BY ELENA KOSOLAPOVA
Azeri Observer Staff Writer
Tajikistan as a country with huge fresh water reserves and considerable hydropower potential pays a great attention to promotion of regional and global water initiatives aimed at sustainable development. The Central Asian country initiated a number of resolutions on water issues, which were supported by the global community and passed by the United Nations. Over the past fifteen years, Tajikistan promoted and realized in joint efforts with the UN such initiatives as the International Year of Freshwater in 2003, the International Decade for Action ‘Water for Life’ in 2005-2015 and ‘International Year of Water Cooperation’ in 2013.
In 2016, Tajikistan proposed resolution on the proclamation of the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028, which was later adopted by the UN General Assembly. On June 20-21, 2018 Tajikistan hosted the International High-Level Conference to discuss measures planned within this decade, which was attended by high officials from many countries and representatives of the UN and other international organizations.
Tajik Ambassador to Azerbaijan Rustam Soli held a press-conference in Baku on July 6 to tell the press about the results of the conference and other Tajikistan’s water initiatives.
He noted that all previou swater initiatives contributed to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and joint efforts in this direction have laid a solid foundation for the development of a new sustainable development agenda, in which water resources are given a central place.
However, more than 800 million and 2.5 billion of the world’s population, respectively, still do not have access to safe drinking water and basic services in the field of water sanitation. Moreover, annually up to 300,000 children under the age of five die due to lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation. In addition, the global climate change negatively affects the volume of fresh water resources and their quality, thus exposing different countries and regions of the world to even greater environmental stress. Today, more than two billion people in the world experience water stress. According to experts, by 2050 this figure can grow to five billion, i.е. will make up about half of the world’s population.
Ambassador Soli noted that these figures show that there are a number of tasks that require an integrated approach and active water cooperation. These include issues of increasing the overall efficiency of water use, reducing water pollution and re-use, and developing new technologies for obtaining fresh water on an industrial scale.
He stressed that the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development, first of all, is aimed at forming a broad and open platform for strengthening and expanding the regular multilateral water dialogue with a focus on concrete actions. To meet this goal, Tajikistan plans to convene International High-Level Conference on the implementation of the goals and objectives of the Decade every two years and will continue its cooperation with interested countries and organizations within the framework of the International Steering Committee. Ambassador Soli also said that Tajikistan intends to strengthen work in this direction by creating an International Centre for the Implementation of the Decade in Dushanbe.
The Tajik Ambassador noted that the water sector has a large financial need for implementing the relevant projects and programs. According to the calculations of the World Bank, only to achieve the two objectives of the 6th Goal of Sustainable Development, namely, universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation, will amount to $114 billion annually.
In this regard, efforts should be focused on increasing the efficiency of using available financial resources and finding new sources of financing for water-related industries, Ambassador Soli said.
He also noted that transboundary component of water cooperation is an important issue, adding that the Central Asian region has made significant progress in solving existing problems in this sphere and has created new opportunities and infrastructure for effective interaction. According to the Ambassador, such regional institutions as the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea played a significant role in achieving such a result.
Ambassador Soli noted that long-term observations indicate an increase in the impact of climate change on nature and the socio-economic situation in Tajikistan and the Central Asia. According to these observations, over the past sixty years the average annual air temperature in Tajikistan has increased by one degree Celsius. Moreover, natural disasters such as inundation, floods, mudflows, avalanches and landslides have become more frequent and cause serious damage to the population and economy of the country. In addition, over the past few decades, Tajikistan have lost nearly 1,000 small and medium glaciers. In order to monitor these processes and take measures to adapt to climate change factors, the Central Asian country has established the Glacier Research Centre at the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan this year and look forward to the support of its development partners in strengthening its capacity.
Ambassador Soli added that due to the huge hydropower potential, Tajikistan can provide the countries of the region with clean energy, what will seriously contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. In particular, he said that all the Central Asian countries will benefit from the Rogun hydro power plant which is under construction in Tajikistan. He went on to add that the reservoirs of hydroelectric facilities will contribute to ensuring reliable long-term and seasonal regulation of water flow, prevention of inundations and floods, as well as mitigating the effects of drought.
In this context, the Ambassador noted the importance of the implementation of the CASA-1000 regional project, as well as the resumption of the parallel operation of Tajikistan’s energy system with the unified energy system of Central Asia, which provides an opportunity to supply Tajik “green” electricity to near and far neighbours in the region.
He also said that providing the population with safe and quality drinking water and sanitation remains an important priority in the country. The state policy of Tajikistan in the field of water use is simultaneously aimed at solving urgent social and economic problems in the region and the country is ready to use its vast resources of drinking water in the common interest. Thus, the rational use of the unique reserves of the high-altitude Lake Sarez only, which contains seventeen cubic kilometres of water, enables long-term and sustainable provision of high-quality drinking water to the population of the region.
Concluding his speech, Ambassador Soli stressed that Tajikistan is interested in exchanging experience with Azerbaijan in conservation and use of water reserves.