Kazakhstan needs to invest in hydro-electric power stations construction in Kyrgyzstan to combat water scarcity – expert

BISHKEK. KAZINFORM Water scarcity in Central Asia has become a pressing problem over the past several years, inevitably impacting the transborder water allocation between the region’s countries for the agrarian sector’s need. Denis Berdakov, political scientist of Kyrgyzstan, author of Berdakov Online Telegram Channel, shares his view on trans-border problems of his country and possible ways of their solving in an interview with Kazinform.

As Denis Berdakov says, almost all waterways of Central Asia are formed in the territory of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and in parts of China’s mountainous areas. «The situation in water sector in Kyrgyzstan has remained sad over the past three years. The low-water period lasting for several years and which results in reduction of water inflow into trans-border rivers in spring-summer season is one of the local reasons of water deficit in the country. An extreme drought of this year, which gripped Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan and Talas region of Kyrgyzstan for the first time in 50 years due to climate change and abnormal heatwave, negatively affected agricultural sector of these two regions.

Despite the existing water shortage, Kyrgyz side has fulfilled all agreements on trans-border water allocation in 2023, based on indicators of water inflow into the Kirov Reservoir. Water of small transborder rivers is divided based on a similar water inflow indicator,» the expert explains.

In his opinion, intensive melting of glaciers of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan caused by global warming and sand and dust from the Aral Sea, is more serious reason of the current water scarcity situation.

The expert believes that water scarcity problem can be tackled in a midterm outlook by implementing a drip irrigation system, as proposed by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and by building balancing reservoirs and small hydro-electric power stations. This will let improve the situation in water and energy sectors.

«Kyrgyzstan has already begun working in this area, having introduced a program of small hydroelectric power stations construction and attracting investors. More than 10 small hydro-electric power stations are under construction now. Their capacity ranges from 3-6MWt to 20-30MWt. These hydro-electric power stations will let supply electricity to small villages with the population of several thousand people. By the way, the issue of accumulating melt-water and prevention of its loss was also raised by the Kazakh President in his Address to the Nation,» Denis Berdakov says.

In his words, all the countries of the Central Asian need to consolidate their efforts in addressing transborder water problems. «Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as the richest and largest economies of the region, shall invest in construction of hydro-electric power stations both in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan,» he notes.

The expert says, that Kyrgyzstan faces energy problems, 97% of which is water energy. Building a hydro-electric power station for electricity generation for Kyrgyzstan and accumulation of water in reservoirs will let improve water supply situation in Ferghana valley, in the south of Kazakhstan up to the Aral Sea region. The issues of water and energy are quite interrelated, he stresses.

«Now there is a good option for using the Russian gas, which will be shipped to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The more gas our neighbors have, the more electricity and gas will be supplied to Kyrgyzstan in winter. The less the country [Kyrgyzstan] will have to drain water for electricity generation in winter season.

The countries of the region have to negotiate and address the problem positively and systematically. Unfortunately, Kyrgyzstan trails in energy problems solution by 5 years. Even if Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan invest in hydro-electric power station construction, it will take from 5 to 7 years. The last dry years resulted in reduction of water level in the large Toktogul Reservoir by 2bln cubic meters. If Kyrgyzstan does not buy electricity in neighbor countries, the country will face huge problems in power supply,» he adds.

«If Kyrgyzstan receives electricity and Russian gas through Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, then Kazakhstan will have it easy to foster the dialogue and agree on water issue with the Kyrgyz side. The construction of additional hydro-electric power stations together with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the transportation of Russian gas as well as construction of solar power stations is an initial solution to the problems accumulated in this sector,» Denis Berdakov concluded.