Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsKyrgyz Republic: Parliament Mulls over Selling Water to Uzbekistan
To tax or not to tax—this is the question that KyrgyzRepublic parliamentarians are mulling over about neighborUzbekistan’s use of their country’s water resources.Uzbekistan has recently announced its plan to raise fuelprices, which would directly impact on the Kyrgyz Republic’senergy sector. Will the Kyrgyz Republic’s use of water as abargaining chip stop this brewing conflict?
WATER SHARING PROBLEMS
When theGovernment of Uzbekistanannounced plans toincrease gas pricesfrom US$55 toUS$100 per 1,000cubic meters, awater and energyissue began brewingin Central Asia.The Kyrgyz Republic does not have oil and gas reserves. Itis one of Uzbekistan’s biggest customers, with an annualaverage gas consumption of 850 million cubic meters. Withthe fuel price increase to take effect on 1 January 2007, thecountry’s energy sector would surely feel the blow.The impending price hike prompted Kyrgyz parliamentariansto debate on the issue of water taxation for their neighbor.The Kyrgyz Republic, after all, does have abundant waterresources, which it shares with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, andTajikistan to irrigate agricultural land. "We spend hugeamounts of money on the maintenance and repair of reservoirs. But our neighbors use water free of charge,"says deputy of parliament Temir Sariev.Ernest Karybekov, Head of the Kyrgyz Republic’s Power,Mining, and Natural Resources Department, is open to theidea of taxing Uzbekistan’s water supply. “Experts andscientists say that next year, water will not be sufficient forour hydroelectric power stations and for the agriculturalneeds of Uzbekistan. Therefore, we need collect more waterthan we did this year in our reservoirs,” he explained.
WATER AND ENERGY LINK
Uzbekistan is one of the world’s largest natural gas producerand a major oil source for many countries. Apart from theKyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan exports natural gas toKazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, and Tajikistan. The KyrgyzRepublic pays cash for 50 percent of the gas it imports. Therest is paid "in kind" with the republic’s abundantcommodity—water.Uzbekistan sources more than 70 percent of its watersupply from the rivers of its Central Asian neighbor for itspower-generating stations and agriculture fields. Two majorCentral Asian rivers, the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya, flowfrom Kyrgyz Republic to Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan haveseveral agreements to regulate water use. In broad terms,the Kyrgyz Republic assures water supply and electric powerto Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in the summer for irrigationpurposes, while Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan provide fuel tothe Kyrgyz Republic to generate hydroelectricity during thewinter months. But the implementation of these agreementshas not always been straightforward.The Institute of Water Problems and Water-PowerEngineering of the Kyrgyz National Academy of Sciencesdetermined the cost generated by the use of water in thecountry. Results show that water consumption amounted toabout US$83.7 million in 2001, and is predicted to increasedramatically in the coming years. With neighboring countriesusing up to 22 billion cubic meters of water from the Kyrgyzwater reservoir annually, the sum of annual receipts thisyear alone is expected to be more than US$12 million.
OPPOSING VIEWS ON WATER TAX
Kyrgyz officials, however, seem to be divided about plans toturn water into an income-generating resource.Government, private lawyers, and even scientists are notkeen on the idea, saying that "water cannot be a subject of bargaining.“ Deputy of parliament Alisher Sabirov says, “Wecannot sell water. Water is a gift from God.” But Kyrgyz parliamentarians all agree on one thing: that thecountry has to find money to pay for the imported naturalgas. Sariev suggests, “We should take payment not forwater, but for the delivery of water.” Kyrgyz farmers, who pay for their water consumption, havetheir own view. Cotton and corn farmer Azamat Kasymovwho has fields near the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border pays aboutUS$60 to 80 annually for his water consumption. Kasymovcomplains, “Why should I pay for water? My Uzbekneighbors do not pay their government for water.” He urged the Kyrgyz government to demand water paymentfrom Uzbekistan. This money, he said, should be spent forthe repair and maintenance of water infrastructure and thebuilding of water treatment facilities and water pipes in thevillages.