December 13, 2023, Astana, Kazakhstan
The latest session of the Regional Working Group on Water Quality (RWG-WQ) was conducted by the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia as part of the Blue Peace Central Asia initiative by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), in Astana, Kazakhstan. The aim of this event was to facilitate a comprehensive dialogue among countries on water quality management in Central Asia.
Opening the session with a welcoming address from the hosting country - the Republic of Kazakhstan, Ms. Natalya Dauletyarova, Deputy Director of the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan, expressed gratitude to the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (CAREC) for their longstanding collaboration and support of RWG-WQ activities since 2009.
Ms. Nadine Fragnière, Climate and Water Advisor at SDC, highlighted the importance of regular meetings to strengthen regional cooperation and affirmed Switzerland's commitment to supporting them in the second phase of the Blue Peace CA Initiative.
Ms. Lyudmila Kiktenko, Program Manager for Environmental Management, on behalf of the Executive Director of CAREC, welcomed meeting participants and emphasized the crucial role of this regional platform in enhancing mutual information sharing among countries on the progress of national legislations related to water management and monitoring water quality. She also stressed the platform's significance in coordinating water quality projects in the region.
Key presentations on innovations in environmental policies of each republic and progress in bilateral cooperation were delivered by leading officials responsible for environmental protection. Experts shared information about institutional reorganizations and the establishment of a new environmental ministry (Uzbekistan), the development of water and environmental codes (Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan), the implementation of water reforms (Tajikistan), the adoption of new strategies and programs (Kyrgyzstan) related to water quality issues, as well as progress in addressing wastewater problems (Turkmenistan).
During an open dialogue, meeting participants discussed the Strategic Development of the RWG-WQ as a community of water quality experts in the region and initiated the process of updating the RWG Charter, developed in 2016 by CAREC and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). To enhance the RWG-WQ's efforts, SDC proposed involving the group in an inter-basin dialogue on the Syr Darya, funded by Germany and Switzerland and implemented by the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
Given that the primary goal of the RWG-WQ is knowledge and experience exchange, the session with international experts generated significant interest. Speaker presentations focused on practices related to the reuse of wastewater and sanitary products, as well as issues associated with associated risks. Advanced technologies for decentralized wastewater treatment applicable in Central Asia were also showcased.
The meeting concluded with presentations from international partners, including Mr. Bu Libert and Mr. Kerry Schneider from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Mr. Anvar Gapparov, Water Advisor at GIZ, and Ms. Natalia Nikiforova and Ms. Claudia Kamke from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). They introduced ongoing initiatives and projects related to water quality in the region. As part of the project "Water Resources Management in Central Asia Considering Climate Impact," in 2023, GIZ plans to establish a Water Quality Working Group for the Amu Darya River basin involving Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
The UNECE project "Enhancing Activities in Uzbekistan in Water Supply, Sanitation, and Protection of Water Resources from Accidental Pollution in the Context of Climate Change," funded by SDC and implemented in the Republic of Uzbekistan, includes a regional component. RWG-WQ members will be engaged in regional events to exchange knowledge and enhance capacity for strengthening tailings dam safety, preventing/reducing accidental transboundary water pollution, and managing pollution risks.
The RWG-WQ meeting was aligned with the 6th session of the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan Working Group on Environmental Protection and Water Quality in the Syr Darya River Basin, scheduled for December 14.