Transformative Measures Yield Clean Drinking Water in the Aral Sea Region

Author: Iroda Muminova

March 12, 2024
Photo: UNDP Uzbekistan

Ensuring access to clean drinking water is paramount for safeguarding human health. The World Health Organization reports that a staggering 70% of global diseases stem from poor-quality water and failure to meet sanitation standards.

In recent years, the Aral Sea region faced a pressing issue with its sole water source, the Amu Darya River, becoming heavily polluted. Contaminants such as mineral salts, chemical residues from pesticides, biogenic elements, and heavy metals infiltrated the water, posing significant health risks to the populace. This dire situation resulted from pollution of water sources, challenges in water purification and disinfection, technical deficiencies in water supply systems, and the overall sanitary crisis in the Aral Sea region, leading to a sharp decline in public health.

Addressing this critical concern, efforts focused on improving sanitation, particularly in remote communities like "Shuyt," "Aranshi," and "Tokmangyt" in the Kegeyli district, where clean drinking water was scarce. Residents endured water shortages, exacerbated by outdated and dysfunctional water desalination plants, such as the one in Shuyt, built in 2006-2007. This plant, intended to serve as a water distribution point, lacked a proper water supply infrastructure, hindering access to clean water for the entire community.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation, a Joint programme initiated by UNDP, UNICEF, and FAO engaged residents in discussions to identify local challenges. Access to clean drinking water emerged as a primary concern, leading to proposals for renovating the desalination plant in Shuyt and constructing water supply networks in several communities, including Shuyt, Aranshi, and Tokmangyt.

“The desalination plant was originally built solely for commercial purposes, lacking a pipeline infrastructure. We had to walk a long way to buy water, however, with pipelines now reaching our homes, and we do not need to go to the station”
says Gulimbetova Gumsay, one of the residents of the community Shuyt.
"With seven members in our family, we faced water supply challenges. As a 53-year-old, it was tough trekking long distances to fetch water, especially in varying weather conditions. Having water pipelines in our homes now greatly eases our daily tasks and saves us precious time and money."
says Minaykhan Qoshanova, who is also from that region and had difficulties with clean drinking water.

On 12 December 2023, UNDP delegation visited the Republic of Karakalpakstan for the inauguration of a reconstructed water purification station, marking a milestone in the region's journey towards clean water access. With construction completed and desalination equipment operational, approximately 1,500 residents, including 800 women, now enjoy access to clean drinking water.

This transformative endeavor was made possible through the framework of the UNDP, UNICEF and FAO Joint programme “Empowering youth towards a brighter future through green and innovative development of the Aral Sea region”, which funded by the UN Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund for the Aral Sea Region in Uzbekistan with the support of the Governments of Uzbekistan, Norway, the European Union, Finland, South Korea, Germany and the Alwaleed Philanthropies charity organization.