Water resource management has emerged as a prominent regional policy concern for Kazakhstan, evidenced by the government's heightened focus. The Ministry for Water Resources and Irrigation is advocating for a "contractual framework" with China and Uzbekistan to govern the usage of transboundary rivers.
Negotiations are underway for a resource-management plan spanning 2024-2030, as reported by Zakon.kz. This framework aims to establish a collaborative system for managing river traffic and water flows between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, alongside setting specific allocations for agricultural and other purposes between China and Kazakhstan. Nurzhan Nurzhigitov, the Water Resources Minister, emphasized the prioritization of interstate cooperation on transboundary rivers.
In addition to cooperation with Tashkent and Beijing, Kazakhstan plans to leverage its chairmanship of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) this year to advocate for a sustainable water resource-sharing system. President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev highlighted the intention for IFAS to play a more active role in addressing regional water-management issues during the recent summit.
Kazakh officials aim to encourage closer involvement from Kyrgyzstan within IFAS while also monitoring Afghanistan's activities closely, particularly the construction of a canal by the Taliban government that could disrupt the already strained Amu Darya River and alter the water balance in Central Asia.
The establishment of Kazakhstan's Ministry for Water Resources in late 2023 marked a significant step. Minister Nurzhigitov outlined measures taken since its inception to promote more efficient resource utilization domestically, including upgrading irrigation systems and hydraulic structures to meet standards and advancing the automation and digitalization of water supply processes.
Efforts are also underway to enhance the utilization of groundwater, as currently only a fraction is being utilized effectively, indicating a need for improvement in this area.