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No. 4 (202) April 2012


Consultative workshop on Regional Technical Assistance 6486 “Improving water resources management in Central Asia” (ADB RETA 6486) was held on April 10, 2012 at the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila. The workshop was chaired by Mr. Makoto Ojiro, Director of Environmental Management of Natural Resources and Agriculture, the Department of Central and Western Asia, with participation of delegations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as representatives of regional organizations (Executive Committee of IFAS, SIC ICWC, BWO “Amudarya” and BWO “Syrdarya”).

The first part of the workshop was aimed to present the results of the ADB RETA 6486 by components: “Support to the Chu-Talas Joint River Commission” (Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) and “Flood control in the Panj River Basin” (Afghanistan and Tajikistan). Mr. Rutaro Takaku also informed the participants about the beginning of a new regional technical assistance of ADB - RETA 8015 on development of strategies for water sector in the three Central Asian countries - Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It is expected that the developed strategies within the RETA will be the basis for ADB's investment into water management sector of the countries.

In the second part of the workshop the events scheduled for implementation before the end of the ADB RETA 6486 in December 2012 are discussed. During the discussions various projects have been proposed to consideration of ADB, such as: development of methodology for information exchange under the information exchange agreement, which was signed between Afghanistan and Tajikistan in 2010; development of information and analytical tools to improve the efficiency of the BWO “Amudarya”, and further support of the Chu-Talas Commission. Resumption of activities to reach signing the draft agreement on information bases, which was prepared within ADB RETA 6163 and submitted to the countries for consideration at the national level, was also suggested. Finally, Mr. Colin Steely, ADB consultant, presented the program on visiting Australia for the officials of the Central Asian republics and Afghanistan in order to familiarize with the experience of Australia's water resources management.

The Asian Irrigation Forum attended by representatives of the Central Asian republics and regional organizations was held on 11-13 April 2012 in Manila. ADB organized the first Asian irrigation forum to discuss ways of solving existing problems in the irrigation sector, and identify possible areas for investment. During three days, participants followed the history of sector's development and discussed the future of irrigated agriculture in the region. Speakers noted that irrigated agriculture is an integral attribute of food security, which should be considered as a general social problem, and not the problem of farmers. (Dr. Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director of Agricultural Development, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Mr. Ian Makin, ADB). Generally, food security in Asia has been improved as a result of intensification, increased efficiency of small farms and new technologies adoption (Pingali). According data of 2005, grain production has tripled, the price of rice fell by 40%, and the production of fruits and vegetables has increased significantly (Thierry Facon, FAO). Among the main problems the following ones were named:

  • diversification of crops (due to changes in diet and reducing consumption of rice) and the related challenges to the operation of existing irrigation systems and to design of new ones. For example, David Dow said that over the past 40 years there has been a sharp decline (50%) in the consumption of rice among the richest people in the cities of Indonesia, a similar trend - in the rural area. Processes of globalization and urbanization are called among the main reasons of this decline;
  • the need to adapt to climate change such as development of drought-resistant crops and preparation of irrigation systems;
  • decreasing interest of younger generation to the irrigation sector and the farming (Rudinas);
  • low attention to the groundwater in irrigated agriculture (Professor Randy);
  • work on transfer of water resources management to water users (PIM) often is focused only on the creation of formal organizations (WUAs), without due attention to the efficiency of their operation to ensure better water resources management (Dr. Bryan Bruns). In this connection Mr. Gao Zhanyi, President of International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, noted that the transfer of authority to water users should not become a transfer of responsibilities from the state to farmers;
  • lack of information and advice to farmers. Chris Perry called on to supply farmers with a wide range of information, which must necessarily be based on accurate assessment and researches. Dr. Wim G. M. Bastiaanssen (Netherlands) noted the invaluable role the private sector can play in this regard;
  • intensification and increasing the productivity of land and water.

Participants also discussed possible ways to solve the above problems and recommended to ADB making the following assistance:

  • invest in capacity building of irrigation sector workers and farmers; to provide a clear system of supplying farmers with necessary information. The project in Tajikistan was noted as a positive example (Hans Woldring);
  • improve the effectiveness of projects on irrigation and drainage. Mr. Makin (ADB) noted that when it concern investment to irrigation and drainage, or to the transport infrastructure, the transport projects are more attractive because of their more payback;
  • involve the private sector into the irrigation and drainage sphere. Advisory services to farmers - one of the possible ways;
  • more clearly define the water rights of farmers, that will increase the responsibility of farmers to increase productivity of land and water;
  • consider the management of irrigation and drainage in complex and at different levels (Mark Rosegrant, IFPRI);
  • modernize outdated irrigation systems to adapt their to new conditions (Thierry Facon);
  • more widely adopt new tools, technologies and innovations for improved water management in irrigated agriculture (e.g., drip irrigation and fertilizer introducing, P. Soman and Eytan Markowitz; laser land leveling, John Whitehead, Hans Woldring, Owen Williams).

The forum was supported by new Information Technology (TurningPoint), giving possibility to get the audience reaction to the issues discussed.

D.R. Ziganshina