Workshop on transboundary groundwaters in Caucasus and Central Asia, 31 May-1 June 2007, Almaty, Kazakhstan

15 May 2007

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are organizing a Workshop on transboundary groundwaters in Caucasus and Central Asia on 31 May-1 June 2007 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The workshop has two main objectives:

  • to finalize the assessment of transboundary groundwaters in Caucasus and Central Asia,
  • to identify possible follow-up activities in the region on transboundary groundwaters to be carried out by the three organizations.

Approximately 40 per cent of the worlds population lives in river basins that cross the political boundaries of two or more countries. Transboundary aquifers, as transboundary rivers, are another important component of the global water resource system. Nevertheless, only recently issues concerning the management of transboundary aquifers came to the forefront of scientific and political discussions. Not surprisingly therefore, transboundary aquifer management is still in its infancy, suffering from a lack of institutional will and financial resources to collect the necessary information.

To fill this gap an assessment of transboundary groundwaters in Caucasus and Central Asia is being prepared under the UNECE Water Convention. This assessment will be included in the Assessment of the status of transboundary waters in the UNECE region, which will be presented at the sixth Ministerial Conference Environment for Europe in October 2007.

The assessment will also be a contribution to the International Shared Aquifers Resource Management Programme (ISARM). ISARM is an initiative carried out by International Hydrological Programme (IHP) of UNESCO in cooperation with a number of partners (UNECE, FAO, the International Association of Hydrogeologists, etc.), aiming to compile a world inventory of transboundary groundwaters and develop good practices and guidance tools for their management. The aim of the project is also to reach the sustainable management of transboundary aquifers.

The preliminary results of the assessment show that the aquifers under consideration in Caucasus and Central Asia are mainly used as source of drinking water and for irrigation purposes.

In many aquifers, salty water mixes with fresh water, reducing water quality. Pollution from agricultural sources ranged from moderate to serious in some cases. In others, aquifers were affected by heavy metals and hydrocarbons contamination.

Most alarmingly, the severe reduction of well water levels, due to overexploitation, shows that without a change in water management practices, water will become even scarcer in the Region.

At the workshop, experts from Caucasus and Central Asia will review a preliminary assessment prepared on the basis of the information provided by experts from each country. Information on each shared aquifer will be compared by experts of bordering countries and the conclusions of the assessment will be agreed upon.

The workshop will open opportunities for sharing experience and exchanging information on transboundary aquifers. Also, the workshop will lead to the identification of new activities to improve transboundary aquifer management in the region.

Contacts of the three organizations:

UNECE Mr. Rainer Enderlein
Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Tel.: +41(0)22 917 19 27
Fax: +41(0)22 917 0107

Mr. Anil Mishra
Natural Sciences Sector UNESCO, Cluster office
67 Tole Bi Street 4th floor, 050000, Almaty Kazakhstan
Tel.: +7 3272 582643
Fax.: +7 3272 794853

Ms. Madina Ibrasheva
National Programme Coordinator
OSCE Centre in Almaty
67 Tole Bi Street Almaty Kazakhstan
Tel.: +7 3272 58 23 09

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