Regional Working Group on Water Quality have met online
The informal meeting was held on June 30. Experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan discussed the progress in the field of water quality. Specifically, members of the RWG have talked about the changes in water quality management, monitoring and transboundary cooperation.
The Regional Working Group is operating since 2009, usually, meetings are held two times a year. It is the first time the group has met online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Regional Water Advisor for Central Asia of the Swiss Embassy in Kazakhstan Dr André Wehrli underlined during the opening speech, that COVID-19 crisis reminded us once more about the crucial necessity of “universal access” to water as a human right. One of the most effective ways to stop the spread is simple hand hygiene. However, three billion people, 40 % of the world’s population, can’t wash their hands at home.
“Water and water quality are crucial for the future of our countries. We need to find a more sustainable way forward. And water quality is a key component for this way”, said Dr André Wehrli.
Each country provided an update on water quality issues. Fortunately, all countries were able to continue monitoring and adhere to the previous work plans on the transboundary exchange of data like in the case of Kazak-Uzbek work in the Syrdarya river basin. Head engineer of the environmental monitoring unit of “Kazhydromet” GulbarshynBekbenbetovacontinued to share the experience of Kazakhstan, which had introduced a unified water quality classification of water bodies in the country. According to this classification, monitoring is carried out on 143 water facilities, all data is uploaded monthly to the online interactive map. Other countries were eager to explore the lessons learned by the neighbor in switching to the unified classification as well. They also recognize that there is a lot of work to be done: the current monitoring systems require a substantial modernization, water specialists need training.
Deputy Office Director of the State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection of Uzbekistan ZulfiyaYarullina presented results of the cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Countries are working together on environmental protection and water quality in the Syrdarya river basin. MsYarullina noted that the main source of the pollution in the Syrdarya river basin is sewerage, and there is a lot of work done in the Fergana valley to prevent that. Sewage treatment facilities in the Andijan, Kokand and Fergana have been reconstructed. These are the largest cities in the valley. Moreover, facilities in Namangan and other cities and villages of the region are currently under reconstruction.
As a result of the discussion, experts agreed on topics for further meetings and trainings. Participants also suggested including health experts and housing and communal services specialists in the discussion and activities of the Regional Working Group on Water Quality.