|Civil society networks from Central Asian countries agree on cooperation in the frameworks of the UNECE Water Convention|
|News Waterfall - News Waterfall #5|
|Monday, 08 October 2012 16:46|
35 representatives of civil society organisations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Switzerland and Germany met in Almaty, Kazakhstan at the Central Asian Water meeting on 12th September 2012. The participants decided to create the network of Central Asian NGOs on “Climate, Water, Energy, Health”. The meeting was co-organized by the Social-Ecological Fund (Kazakhstan), the BIOM Ecological Movement (Kyrgyzstan), MAMA-86 (Ukraine) and Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) as one of 5 regional water meetings of the project “Raising awareness about the UNECE Water Conventions and its Protocol on Water and Health and strengthening the role of the civil society organisations in their promotion and implementation”, supported by UNECE.
Public participation is essential to raise awareness and push for good governance in the area of water management and climate protection. The NGO participants exchanged experiences of local legislation and practices, and discussed the water management and cooperation issues together with representatives of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the International Fund for the Aral Sea, the German GIZ and the Ministries of health and environment of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
The meeting focussed on the benefits of transboundary cooperation for climate protection and water management within the framework of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) and it’s Protocol on Water and Health. Kazakhstan is a party to the Convention since October 23, 2000, but has not signed the Protocol on Water and Health. Kyrgyzstan is not a party to the Convention nor of the Protocol, but is implementing the “target setting” tool of the Protocol on Water and Health.
Both the Convention and the Protocol require Parties to ensure the provision of information to the public as well as public participation. In Central Asia, public participation in water management has been lately facilitated with the amendment of national water legislations and the reorganization of water resources management, giving more space to civil society organizations to participate effectively in the relevant decision making processes. Public participation in the activities of joint bodies is still in the early stages, with the cooperation between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on the rivers Chu and Talas showing the most advanced development in this area.
The civil society representatives developed a resolution with recommendations which were consecutively presented to Central Asian government representatives the next day at the 2nd workshop of the EU-Central Asian Strategy Partnership, held in Almaty from 13–14 of September. The recommendations will also be presented to the Meeting of Parties of the Water Convention in November 2012.
Sascha Gabizon, Director of WECF comments “Climate change is a fact in Central Asia, with temperatures rising faster than globally. Due to the over-consumption of water in the region, the Aral Sea — once among the largest lakes world wide — is mostly dry. Estimates say that one-hundred million tons of salt dust from the sea bed is spread into the environment, also into the higher atmosphere. Salt dust from the Aral Sea is now found on the glaciers of the Central Asian and Himalaya mountains, leading to their rapid melting, resulting in floods and droughts. Immediate action is needed. The Central Asian countries should of course move to less water consuming agriculture, and should work together on water monitoring and retention dams, instead of each one country for itself”.
Civil society participants recommended to re-focus on the Aral Sea and recommended that even if the sea cannot be restored, as a minimum the bottom of the Aral Sea should be kept moist, to retain the salt dust. There is no transboundary cooperation on the river basin, therefore the participants recommended the establishment of Interstate Basin Councils, for the Chu-Talas Basin and other basins. Many such basin councils function successfully in other parts of the region, for example the Dniester basin between Ukraine and Moldova. Participants also recommended creation of an independent Public Council of the Aral Sea Basin. Furthermore, NGOs called for increases transparency and accountability of the existing Interstate Commissions.
Participants recommended sharing of best practices among the countries on climate and water, such as for example the progressive legislation on Energy Performance of Buildings in Kyrgyzstan. Renewable energy is an area where regional cooperation can benefit all countries. Central Asia has a vast potential for wind, solar and hydro power energy. The creation of a common Central-Asian Energy market would create a strong incentive for private and international investments in renewable energy. On the issues of water and sanitation the participants recommended establishment of several resource centres throughout the region on efficient energy, water and sanitation for households and small enterprises. Finally, the participants all agreed that the countries could no longer address their environmental problems by one-theme-focused legislation. To resolve such complex issues as soil degradation, water contamination, unstable and uneven water supply and inefficient use, the national governments together with the civil society have to apply the new NEXUS concept and link mitigation efforts to water security, energy security and food security.
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