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Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)

Integrated water resources management and strategic environmental assessment of Kabul and Amu Darya rivers

PI: Zheenbek Kulenbekov (, American University of Central Asia
U.S. Partner: Forrest Melton, California State University Monterey Bay, and the NASA Ames Research Center Cooperative for Research in Earth Science and Technology
Project Dates: December 2016 to February 2020

Project Overview:

Afghanistan has highlighted the need for improved water resource management as an essential first step towards rebuilding rural communities and improved human health. Food security in Central Asia and Afghanistan also represents a major and worsening problem. The agricultural sector will be an important focus for upgrading human capital skills, given the size of the rural population. The aim of this research project is to lift Afghanistan out of the identified knowledge gap on its water resources and remove existing barriers to sustainable integrated water resource development and management (IWRM) in the Amu Darya Basin, as well as promoting strategic environmental assessment. At the same time, the project is expected to provide transparency on the potential impact of integrated water resource development plans and ongoing projects to downstream riparian states, as well as the donor community. Because of its international position, American University of Central Asia will take the lead in data generation and analysis and will collaborate with research and implementing agencies in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. In many ways, the Kyrgyz Republic is ahead of its neighbors on issues associated with the effective use of water resources, and through successful implementation of this project the country could serve as a positive example for the region. Providing qualified training of local communities and universities on IWRM in the project area is critical in advancing future research.

Within the Amu Darya Basin, about 30 million people depend on irrigated agriculture for their livelihoods. Past wars and civil conflicts have hindered the upstream riparian state Afghanistan from developing its agricultural sector. The current focus of the international community on facilitating sustainable development and poverty reduction in Afghanistan is likely to increase water utilization within its transboundary basins and therefore might have a negative effect on livelihoods in downstream riparian states. Like many regions across the world, Central Asia and Afghanistan are seeking ways to make the best use of limited water resources. The purpose of this research project is to close the knowledge gap on water resources and potential irrigated areas within three sub-basins of the Amu Darya Basin within Afghanistan, as well as to help determine the legal obligations of Afghanistan to its riparian neighbors. The closure of this gap should help Afghanistan and the donor community to plan their sustainable water development and environmental assessment strategies and projects. The project research team will assemble a data set on water availability, changes in irrigated areas, and the irrigation potential in the three target sub-basins. They will also develop a model of impacts of ongoing rehabilitation projects in Afghanistan on lower provinces within the tributary basins, as well as riparian states within the Amu Darya Basin. They aim to provide an array of cost-effective tools to agricultural producers in the three sub-basins of the Amu Darya River Basin to assist them with optimizing irrigation scheduling and maximizing crop yields with the water available each year. In addition, they will provide new tools for quantifying and forecasting irrigation demand to water managers in order to help schedule water deliveries to growers effectively.

5-519 Salinity Assessment5-519 River Measurement
The team conducted a series of tests during an expedition to the Kysul-Suu, Dara, and Aryk-Suu rivers.

Summary of Recent Activities:

The PI spent the first quarter of 2019 communicating with Tajikistan and Afghanistan experts about research papers write-ups and submissions. The experts from both countries are working on writing scientific papers through attending conferences or directly submitting to international and local journals. Kyrgyz experts have published two papers in Kazakhstan and Poland in January related to the socio-economic assessment of target villages in Kyrgyzstan. Tajik experts published two papers regarding the vegetation index calculation and socio-economic assessment at the local level. Overall, the team has written a joint paper related to advanced methods in water resource management in three countries within our project that was submitted to Central Asia Journal of Water Resources in March.

PI Kulenbekov was invited to attend and be one of organizing committee member of international workshop in Bishkek that was held by Institute of Water Problems and Hydropower under the NAS of Kyrgyzstan on March 24-27, in the framework of USAID PEER 454 project, "The response of water resources to climate change and glacier dynamics in transboundary river basins in Central Asia".

The main tasks ahead of the project team are paper publications, data refinement and field trips, and preparation for an international conference on water resource management, which is planned to be held at the American University of Central Asia on June 24-26. The conference will be a two day discussion focusing on integrated water resource management and problems of strategic environmental assessment.

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