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No. 13 (198) December 2011

Water resources information management in Central Asia

(Participant opinion)

The meeting dedicated to information management in Central Asia and organized by UNECE jointly with German Agency GIZ was held on 7 December 2001 in Almaty. The most papers are available on the UNECE website except those which weren't submitted in written form.

The meeting was opened by Chairman of the Executive Committee of IFAS, Mr. S.R. Ibatullin, who stressed the importance of openness, accessibility and reliability of the information as one of the fundamental principles of successful cooperation on transboundary rivers between countries in order to improve and strengthen water resources management in the Aral Sea Basin.

The aim of this meeting as defined by the organizer of the meeting, Mr. B. Libert (UNECE), was to initiate new information-based approaches - "how to go together" - based on the already proven possibility to work together. He stressed the need for political support of the information process and the great interest of all the water management specialists in the information exchange development. In conclusion, he cited the CAREWIB as proof of successful information activities, and appealed countries and regional organizations to develop it further.

The fundamental direction of information activities was very clearly reflected in the report of IFAS's Adviser responsible for this section of the ASBP-3, Mr. K. Ballyev. The tasks which are vital from the perspective of participants involved into transboundary cooperation and have to be presented to the donors were highlighted in that report of EC IFAS. The representative of the French International Office for Water, Mr. Paul Haener informed the participants about the project of the French Development Agency aiming to create a metadatabase of EECCA's information systems. This project will harmonize different databases with each other, create a catalog of data and arrange information systems.

All the participants were interested and waited the report of the Regional Director of SDC, Mr. Laurent Guye - "SDC involvement into the information sector in the future". He began his speech by saying that the future is not clear in general. According to the External Review conducted by Mr. Siegfried T. by order of SDC, the created information system CAREWIB has a lot of data which aren't used by decision-makers. Before presentation of his program Mr. Siegfried T. stated the following critical notes:

  • Information exchange currently is under deteriorating relations between the states (???);
  • Afghanistan is not involved to cooperation between countries;
  • infrastructure is being deteriorated throughout the water sector;
  • soil
  • salinity is increasing
  • water resources quality is decreasing.

The comments of Mr. Siegfried were disseminated by SDC for a week prior to the meeting. While these comments followed the note of Mr. Laurent Guye that the comments don't reflect the SDC opinion. All the more strange was the presentation of the note as the SDC platform.

Mr. Abdullaev I. presented very interesting report on behalf of GTZ. He demonstrated how the German team found approaches to support implementation of pilot projects in 5 countries in the region by the small information projects. He has demonstrated how the German team assisted the pilot projects implementation in 5 countries in the region by means of the small information projects. He emphasized that the main principle of the GIZ is not involvement of foreign professionals to information exchange but of local specialists on the basis of their experience, knowledge and data. Using the SIC ICWC methods and some software of CAREWIB, they have created the pilot database for 5 irrigation systems of Central Asian countries.

Mr. Reinhard Bodemeyer presented another work of GTZ dedicated to the information system on land resources management in Central Asia. It must be noted that though donors as a rule declare need to open information and attack the SIC ICWC because they say it supposedly doesn't open information they don't open their information about projects for anybody: to get such information you need passwords, preliminary registration etc.

Mr. Denisov N. presented a new information system on environment (SEIS), which is developing in Europe and, as he supposes, will be developed in the countries of Central Asia.

Mrs. Daryl Fields presented the World Bank's new approaches to linking water and energy information and modelling. Finally, Mr. O. Ryaskov, USAID representative, presented the principles of the regional information system on energy.

S. Shivareva, Director of the Regional Hydrological Center, has presented successful work of the RCH on consolidation of data of five different hydrometeorological services and information products, which should be linked with the CAREWIB. She told about assessment of information potentials in Central Asia by the commission organized by the IFAS. Her report indeed was to be a keynote report of the seminar. This report provides a broad and multilateral evaluation of information capabilities and real information works carried out by all organizations in Central Asia. That evaluation is based on the work of 19 experts involved in the IFAS working group, and on water survey of 261 representatives of water management, environmental, energy, social, and political organizations. The report emphasized the high value and need for further development of the information field under the assistance of the national hydro-meteorological services involved by the RCH and the creation of a special site. She asked to transform the CAREWIB from the information tool of water management organizations into the information and analytical tools for the whole water-environment-energy community, with involvement (besides the ICWC) of other regional groups. Practically, it was the only report which contained comparison between information needs and current information potentials on the basis of which future information projects must be developed.

As follows from the reports of Haener, Denisov, Fields and others (except the report of Abdullarv, GIZ) all the reporters have told about their needs in development of their projects and support with data but not about development of real information space of Central Asia. It is very strange. Because as a result the water projects have more preferences among donors but not of Central Asian countries.

That is why presentations of national water management organizations including Deputy Chairman of the State Committee on Water Resources of Kyrgyzstan, as well of regional organizations - BWO "Syrdarya", BWO "Amudarya", ICSD - were dissonance to above mentioned ones and were dedicated to strengthening and development of CAREWIB and its linking to other information systems of hydrometeorological services, water quality organizations and energy organizations.

As a participant of the meeting, I am proud of our work with the SDC and colleagues, because if there is no CAREWIB, nothing could be discussed. Now there is information about water and land in the region, about world experience, as well the generalized data for the region and some areas, albeit with some flaws, but there is no information hunger in the region and this is important. A lot of stones were thrown to our portal. Nevertheless critics had to admit that CAREWIB "enriched the scarce information landscape in Central Asia". But they did not notice the main thing - the ICWC elaborated a unified methodological approach to the formation of regional and national databases on the basis of 'information sieve', which is used successfully (somewhere - better, somewhere -worse) in all five countries in the region. Kyrgyzstan can be considered as an example, where our suggestions of software, interfaces and formats for data collection and processing are used outside the Aral Sea basin.

Registration and approval of ICWC is required only for access to 10% of information on the CAWater-Info portal. As to openness of information we aim to set an example: all the projects implemented by SIC ICWC's staff are accessible on our website including the work plans, the minutes of workshops, our methods and guides etc. Moreover the most manuals are translated into 5 national languages. We found nothing of the kind on the websites of WB, ADB, and UN. At the best these sites contain the project lists, main themes and expected outcomes.

The External Review by Mr. Siegfried was very subjective. The External Review was implemented by a person who never related to water resources management and doesn't understand that water resources management requires practical tested methods and approaches but not theoretical ones. Also water management needs a lot of information and knowledge not only about water but about land, environment, law, economy, finance and many other. Nevertheless the External Review had also a positive effect. It evoked the strong encouragement of our portal and approaches to dissemination of knowledge by all participants of survey conducted by the working group of IFAS, against unfair criticism of SIC ICWC which was absurd in some cases for instance: we supposedly conflict with EC IFAS or supposedly try to usurp all information flows. Among 268 people nobody said that we are doing useless work. On the contrary all the asked people like people who is searching water in desert have required more and more information because our site cover only 57% of their needs and therefore 50% of required information is needed to be added. The survey didn't cover the audience not having enough knowledge and information such as WUAs, farmers and local users. However they need new information, being produced by collaborative efforts of water-technologists, irrigation experts, agronomists form SIC ICWC and climatologists from hydrometeorological service.

In the region the interest to water is increasing because people understand that the future strongly depends on water. Regarding this point of view I am thankful to Mr. B.Libert who not only has organized popularization of information theme in the region as a whole but also wrote in his comments versus the External Review: «We believe that in the difficult circumstances of Central Asia and its institutions, and with a relatively modest budget, the project has made considerable achievements. Comparing internationally, even when taking into account Western European countries, CAREWIB with all its problems and draw-backs has contributed significantly to the access of information in the region. Hard work of a technically advanced staff has made it possible to establish a unique system at a relatively low cost. CAREWIB outputs are quite unique, especially with the background of the deteriorating management and information exchange in the region overall."

What we are doing now? As far back in 2004 at the meeting of donors (ADB, WB, USAID, SDC and ICWC) the goal of improving the Aral Sea Basin management was clearly defined by Mr. Guy LeMoigne, the Keynote Speaker, as "developing shared efforts to hydrosolidarity in the basin through:

  • raising public awareness and participation through providing broad information and attracting attention of key stakeholders with aim to develop social recognition of needed joint actions;
  • forecasting scenarios which demonstrate further difficulties;
  • assisting a leading institutional structures to play their role in development of moral principles of water management and use”.

All the follow-up activity of CAREWIB was aimed to solving these problems by means of expanding the knowledge base and by involvement of UNESCO IHE to our work on future outlook widely given in the publications concerning modelling. Currently the Aral Sea Basin model as demo version and release version is being prepared for public use in the next half year.

When decision-support system (DSS) is being prepared clear understanding that it is not only a basin model is necessary. Because DSS is linking all water hierarchical levels. Information deficit has arisen already within the "IWRM-Fergana" project and "WPI-PL" project. Together with water management organizations of 5 regions in the three countries we try to satisfy information requirements by issuing monthly bulletins in hard copy. But firstly their number of copies is limited and secondly recommendations for ten-day periods are needed besides monthly recommendations. We already have provided Kashkadarya region, Samarkand region, Bukhara region and Khorezm region with our methods and software. Further we are going to cover Djalalabad region and Southern-Kazakhstan region with those tools. Information demand is increasing and the regional information systems and especially national ones have to be developed to satisfy this demand. We are ready to deliver our know-how obtained during our activity to all interested parties on the basis of collaboration like we did with ICSD, RHC and others.

Mr. Ibatullin began his speech, saying about transparency. In principle if there were good will then there would no problem with obtaining information. The problem is an exchange of information on water quality and of accurate data on water discharge. The gauging stations on the Syrdarya river is supposedly break down and data of G/S Kyzylkishlak and Akdjar as well of all gauging stations on the Amudarya river isn't being received. Therefore we ask to continue equipping the automated stations what already began successfully on the Syrdarya river with support of SDC but didn't start yet on the Amudarya river.

The review of meeting can be summarized as follows:

  • Today CAREWIB is the only opened information system (about 90% openness) and available for users at large;
  • Not only database but also knowledge base is needed to be increased (legislation aspects);
  • Owing to RHC's activity and good will of EC IFAS, coordination of hydrometeorological services and water management organizations has been started as well as coordination with ICSD. This process has to be strengthened because it allows to increase our potential for harmonization of databases and at the same time for comparing data of national water organizations and BWOs;
  • We are ready to collaborate with French project in the part of identifying information flows, metadata and IS's structure;
  • We are thankful to GIZ for support and cooperation which we would like to develop and strengthen;
  • Now we have access to database of NASA and we can do a lot notably on assessment of situation with water use, water losses and water availability. We need only money and equipment.

Prof. V.A. Dukhovny,
Director of SIC ICWC