rallies together to tackle water crisis
9, 2009, Victor Winner
BISHKEK (TCA) --
Representatives from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA),
met in Bishkek last month to discuss the deteriorating state of Central Asia's water supply. This
education on water quality has been needed for a long time, said Farrukh Shaazizov, scientist at
the Institute for Water Issues, a department of Uzbekistan's Academy of Sciences. Research on water issues needs to be conducted, as does effective
water usage, and protection of water resources, especially given Central Asia's severe
environmental problems in sea and river basins.
In particular, trans-boundary rivers in Uzbekistan, such as the Zaravshan, Sokh, Syr-Darya, and Isfaramsai contain high percentages of copper, zinc, lead
According to Saginmurod Samiyev,
Director of the Hydro-Meteorological Agency, three major rivers in Tajikistan the Amu-Darya, Syr-Darya,
and Vakhsh are of particular concern. Man-made and
natural factors have had a negative impact on the water purity. The Syr-Darya's salinity of 1,500-1,700 mg/liter is way above
average, as is the Yavansuu river's
up to 1,500 mg/liter.
”The main problem is polluted rivers, especially those located near uranium
mines, and the increasing number of petroleum products that end up in Issyk-Kul Lake,” said Lyudmila Nyshanbayeva,
head of monitoring in Jalalabad's Environmental
Protection Department. The maximum concentration limit exceeds the norm by 7.2
times. The reason for that is an increased number of scooters, and motor boats.
Iskander Tursunov, Kazgidromet's head, noted that “While all Central Asian
countries use rivers for irrigation, the highest level of man-made pollution
comes from China.”
The Syr-Darya is polluted with agricultural
chemicals, mainly sulfates. The Ili River in Kazakhstan has high levels of nitrogen-based compounds. The Ili
along with the Karatal, Aksu,
and Lepsa bring their polluted waters to Kazakhstan's Lake Balkhash, which is already being polluted by the mining and metallurgical
works in the area. Today, copper levels in Lake
Balkhash are in
some places up to 30 times above the norm.
The Caspian Sea is polluted with oil products from former oil wells nearby. These
are not being monitored and are increasingly leaky. The risk is augmented by
the fact that the wells are located on coastal shelves. Huge flares from gas
plants are contributing to air pollution, while the combustion waste-products
accumulate on the water. Kazakh oil has a high content of sulfur and paraffin;
since the Soviet times, large piles of sulfur have accumulated on the Caspian's
shores. These are growing everyday.
”Because post-Soviet Central Asia finds it financially difficult to provide
laboratories with qualified scientists and proper equipment, the International
Center for Environmental Technology Transfer (ICETT) for the past five years
has been helping to preserve the ecology, offering free training in Japan to
Central Asian specialists on water monitoring,” said Etsuko Minamikawa,
a manager at ICETT.
Today, 24 specialists from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, who attended an ICETT training course, are successfully
implementing their new-found knowledge back in their own countries.