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New nexus approach the key for the sustainable management of the Syr Darya River Basin

An intersectoral (nexus) approach to managing water, energy, land resources and ecosystems has a significant potential to improve sustainability in the Syr Darya River Basin in Central Asia. This is the main conclusion of a technical report just issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.  

In contrast to national approaches presently employed by the countries sharing the basin, cooperation involving all the countries and sectors could optimize the use of resources. Furthermore, taking measures, such as improving efficiency in water and energy use by, for example, applying well-targeted economic and policy instruments, would reduce pressure on shared resources and consequently reduce tensions in relations between the riparians.

The upstream countries face important energy security challenges, especially in winter, and their dependence on hydropower limits water availability for irrigation downstream in the subregion. The report lays out several options to improve the situation, including reconnecting the Central Asian energy grid, increasing the share of renewables and increasing energy and water efficiency. It is further important to improve intersectoral coordination at the basin level by involving actors such as energy ministries in water management institutions and processes.

Functioning transboundary and intersectoral cooperation is necessary for the efficient management of the existing extensive infrastructure of dams and irrigation systems and the optimization of new investments and trade. The report concludes that measures taken nationally can gradually build more favourable conditions for transboundary cooperation. Changes in the global climate and in socioeconomic drivers will put greater pressure on all sectors in the Syr Darya River Basin, underlining the urgency of improving resource management and environmental protection.

The report on the resource nexus in the Syr Darya River Basin is the result of a participatory assessment process following a methodology developed under the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention).The assessment aimed to foster transboundary cooperation by identifying measures in the water, food production and energy sectors and across the State borders that could mutually reinforce each other. The participatory process involving workshops and stakeholder consultations engaged key actors from the different sectors in the countries concerned and identified relevant information to support decision-making. The assessment methodology has just been published in Russian to assist the countries in the Eastern part of the UNECE region.

The preparation of the assessment of the Syr Darya Basin was financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, and the key partners included the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Water Partnership.

UNECE is addressing the identified issues on several fronts, including supporting cooperation on transboundary water management, development of more sustainable energy systems and facilitating trade in the Syr Darya Basin.

The technical report, Reconciling resource uses in transboundary basins: assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in the Syr Darya River Basin, is available from:


The nexus assessment methodology can be found in the publication at: