In the era of global climate change, the issues of rational and efficient consumption of water resources for the needs of agriculture, production and the population are becoming increasingly important.
According to current forecasts, with an increase in temperature by 2 ° C, the volume of glaciers in Central Asia will decrease by 50 percent, by 4 ° C - by 78%. According to calculations, until 2050 it is expected to reduce water resources in the Syr Darya basin - up to 5%, in the Amu Darya basin - up to 15%. That can lead to a shortage of water in the Republic of Uzbekistan up to 7 billion m3 by 2030.
The challenges associated with water scarcity actualize the issues of rational use of water resources and intensification of cooperation with the states of Central Asia, which is reflected in the Action Strategy for five priority areas of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021.
In this regard, and in order to ensure stable water supply to the population and all sectors of the economy, improve the reclamation state of irrigated lands, widely introduce market principles, mechanisms and digital technologies in the water sector, ensure the sustainable functioning of water management facilities in the Republic of Uzbekistan, President Sh.M. Mirziyoyev initiated a number of following institutional, legal and economic reforms.
First, by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated February 12, 2018 No UP-5330 "On Organizational Measures for the Radical Improvement of the System of State Management of Agriculture and Water Management", the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan were formed on the basis of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources. This solution ensured the optimization and improvement of the efficiency of state management of agriculture and water management, clearly delineated and specified the areas of responsibility, rationalized the distribution of available forces and means to solve urgent and specific problems in this area.
Secondly, by the Decree of the President of Uzbekistan dated June 17, 2019 No UP-5742
"On measures for the effective use of land and water resources in agriculture" defines the main measures for the rational use of land and water resources in agriculture. In accordance with this document, the Concept for the Effective Use of Land and Water Resources in Agriculture was approved, and the Roadmap for its implementation was adopted.
These documents provide for the introduction of broad mechanisms for economic incentives for the transition to the efficient use of agricultural land and water resources, as well as the establishment of parliamentary and public control. In addition, the issues of financing the construction and reconstruction of land reclamation facilities and works to identify underground water reserves are regulated in the annual amount of 5% of the funds allocated from the state budget for the construction and reconstruction of land reclamation facilities included in the Investment Program for 2019-2029.
Thirdly, by the Decree of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev dated July 10, 2020 No UP-6024, the "Concept for the Development of the Water Sector of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020-2030" was approved, which gives a current assessment of the state in the water sector, identifies the main problems and risks, the objectives of the Concept, priority areas of development and specific measures for its implementation, as well as the results expected from the implementation of the document.
The main goal of the Concept is to ensure the satisfaction of the ever-growing needs of the population, sectors of the economy and the environment in water, the sustainable functioning of water facilities, the rational use of water resources, the improvement of the reclamation state of irrigated lands, the achievement of water security in the face of increasing water scarcity and global climate change.
The concept, which was developed with the participation of specialists from the Asian Development Bank, the Swiss Agency for International Cooperation and a number of other international organizations, identifies 11 main priority areas.
Among them are the improvement of the system of forecasting, accounting and formation of a database of water resources, the introduction of the principles of a market economy and the principles of integrated water resources management into water use, keeping records of water consumption through modern technologies, improving the system for training and retraining personnel in the field of water management, developing mutual cooperation between the educational, scientific and industrial spheres, the introduction of scientific achievements and know-how into production.
Based on the requirements defined in the priority areas of the Concept, a procedure has been introduced for the development and approval of a strategy for the development of water management every three years.
Fourthly, in order to consistently implement the tasks and ensure the achievement of the main targets defined in the "Concept for the Development of the Water Sector of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020-2030", the country's leadership signed the Resolution "On Approval of the Strategy for Water Resources Management and Development of the Irrigation Sector for 2021-2023" on February 24, 2021. The strategy includes a number of infrastructural, policy, institutional and capacity-building measures covering sustainable water resources management and improvement of the national irrigation sector.
Within the framework of the current three-year period, the Strategy provides for the implementation of comprehensive measures to achieve specific goals (13 in total), ranging from an increase (from 35 to 38%) in the share of concrete canals in the structure of the irrigation system, up to intensive digitalization of the water management sector of the Republic.
The implementation of these measures provides for: the phased launch of an automated interdepartmental information system for water resources, the development and approval in the prescribed manner of an action program for the implementation of the principles of integrated water resources management, the application of customs benefits when importing certain types of polymer products into the territory of the republic, the transfer of expenses for the repair and restoration of water management objects from the republican to the local budgets of the regions, the widespread use of ICT, geographic information systems, remote sensing technologies and unmanned aerial vehicles, the establishment of parliamentary and public control.
Fifth, the logical continuation of successive reforms to improve the efficiency of public administration in the field of water management was the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated April 6, 2021 No UP-6200 "On measures to further improve the system of public administration and control in the use of water resources, as well as ensuring the safety of water facilities".
This document corrects the main activities of the Ministry of Water Resources, including the widespread use of resource-saving technologies and advanced foreign experience, the introduction of digital technologies, the principles of a market economy, public-private partnership mechanisms and outsourcing in the water sector. The positions of Deputy Minister responsible for the development and implementation of water-saving technologies and Advisor to the Minister for the development of public-private partnerships and digital technologies have been introduced.
Also, by the specified decision of the Head of State, the level of control in the country's water management sector was increased through the reorganization of the State Inspectorate for Control and Supervision of the Technical Condition and Safety of Large and Especially Important Water Management Facilities under the Ministry of Water Resources into the State Inspectorate for Control over the Safety of Water Management Facilities under the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan. At the same time, the establishment of the Center for the Implementation of Foreign Investment Projects in the Water Sector under the Ministry of Water Resources was approved on the basis of the World Bank Project Implementation Unit, the Project Implementation Unit of the Asian Development Bank and the Project Implementation Unit of the Arab Coordination Group, as well as the Agency for the Implementation of Capital Construction Projects in the Water Sector under the Ministry of Water Resources.
In the course of implementing consistent large-scale reforms in the water sector, the Government of the country pays special attention to cooperation with international organizations, including the United Nations Development Program, UNESCO, the Global Environment Facility, etc.
The water potential of Uzbekistan has been successfully modernized in recent years, thanks to a prudent state policy in the field of water management and the involvement of large financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the Saudi Development Fund, the OPEC Fund, the Kuwait Fund, the Exim Bank of China, as well as international donor organizations and agencies from Japan, Switzerland, Germany and other countries.
Special attention should be paid to the widespread introduction of market economy principles, public-private partnership and outsourcing mechanisms in the water sector, transfer of individual water bodies for use by farmers, clusters and other organizations.
Large-scale processes of reforming the water sector create unprecedented conditions for optimizing consumption and increasing on this basis the efficiency of water management of the country and its modernization on the basis of modern approaches and technologies. Only this year it is expected to achieve water savings in the amount of 10 billion km3 of water during the irrigation period, including 1.5 billion km3 - through the introduction of water-saving technologies, 2.5 billion km3 - repair of irrigation networks, 2 billion km3 - planting zoned crops that consume less water, 650 million km3 - leveling the land with laser equipment and 600 million km3 - through the use of information technology.
In general, the large-scale measures being implemented in the country to reform the water industry will become an important basis for improving the welfare of the population and creating conditions for sustainable development not only in Uzbekistan, but also in the entire Central Asian region. The actions taken will also be an important contribution of Uzbekistan to the achievement of the country's obligations to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Chief Research Fellow, MITA
Leading Research Fellow, MITA