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The priority of water resource management reform in Uzbekistan is water conservation and its rational use

The priority of water resource management reform in Uzbekistan is water conservation and its rational use

Today, as global climate changes are observed, the population is growing, and industrial sectors are rapidly developing, the value of water resources is increasing not only in the Central Asian region but also worldwide.

 

According to the data, over the past 30 years, the air temperature in our region has increased by one and a half degrees, as a result of which about a third of the centuries-old glaciers in the highlands have melted, and the volume of water in rivers and streams has decreased slightly.

 

If current climate trends continue, in the next twenty years, the flow of the two large rivers, Amu Darya and Syr Darya, may decrease by 15%. This would result in a 25 percent reduction in per capita water availability and agricultural crop yields.

 

These are not just numbers, but indicators related to the fate and well-being of the people living in the region.

 

According to scientists, by 2040 in some areas of Central Asia, the need for water resources will triple. Over time, economic damage could reach 11% of the region's gross domestic product. The United Nations (UN) warns that countries in the region are currently losing up to US$2 billion a year due to water scarcity and inefficient use. Therefore, if appropriate measures are not taken now, it is inevitable that the countries in our region will face dire consequences of water shortages.

 

Under the leadership of the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, special attention is being paid to the comprehensive development of the water management sector in our republic, the rational use of existing water resources, including the widespread introduction of digital and water-saving irrigation technologies, and remarkable results are being achieved in this regard.

 

In his speech at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly on September 19, 2023, the leader of Uzbekistan emphasized the issue of water resource shortages in Central Asia, supported the establishment of the position of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Water Resources, and proposed creating a platform for water-saving technologies in Central Asia. In the process of using the "United Nations-Water Resources" mechanism, he emphasized his support for attracting and implementing the most advanced technologies.

 

This means that Uzbekistan will take the initiative in creating a platform for water-saving technologies in Central Asia, while also seeking to involve the international community in the process.

 

For more than 30 years since its establishment, the International Fund for Saving the Aral has become the most important platform for regional cooperation in the fields of water management and ecology. In the face of new risks and threats arising because of global climate change, the role and importance of the fund are increasing.

 

On September 15, 2023, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev put forward the initiative to develop and implement new, agreed-upon decisions for the long-term perspective within the framework of this structure at the meeting of the Council of Heads of the Founding States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral held in Dushanbe. Reflecting the spirit of today, he emphasized the need to further improve the fund's legal framework and modernize its institutional mechanisms.

It should be noted that in the country’s domestic policy over the past seven years, at the initiative of the President, large-scale reforms in the water sector have been implemented. To manage state policy in the field of water management, a separate Ministry of Water Resources was created and the Concept for the development of the industry for the period until 2030 was approved.

 

As a logical continuation of these reforms and to solve systemic problems at the middle and upper levels of the water management system, on May 7, 2024, the President of Uzbekistan signed the decree "On Setting Priorities for the Introduction and Development of a Modern Management System in Water Resources." According to this document, the activity of the Ministry of Water Resources was divided into three parts, setting up a vertical management system. At the upper level is the management of the state water policy, the regulator; the middle level is engaged in the operation and construction of water management facilities and the introduction of business processes into the sector; and the lower-level handles supplying water directly to consumers.

 

In the middle stage, an agency for the exploitation of water resource facilities is being set up that operates as an independent legal entity. The agency includes the Ministry of Water Resources of the Republic of Karakalpakhstan and regional irrigation systems basin departments, main canals, water reservoirs, and pumping station utilization departments, as well as land-improvement expeditions.

 

The department for the implementation of water management projects participates as a customer in projects funded by the budget and foreign investments. The decree envisages a 22% increase in the salary of middle- and high-level employees working in the ministry system, starting on July 1, 2024, and a 60% increase starting in 2025. It should be mentioned that starting in January 2024, the salary of lower-level employees has been doubled, and several incentive mechanisms are being used.

 

As a result of the accurate calculation of available water resources, special attention is paid to the introduction of water-saving technologies, resulting in abundant and high-quality harvests from agricultural crops. Nevertheless, the prevention of water scarcity remains one of the most important directions for Uzbekistan.

 

Uzbekistan is a country with a large water infrastructure in the Central Asian region; the total irrigated cropland exceeds 4.3 million hectares.

 

As one of the five priority directions of the "Uzbekistan-2030" strategy, which defines the goals of sustainable development of the country, the task of saving water resources and environmental protection is emphasized, placing great responsibility on water management employees.

 

To reduce water losses in irrigation networks, the year 2024 was announced as a "breakthrough year for concreting canals" in the water industry at the initiative of the President. For this purpose, 5,000 kilometers of irrigation networks, of which 1,500 kilometers are main and inter-farm and 3,500 kilometers are internal, have been concreted this year. To date, 525 kilometers of canals have been reconstructed, of which 355 kilometers have been concreted. The length of canals concreted by clusters and farms has exceeded 13,500 kilometers.

 

In recent years, the areas covered by water-saving technologies in the country have reached 1.3 million hectares. Of this, drip irrigation accounts for 478,000 hectares, sprinkler irrigation for 55,000 hectares, and discrete method irrigation for 29,000 hectares. Over 700,000 hectares have been leveled using laser leveling equipment.

 

Work on the introduction of water-saving technologies, which started in previous years, is being continued consistently. This year alone, it is planned to introduce cost-effective technologies on 500,000 hectares of land and to fully cover all irrigated farming areas in the country with such technologies by 2030.

 

All possibilities and resources are being used for this. Today, the number of local enterprises producing equipment and components for water-saving technologies in Uzbekistan has reached 55, with plans to increase this number in the future.

 

In recent years, 11,446 "Smart Water" devices, online water level monitoring meters in 1,704 pumping units, and online monitoring of seepage water levels have been installed in 6,746 reclamation monitoring wells. To manage water resources from one point without human intervention, the management processes of 65 large water management facilities were automated.

 

It is planned to save 8 billion cubic meters of water in 2024 through the concreting of channels, the introduction of water-saving technologies, the digitization of the industry, the implementation of "smart" devices, and effective water management.

 

It should be noted that 60 percent of the irrigated cropland in the country is supplied with water through pumps. There are more than 1,600 pumping stations in the Ministry's system, and due to their modernization, installation of modern energy-saving devices, and the introduction of public-private partnerships, electricity consumption has been reduced by 1.5 billion kWh in the last seven years.

 

In the coming years, the total cost of the water industry will be $6.0 trillion. Agreements for 463 public-private partnership projects worth significant amounts in soums were signed. In 2023, all water management facilities in five districts and 300 pumping stations across the republic will be transferred to the private sector.

 

This transfer increases work efficiency, saves up to 30% on electricity at pumping stations, and reduces salary deductions by 13%.

 

The "Irrigators' School" was launched in cooperation with the Ministry of Water Resources, the "Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Agricultural Mechanization Engineers," the National Research University, and "Agrobank." Highly qualified specialists from abroad are organizing one-week-long free training courses for designers, contractors, managers of farms, and cluster enterprises from all districts of the republic.

 

In short, life itself proves that the only solution to mitigate the water shortage in our region is to save water and use it wisely.

 

Press service of the Ministry of Water Resources
of the Republic of Uzbekistan

📅 24.06.2024