Water Resources in Central Asia: Challenges and Prospects

Side event outside UNHQ Water Conference 2023 (18 March 2023)

March 18, 2023
UNDP Resident Representative in Kyrgyzstan is delivering a speech

Louise Chamberlain gives her opening remarks

UNDP Kyrgyzstan/ Nazgul Dolotkeldieva

Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors, UN colleagues, Distinguished Officials

It is my pleasure to be here today in this national dialogue, just on the eve of the momentous global 2023 Water Conference, taking place in a few days’ time in the city of New York, where UN Member states will meet to discuss action on the water. We are excited that today’s event, led by national civil society organizations, is officially recognized as a side event of the conference.

The aim of the UN-Water Conference is to engender universal commitment to water action, and much action is needed. Globally and locally, water sources are threatened or compromised, and the quality of water is deteriorating. There is less and less freshwater available for our food, our energy, our health, for economic development, and for nature; the water we have becomes dirtier and saltier, and climate change causes further evaporation and contamination of precious sources.

Water and climate change are of course inextricably linked. Increasingly frequent and extreme weather events lead to water scarcity and pollution, but it is also reducing the predictability of water resources. These impacts threaten sustainable development, it threatens biodiversity, and it jeopardizes people’s access to water and sanitation.

This is the significance of the global community coming together around one central agenda – water, and how to accelerate collective progress on the Water Goal (SDG 6). Today’s national dialogue on the water is an important and timely opportunity to take stock of current challenges and discuss prospective future actions, preparing Kyrgyzstan’s participants in the global conference.

Dialogue and cooperation are cornerstones in improving today's sustainability challenges, which are manifested in multiple and diverse crises – new ways of thinking and acting must be agreed upon to address the poly-crises that we as a planet and humanity are facing. 

We also see, with this conference, new forms of multi-stakeholder dialogue and partnerships as a new and different take on governance of complex sustainability issues. Effective governance of a resource that is so widely decentralized requires a diversity of interests and opinions to be considered. 

Different stakeholder groups, in particular, civil society, local communities, women, and youth will have their own space – for such dedicated spaces are what make multi-stakeholder dialogues and partnerships truly participatory, and adds rich diversity of perspectives, ideas, and potential solutions. These mechanisms are designed to ensure that all voices matter.

In this regard, I commend Ilgiz Kambarov and all members of the Green Alliance for the initiative to launch a platform for country dialogue on water issues, which we hope will be a lasting and constructive avenue to move the water agenda forward in Kyrgyzstan. I believe this platform will be useful by generating the solutions, practices, and partnerships that are necessary for results and for leveraging the diversity of voices that I mentioned.

I also like to appreciate the excellent work and cooperation that we enjoy with national partners Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Kyrgyz Republic.

And I take the opportunity to thank the EU delegation for our partnership on Climate Resilience in Central Asia as well as for continuing support and attention to the water and climate change issues, sustainable development, and regional cooperation in Central Asia.

I mentioned already climate change as a water crisis. We experience its impacts through worsening floods, rising sea levels, shrinking ice fields, wildfires, and droughts. UNDP works through multi-disciplinary programming approaches and we apply multistakeholder approaches to strengthen the systems to enhance resilience, adaptation, and mitigation of climate risks and natural resources governance.  Through advisory support and field-level interventions, we are helping local communities and local authorities cope with the already visible effects of climate change and reduced ecosystem services.

For example, a new weather monitoring infrastructure on key highways of Naryn and Chatkal roads, completed last year, helps predict avalanches, reducing the risk of damages and losses. In Batken the same tools help people predict droughts or early frosts, thereby improving the adaptive capacity of local farmers to climate change. Smart irrigation in Batken local communities has proven efficient and scalable to drought-affected areas throughout the country, and we are now working together with the government to scale up these effective practices.

And so: while climate change is a water crisis, water can also fight climate change. Sustainable water management can develop resilience and improve ecosystems, contributing to reducing carbon emissions. Every village and person can be part of the solutions. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us use today as an opportunity to distill strong ideas, and as a platform for accelerated action, moving together. Thank you!