water/damsafety.html Or contact: bo.libert@unece.org