Aiming to learn about the principles and ways to structure a Nexus process as well as the opportunities that stem from Nexus thinking, 15 experts from Central Asian ministries and interstate organisations visited Croatia and Austria in mid-May within a study tour organised by IUCN and CAREC.
Applying Nexus thinking may be our last hope as we are rapidly approaching a tipping point of resource scarcity. This scarcity threatens water, energy and food security with great impacts on economic development, social wellbeing and environmental sustainability, according to IUCN.
“Our access to water, energy and food and ability to utilise natural resources in a sustainable manner depends on the decisions and actions we take both at national and regional levels, especially when it comes to shared resources,” said Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Events that enable the exchange of experiences are of great importance as they contribute to building trust and dialogue, in the region and across the regions and sectors,” he concluded.
The week-long study tour included a training workshop, an exchange of experiences on the transboundary river basin management with the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) and the International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC) and two site visits.
“It was extremely useful to learn about the Commissions' firsthand experience and build a network of contacts. The institutional setting of the Danube and Sava River Basins is very relevant to the existing transboundary water cooperation platform in Central Asia," said Batyr Mammedov, Head of Secretariat, Interstate Commission for Sustainable Development of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.
At the start of the week, participants learned from the experiences of other regions, especially Asia and Africa, and gained a better understanding of why Nexus is important for regional cooperation. They took stock of the situation in Central Asia, analysed key pressures and drivers from political, economic and social perspectives and applied Nexus principles through a regional lens. Throughout the week, participants worked on a draft Nexus Roadmap for Central Asia, which will be presented to the Nexus Central Asia Project’s Regional Steering Committee in June 2019 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
“The multisectoral approach is now getting more recognition worldwide as a useful tool to be applied at best during the planning stage. The training enhanced our knowledge and enabled us to develop the draft Nexus Roadmap for our region. Most importantly, the Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach could help us find the optimal trade-offs between the competing sectors to mitigate the consequences of the Aral Sea catastrophe," said Bolat Bekniyaz, Head of the Executive Board of the Republic of Kazakhstan of the International Fund for Saving Aral Sea.
To provide some practical examples, two guest speakers contributed to the workshop. Nadejda Komendantova from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis presented multi-criteria decision analysis as a tool for structuring discussions on trade-offs within the Nexus. Peter Vajda of the Energy Community Secretariat provided insights into the Energy Community’s Dispute Resolution and Negotiation Center and gave examples of how to settle disputes over hydropower developments in a transboundary context.
The main purpose of the study tour was to gain an understanding of the modus operandi with regards to the transboundary water management by riparian countries in the Danube and Sava river basins. In their meetings with ICPDR and ISRBC, participants closely examined legal, technical and managerial perspectives and engaged in interactive discussions to learn more about the complex river basin management arrangements that take into account agriculture, climate change, hydro and renewable energy sources generation, navigation and flood management. The two river basin commissions shared their step-by-step operationalisation process, starting from the signing of a legal inter-state agreement, followed by joint actions, including basin assessments, the development of basin management plans and strategies as well as the introduction of information sharing platforms and databases, monitoring and warning systems. By learning from the experiences of these two European rivers, participants identified best practices with possible application and replication potential in Central Asia as well as challenges to be avoided, in particular as regards to water quality.
“As a technical expert, I was interested in environmental monitoring along the river basin. We noted that water quality is of paramount importance to both Commissions. We learnt the specifics of monitoring tools applied and most importantly about the joint responsibility among the riparian countries to conduct such monitoring, which entails substantial data sharing," noted Egamberdi Rustamov, Head of the Centre of Analytical Control of the Committee of the Environmental Protection under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, Dushanbe.
Apart from meeting ICPDR and ISRBC, the study tour also took participants to the hydropower plant Freudenau near Vienna and the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park in Croatia. During these two site visits, participants had the opportunity to see first-hand how hydropower, navigation and nature interact and how integrated management can improve flood control, agricultural practices, forestry and the protection of biodiversity while making the protected area a desirable place to live for the local community.
While the study tour provided participants with new insights and knowledge, it also created opportunities for an open dialogue, networking and cooperation among Central Asian states. The outcomes of the trip, as well as the Nexus Roadmap providing next steps, will be discussed at the Project’s Regional Steering Committee in June 2019.
The study tour was organised by the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (CAREC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with the financial support of the European Union, in the frame of the "Central Asia Nexus Dialogue Project: Fostering Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus Dialogue and Multi-Sector Investment", which is part of the EU Global Nexus Dialogues Programme.