ALMATY, September 24, 2020: The fourth Grand Finale event of the Smart Waters project, implemented by CAREC with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), brought together about 50 participants from all corners of Central Asia and Afghanistan. The event focused on the fulfillment of the project Component 4, namely, the implementation of river basin planning on small rivers in the region.
Despite the pandemic, the ZOOM video conference was attended by national and international partners, as well as the most important participants - representatives of the 13 Small Basin Councils established under the project.
As pilot sites for basin planning, 8 transboundary basins were designated by the governments of the Central Asian countries and Afghanistan. The project operated in five of them on a bilateral basis and in other three ones at the national level. The basin planning approach promoted by the project in these basins is to facilitate the activities of all stakeholders through the Small Basin Councils ensuring public participation in the water resources management and decision-making process.
Picture 1. Schematic representation of the Pilot Territories of the Smart Waters project
Two of the project's six countries tested this experience for the first time - the first Small Basin Councils were established in Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. «The Small Basin Council established under this project in the Murgab River is the first institution of this kind in our country, and helps to put into practice the latest changes in our water law. The work of the Basin Council has shown us in practice the effect of a new approach to water resources management in a particular basin, and we see the advantages. We also saw the gaps that we still have for the full functioning of such institutions as the Basin Council», - said Dovran Charyyev, Head of the Department of Land Reclamation of the State Committee for Water Management of Turkmenistan.
The basin planning cycle consists of several steps, which, if properly executed, will lead to a sustainable water management system at the local level. Although approach is the same, the results of basin planning and the priorities chosen in each pilot basin are different. Priorities were selected in each basin and, consequently, the activities supported by the project were different.
The members of the Small Basin Councils thanked CAREC and USAID for implementing the project and for the assistance provided to local area development. Despite the various experiences of participating in such institutions, many Basin Councils have already thought about the sustainability of the work that was started. For example, the Small Basin Council Secretariat of the Isfara River Kyrgyz part registered the Batken Basin Cooperation Public Foundation, co-founded by the Batken City Administration. This Fund will allow further attracting grants independently for the work of the SBC and for the implementation of activities of the basin plan.
Based on its experience working with 13 Small Basin Councils in six countries of the region, the project team also developed the methodological documents: Handbook establishment and operation of Small River Basin Councils in Central Asia and Afghanistan and Handbook on basin planning with elements of strategic environmental assessment for Central Asian countries and Afghanistan.
These manuals will make it possible to disseminate in practice the establishment of SBC and the development of basin plans, and to ensure decentralization of water resources management.
Smart Waters project is implemented by CAREC with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development USAID during the period 2015-2020. Overall objective of the project is to enhance regional cooperation on shared water resources. Specifically, Smart Waters addresses the knowledge dis-lock in the region in water sector, builds working relations among water managers and specialists, and demonstrates the potential of the basin management approach and cooperation with the academia.