Kyrgyzstan Denies Using Regional Water Resources for its own Benefit
Kyrgyzstan has denied being responsible for the region’s severe water shortages. In a statement issued by Kyrgyzstan’s largest electricity producer, the company denied using excessive water, as well as not having fulfilled all international obligations.
The statement was issued in response to recent articles in the Uzbek press alleging Kyrgyzstan is using water resources in violation of international standards, intergovernmental treaties and harming the region’s environment.
Kyrgyzstan consumes only one percent of the water from the Syrdarya River and 20 percent of the total water resources originating on its territory. That means 80 percent of its water flows to countries downstream, including Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan; not 50 percent, as was stated by the Uzbek Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Shavkat Khamraev, in an interview with Pravda Vostoka newspaper.
Khamraev blamed Kyrgyz authorities for recklessly over-discharging water from the largest Toktogul reservoir on the Syrdarya River last winter, which allegedly left all countries downstream suffering from shortages of water to be used for crop irrigation.
Kyrgyzstan uses water in the Toktogul reservoir for electricity production, forgetting about the original purpose of the project, storing water for crops, which had been envisaged during the Soviet times, Khamraev said. This poses a threat to the security of food in the densely populated agricultural areas of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, endangers regional ecosystems and exacerbates the ongoing drying up of the Aral Sea, the Uzbek Minister of Agriculture noted in an interview with the Pravda Vostoka.
However, Kyrgyz authorities say they cannot be blamed for naturally low water levels or the shrinking of the Aral Sea.
“We have to emphasize that hydroelectric stations are currently not using water for electricity production, but saving it and releasing it for irrigation purposes in the same volumes as before. Thus, allegations that Kyrgyz hydropower stations cause further dying of the Aral Sea are groundless,” the statement by the Electric Stations company said.
Kyrgyzstan plans to introduce power cuts throughout the country in August. The government also recently announced that electric heating in homes will be illegal.
The open letter noted that Kyrgyzstan cannot refuse using its hydropower potential for electricity production, since the 1998 quadripartite treaty compensating Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for not releasing water in winter is no longer in force.
Kyrgyzstan suggested restoring the treaty in April and June of this year, however, working groups from Uzbekistan, led by Minister Khamraev, refused to sign an updated treaty without proposing an alternative document.
“Thus, Mr. Khamraev, who has been heavily criticizing Kyrgyzstan, could be the first person to reproach for the legal vacuum in regional water management,” the Electric Stations’ statement concluded.