Blue Peace Central Asia Strengthening of the Regional Institutional Framework for Integrated Water Resources Management in Central Asia

In response to the explicit demand of the five Central Asian States, and building on over 20 years of cooperation in the field of water, SDC facilitates transboundary water resources cooperation consistent with the Blue Peace approach implemented in the Middle-East and at the global level through the establishment of a High Level Dialogue Platform, the promotion of sustainable water practices as well as capacity building of a new generation of water professionals and champions.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Central Asia
Climate change and environment
Water diplomacy and security
Meteorological services
Water resources conservation
Water sector policy
01.09.2014 - 30.09.2024
CHF  6’000’000

Co-initiated by Switzerland, the Blue Peace movement advocates for peaceful water management in various regions of the world. In Central Asia, the SDC has been working for more than two decades on integrated, transparent and needs-based water resources management in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and as such can benefit from a wide network of international and regional partners also active in the water sector. The current project and the significant momentum in cross-border cooperation in the region are expected to create real progress for the local populations and their prospects for a better life.

A region of contrasts under increasing stress

The semi-arid region of Central Asia avails of substantial ground- and surface water resource. However, the access to water is uneven across the region, from the water-rich mountain ranges of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the desert steppes of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Moreover, the demand for water is increasing rapidly, due to steady demographic growth and expanding economies. Severe challenges relate to the pollution of surface water, and unsustainable and outdated agricultural systems and practices. Climate change acts as a “threat multiplier”: higher temperature, more frequent droughts and earlier snowmelt will have a major influence on future water availability per capita. Central Asia is increasingly water-stressed; adaptation to climate change is an urgent priority.

The five countries in Central Asia recognise this reality, and the governments have embarked on significant sector reforms and enhanced national water policies.  In many cases, however, the water management between the Central Asian countries is still dictated primarily by national concerns, and based on competition. More is required at the bilateral and regional levels to account for the transboundary nature of the risks, challenges and opportunities related to water. The challenge is to set up an effective cross-border cooperation to manage transboundary water resources in an integrated and sustainable manner.

Enhancing regional water policy dialogue

After numerous political consultations, the countries concerned saw that it would be opportune to entrust Switzerland with an advisory role in regard to sustainable water resources management in the region. The SDC is translating this role into practice by laying the foundations for improved cooperation at both the political and scientific level. 

In practical terms, it is working to make the exchange of information between the governments more systematic, and to expose the region to best regional and international practices in terms of transboundary water management. Among others, in order to produce high-quality scientific data, the SDC is supporting the efforts of a group of researchers from the University of Fribourg whose aim is to provide the latest in training to local glaciologists over the next few years.

Combating poverty and reducing disaster risks

Ultimately, it is the people living in the region who will see their lives improve – not just because they will be provided with drinking water or water to irrigate their fields, but also because security in the region will increase. When governments decide to cooperate, the risk of conflict diminishes. And as far as the climate is concerned, monitoring the process of glacier melt rigorously will make predicting natural disasters more reliable.