Speech by President of the Republic of Tajikistan at the opening ceremony of the International High-Level Conference on the International Decade for Action «Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028”

Distinguished Heads of state and government,
Dear Heads and members of delegations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I welcome all of you in the city of Dushanbe at the International High-Level Conference on the International Decade for Action «Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028».

I hope that following the results of today’s event, held in cooperation with the UN and other partners, effective practical steps will be developed to implement the internationally agreed goals and objectives in the field of water resources.

I am convinced that today’s conference will provide an opportunity to prepare concrete recommendations on the topic of the forthcoming meeting of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, where the SDG 6 will be discussed.

On March 22 of this year, on World Water Day, on the initiative of the President of the UN General Assembly, we jointly launched the process of implementing the new International Decade for Water.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and his team for preparing and launching the Decade’s Action Plan, which can be an important tool in its implementation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are embarking on the promotion of the new Decade with a very useful experience in the implementation of previous global water initiatives.

Over the past fifteen years in this direction, we have increased our joint efforts in the framework of global initiatives such as the International Year of Freshwater, 2003, the International Decade for Action «Water for Life, 2005-2015» and «International Year of Water Cooperation, 2013 «.

All these initiatives have made a valuable contribution to deepening our understanding of the irreplaceable role of water for life on our planet.

At the same time, they contributed to the active involvement of all stakeholders in water resources management, project implementation and the introduction of modern technologies and innovations in this field.

I would especially like to note the contribution of these initiatives to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

Joint efforts in this direction have also laid a solid foundation for the development of a new sustainable development agenda, in which water resources are given a central place as a key element of this process.

At the same time, the following facts, which are well known to you, indicate that mobilization of common efforts has not yet produced the desired effect:

— more than 800 million and 2.5 billion of the world’s population, respectively, do not have access to safe drinking water and basic services in the field of water sanitation;

— annually up to 300 thousand children under the age of five die due to lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation;

All this indicates that we are still considerably behind in the practical implementation of the set goals and objectives in the field of ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

In addition, the situation in achieving sustainable water management is complicated by the negative impact of climate change.

It is known that global climate change negatively affects the volume of freshwater resources and their quality, thus exposing different countries and regions of the world to even greater environmental stress.

Today, more than two billion people in the world experience water stress.

According to experts, by 2050 this figure can grow to five billion, i.е. will make up about half the world’s population.

In this context, the trends of population growth and the demand for water resources pose new complex tasks.

Demand for water resources in the world is growing at an accelerated pace, which, in turn, causes tense relations between sectors of the economy.

Increased competition for access to water resources in conditions of increasing water deficit can lead to negative consequences even within one country.

These two factors — global climate change and demographic growth will determine the scope and opportunities for our further actions.

Along with these factors, there are a number of other tasks that require an integrated approach and active water cooperation.

These include issues of increasing the overall efficiency of water use, reducing water pollution and re-use, and developing new technologies for obtaining fresh water on an industrial scale.

The accumulated experience shows that it is difficult to achieve significant progress in the use of water resources overnight.

Proceeding from this experience, the beginning of the Decade, first of all, is aimed at forming a broad and open platform for strengthening and expanding the regular multilateral water dialogue with a focus on concrete actions.

To this end, we intend to convene every two years International High-Level Conference on the implementation of the goals and objectives of the Decade.

In this direction, we will continue our cooperation with interested countries and organizations within the framework of the International Steering Committee.

I would like to take this opportunity to express gratitude to all members of the current composition of the International Steering Committee, who have made a very useful contribution to the preparation of today’s event.

We also intend to strengthen work in this direction by creating an International Center for the Implementation of the Decade in Dushanbe.

An additional platform for our interaction will be provided by the process of preparing and promoting a new resolution of the UN General Assembly on the mid-term review of the implementation of the Decade.

We hope for the active support of our partners in the promotion of this resolution within the framework of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly.

In our opinion, efforts to create mechanisms to facilitate the implementation of the Decade should be strengthened with the necessary human, financial and technical resources.

In this context, I would like to separately note the fact that the water sector has a large financial need for implementing the relevant projects and programs.

According to the calculations of the World Bank, only to achieve the two objectives of the 6th  Goal of Sustainable Development, namely, universal access to safe drinking water and sanitation, will amount to 114 billion US dollars annually.

In this regard, efforts should be focused on increasing the efficiency of using available financial resources and finding new sources of financing for water-related industries.

In this respect, the expansion of public-private partnership opens new opportunities for attracting additional investments in the water sector and infrastructure.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Transboundary component of water cooperation is also an important issue.

Effective, fair and mutually beneficial water cooperation can become a catalyst for the development of countries connected by common water basins.

The Central Asian region, which is characterized by uneven formation of water resources, is a clear example of constructive water cooperation.

This situation, along with the differing needs of countries in the use of water resources in the sectoral and seasonal context, has recently been assessed as a factor of potential disputes and disagreements.

However, as time and practice shows, we were able to make significant progress in solving existing problems.

Currently, the region has created new opportunities and infrastructure for effective interaction and development of our countries.

Of course, such regional institutions as the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea and its relevant commissions played a significant role in achieving such a result.

At the same time, today we are facing new challenges and threats, which, as never before, require the consolidation of joint efforts and concerted actions.

A clear example of these challenges is the dry season of the current year.

Due to the small amount of seasonal precipitation, the countries of the region are already facing low water levels, — the inflow of water in the rivers is much lower than the average annual indicators, and the forecasts indicate the water availability of rivers in the cropping season only in the amount of 60-70 percent of the norm.

This requires proper cooperation and close coordination of our efforts to solve such regional problems.

It is gratifying to note that the changes in recent years in the region in the political, economic, social, humanitarian and other spheres have found a positive development dynamics.

Such a reality, of course, creates the necessary prerequisites for further improving interstate cooperation and joint solution of existing regional problems.

Dear participants,

Long-term observations indicate an increase in the impact of climate change on nature and the socio-economic situation in Tajikistan and Central Asia.

According to these observations, over the past sixty years the average annual air temperature in Tajikistan has increased by one degree Celsius, the frequency and intensity of natural hydrometeorological phenomena have increased.

Under the influence of these factors in Tajikistan, natural disasters in the form of inundation, floods, mudflows, avalanches and landslides annually cause serious damage to the population and economy of the country.

In addition, over the past few decades, we have lost nearly 1,000 small and medium glaciers.

In order to monitor these processes and take measures to adapt to climate change factors, we have established the Glacier Research Center at the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan this year and look forward to the support of our development partners in strengthening its capacity.

I am confident that this Center will soon make its worthy contribution to the process of planning and managing water resources not only at the national, but also at the regional level.

Today in Tajikistan, about 98 percent of electricity is generated in hydroelectric power plants.

The government takes comprehensive measures to balance the production and consumption of energy by modernizing existing hydroelectric power stations, creating new power generation facilities, and introducing modern energy saving methods.

The reservoirs of hydroelectric facilities, in turn, contribute to ensuring reliable long-term and seasonal regulation of water flow, prevention of inundations and floods, as well as mitigating the effects of drought.

The use of Tajikistan’s huge hydropower potential in order to provide the countries of the region with clean energy, one of the bases for the development of the «green economy», could seriously contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

In this context, I would like to note the importance of the implementation of the CASA-1000 regional project, as well as the resumption of the parallel operation of Tajikistan’s energy system with the unified energy system of Central Asia, which provides an opportunity to supply our «green» electricity to near and far neighbors in the region.

An important priority in the country remains providing the population with safe and quality drinking water and sanitation.

We have already started the development of a new program to provide the population with clean drinking water for the period until 2030.

This Program covers one of the key goals of sustainable development — universal access of the population to safe drinking water and sanitation.

The state policy of Tajikistan in the field of water use is simultaneously aimed at solving urgent social and economic problems in the region.

In this context, we are ready to use our vast resources of drinking water in the common interest.

Thus, the rational use of the unique reserves of the high-altitude Lake Sarez only, which contains seventeen cubic kilometers of water, enables long-term and sustainable provision of high-quality drinking water to the population of our region.

Concluding my speech, I express the hope that the participants of the conference, using the present opportunity, will make their worthy contribution to the development of concrete practical recommendations for the effective implementation of the goals of the new Decade.

I wish all present here a constructive and productive meeting, and to our esteemed guests a pleasant stay in the sunny and hospitable land of Tajikistan.

Thank you for attention!