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BISHKEK, February 6 (TCA) — Within the framework of the Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation of the EU-Central Asia Strategy, the 4th EU-Central Asia High Level Conference on Environment and Water will be held in Bishkek on February 13 and 14.

The conference will be co-chaired by Italy, the European External Action Service (EEAS) on behalf of the European Union, and the Kyrgyz Government, in close cooperation with Romania, the chair of the EU Water Initiative.

The conference will be attended by delegations of the five Central Asia countries, and co-chaired by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Joomart Otorbaev, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Marta Dassu, and Ambassador Patricia Flor, EU special representative for Central Asia. Other ministers and ambassadors of various countries will also participate.

Environment and water cooperation vital for Central Asia

Such high-level conference aims to promote cooperation on water management and at the same time to foster regional security and stability and support economic development. All participants realize that a fair access to water resources will be a major challenge for the world in the 21st century.

There is a need to strengthen cooperation between the EU and Central Asia in taking steps to put environmental integration into practice, and join forces to combat climate change and minimize its impact, since climate change has become the general background for any environmental issue, with security implications.

The EU and Central Asia are aware that the region is particularly vulnerable to climate change and for this reason their partnership intends to develop long-term strategies to mitigate its effects on human health and on the environment.

It was during the high level conference between the EU and Central Asia in November of 2009 in Rome that the five countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) have agreed to create the so-called Cooperation Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation to be used as the basis for a future strategy.

At that time, in Italy, a working group was established with the main purpose to develop and promote the platform and carry on regular dialogue on how to address the threats posed by climate change in Central Asia, and also how to avoid conflicts between the countries of the region. It is not a secret that from 2009 until today, a serious confrontation is going on between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on one side and Uzbekistan, on the other side, due to the construction of large dams and hydroelectric power plants in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The proposed strategy also aims to implement in Central Asia the mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol and introduce clean technologies based on joint cooperation for energy saving development, with particular attention to water resources within the EU Water Initiative.

The working group established in 2009 in Italy met for the first time in Brussels in 2010 under the chairmanship of Italy, and the second meeting took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan in September 2012. Now with the 4th high level conference to be held in Bishkek it is expected that all parties will approve documents that may promote trans-boundary river management, a more efficient water use, an appropriate framework for international financing, and an increased environmental awareness with the development of environmental civil society.

Photo: Construction of dams for new hydroelectric power plants in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan causes concern in downstream Uzbekistan (by Dmitry Motinov)


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