Transboundary water management in Central Asia

Programme description

Title: Transboundary water management in Central Asia
Commissioned by: German Federal Foreign Office (AA)
Country: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Overall term: 2009 to 2019

Central Asia. Reservoir in Tajikistan. © GIZ


Water scarcity is a global problem that is particularly acute in Central Asia. The situation is exacerbated by severe over-exploitation of the available water resources and the effects of global climate change. In addition, water resources in the region are unevenly distributed and used for different purposes. In the absence of alternatives, the water-rich countries Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, situated on the upper reaches of the major rivers Syr Darya and Amu Darya, use water predominantly for hydropower production in winter. On the other hand, the downstream countries Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, mainly use water for irrigating crops in summer. The scarcity of water resources, inappropriate management and disparate interests – are all factors that make the distribution of water in Central Asia into a major source of potential tensions.

Under the German Federal Foreign Office’s Central Asia Water Initiative (the ‘Berlin Process’), and with partial co-financing from the European Union, GIZ supports the Central Asian states in establishing sustainable regional water management structures.


The Central Asian states jointly develop practical approaches for sustainable regional water management and implement a number of selected measures.


The GIZ programme is active in each of the five Central Asian states. The measures being implemented are based on a strategy jointly developed with local and regional partner organisations. Phase III of the programme focuses primarily on strengthening regional institutions and sustaining the experiences gained in the previous phases.

The programme supports the Central Asian institutions regulating matters of water distribution at regional level. As such it strengthens their political position in the region. Moreover, it advises the relevant regional, national and local institutions on the formulation of legal provisions and guidelines, and supports the development of practical measures for integrated water resources management. These activities are complemented by a number of pilot projects in selected river basins, which demonstrate the potential benefits of improved water use.

Since 2009, GIZ has additionally supported the development of a framework agreement between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan regarding the cooperation on their transboundary rivers.


In cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and representatives of all five Central Asian states, proposals for strengthening the institutional capacity of the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (EC IFAS) have been elaborated. In a comprehensive project, EC IFAS and the five states as well as GIZ, UNECE and representatives of other international partners collectively devised a scheme to improve water management across the Aral Sea Basin – the Third Aral Sea Basin Programme – which has been approved by all five states.

Best practice examples for sustainable planning and management were developed, involving national and local partners, along with other stakeholders. Water management organisations have benefited from capacity building activities, and diverse pilot projects have been implemented. Pilot projects ranged from rehabilitation of water infrastructure, introduction of water-efficient irrigation to the construction of a small hydropower plant in a remote area, creation of data bases and maps using GIS (Geographic Information Systems).

More than 500,000 people depending on income from irrigated agriculture across the region, as well as many others living in the pilot basins of the programme, have benefited from its activities, which result in improved availability and predictability of water, better functioning infrastructure and better planning for natural hazards.

Additional information