A breakthrough in Central Asian water relations

AN UNECE Press Release: Geneva and Bangkok, 24 July 2006 – Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan Inaugurate the Chu-Talas Rivers Commission.

Water relations in Central Asia will take a significant step forward on 26 July 2006 when the newly created Chu-Talas Rivers Commission is inaugurated in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The Chu-Talas Rivers Commission represents a mutually beneficial way for Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to share the responsibility for water infrastructure used by both countries. As part of the bilateral agreement, Kazakhstan has agreed to pay part of the operating and maintenance expenses for a number of Kyrgyz dams and reservoirs supplying water to both countries.

According to UN officials, this represents a significant step towards addressing a contentious issue and achieving a breakthrough in water relations in Central Asia, as the sharing of water resources, in particular between upstream and downstream countries, is often characterized by tension and insecurity.

“The Chu-Talas River Commission is an eloquent symbol of the spirit of cooperation to address transboundary issues of common concern. It lays the foundation for future cooperation in achieving more sustainable growth in these two countries and in Central Asia,” remarked Mr. Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of UNESCAP. He congratulates Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for this breakthrough.

The Executive Secretary of UNECE, Mr. Marek Belka, congratulates Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for their constructive collaboration on water issues that sets an example for future water relations in Central Asia.

The establishment of the Chu-Talas Rivers Commission has been supported by a joint project implemented by two United Nations regional commissions – the Geneva-based UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Bangkok-based UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) – and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The Statute of the Rivers Commission has been prepared and agreed on by the concerned ministries and agencies of both countries, and the bilateral Commission will now start work to implement a bilateral agreement. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have equal standing in the Commission, and each country will report to its water management agency.

The project is part of a coordinated effort by the international community to support the Rivers Commission’s formation. The European Union has implemented a project on integrated water resources management in the basins of the Chu and Talas rivers. The Asian Development Bank has provided support for setting up the Commission secretariat and renovating some infrastructure on the rivers.

Applying the example of Kazakh-Kyrgyz cooperation to resource sharing in other transboundary river basins in Central Asia would lead to greater all-around capacity to meet the region’s water needs.

For more information, please visit this site, or contact: Mr. Bo Libert, Geneva,

or Mr. Kojhi Iwakami, Bankok.

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