In 2020, UNICEF and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Institute (CAREC Institute) started a joint research on sustainable water and sanitation systems in rural areas of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In a virtual webinar on 28 October 2020, preliminary findings of the namesake research were shared.
The research team, also speakers from the CAREC Institute, UNICEF, Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, UNDP, and ministries of CAREC member countries shared their comments and insights. A comparative analysis of the WASH system in mentioned countries was presented, along with details of the rural drinking water safety project of the PRC, opportunities for knowledge sharing from the PRC’s Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research which supports WASH-related advanced technologies, results of behavioral change projects, infrastructural and operational conditions of water supply systems, situation with water tariffs and service fee collection, community-based WASH schemes, and options for involvement of the private sector.
“Due to the impact of climate change, water availability in this region is to reduce by 7-8 percent by 2030. Water shortage has become an acute issue for Central Asia whose population is estimated to reach 90 million by the middle of the 21st century. Amid these conditions, the issue of international cooperation on sustainable water resource management and conservation of this vital resource for future generations gains a critical importance,” said Mr. Syed Shakeel Shah, Director of CAREC Institute in his opening remarks.
Dr. Douglas Noble, UNICEF Deputy Representative, noted that the value of piloting water and sanitation best practices and sharing knowledge and technologies more widely was evident in the PRC. “Partnership is key to addressing the challenges. Strong partnership among countries and global players to leverage expertise, adaptable technologies, and funding holds potential for accelerating progress,” – he said.
Ms. Lu Shen, WASH Focal Point and Portfolio Management Unit Head of ADB, shared that the PRC’s poverty reduction and regional cooperation fund which was established in 2005 and is managed by ADB with the total contribution from the PRC at $90 million, has extended its support to Pakistan and Uzbekistan through the Ravi river basin ecosystem revitalization project, and water and sanitation strategy development and capacity building project. Other urban development improvement preparation projects are also funded by the RPC Fund in CAREC countries.
Government counterparts and development partners conveyed that there is an acute need for more sustainable water and sanitation systems in CAREC countries, particularly in the context of the climate change and increasing water scarcity in Central Asia.
Mr. Daler Abqurazoqzoda, Chief of the Department on Energy and Water Policy, Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of Tajikistan, called for increased participation and contribution of development partners in Tajikistan’s national water program and welcomed policy recommendations from this research to support the national program towards WASH targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 agenda.
The sessions featured good practices as well as gaps and challenges identified by the presenters and discussants in East Asia, Central Asia, and beyond, in areas including policy, financing mechanisms, technology, as well as accessibility of services to poverty-stricken populations, implications of the climate change on water systems, and WASH response to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in schools and health facilities.
The good practices and experience of the PRC in WASH were among the critical points discussed across the sessions. The PRC achieved the water related millennium development goal (MDG) six years ahead of schedule. This became possible though three five-year plans to carry out rural drinking water safety (RDWS) projects since 2006. These projects were linked with the anti-poverty programs. The construction of large-scale RDWS projects were funded by central and local governments, where gross investments reached $25.57 billion by 2019. Additionally, to improve resilience to climate and natural disasters, the PRC adopted certain innovations, including rapid assessment methods, emergency standards for water supply, rapid and efficient water quality testing techniques and repair technology for water supply facilities, as well as antifreeze devices for water supply pipes adopted in low-temperature and alpine zones.
Mr. Geoffrey Ijumba, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Uzbekistan remarked that examples from the PRC were quite exceptional in terms of public financing and the level of innovation, also positive developments both at national and community levels. Ms. Lu Shen also elaborated on the role of the PRC as a South-South partner. “China is well advanced in how it develops water and sanitation, both in urban and rural areas. Learning the factors of Chinese success, could help replicate and adapt them in other local contexts. Some of these practices could be very helpful for other countries,” she said.
Further, the research team provided recommendations how national governments can ensure access to this basic need for their populations; how international development partners can contribute to training of the technical staff and development of the most appropriate legal and financial mechanisms; and how to link the WASH “hardware” with efficient financial, institutional, and knowledge transfer setup. The research report itself is scheduled for release by mid-2021.
Session 1 and Session 2