New Policy Brief on Improving Water Governance for Sustainable Infrastructure Development in Central Asia

Jun 2024; Georg Petersen, CAREC Institute

Economic development, population growth and climate change are putting pressure on Central Asia’s water resources. Soviet-era infrastructure and fragmented governance exacerbate these risks which are potentially leading to water scarcity, environmental damage and regional conflicts. To mitigate these challenges, sustainable infrastructural development is crucial. CAREC Institute’s recently published policy brief integrates a review of academic literature, the analysis of current policy frameworks and the empirical evaluation of the current situation in Central Asia related to current governance of the water sector.

The literature reveals that overcoming multi-level governance gaps demand for integrated policy measures. These should bring coherence between different levels of government and administration as well as transparency and adaptability for the long-term development of the water sector. The historical infrastructure built during the Soviet-era was designed for centralized control, often crossing international boundaries. Although Central Asian countries have taken some cooperative steps so far, current governance problems and limited financing have hindered their ability to respond to population growth and climate change impacts. The key challenges include limited budgets allocated to the water sector, inefficiencies in revenue collection, inadequate cost recovery mechanisms, limited investment opportunities and lack of public participation in decision-making processes.

Recommendations of this policy paper include the increase of budget allocations for the water sector, improving the billing and metering, implementation of realistic cost-recovery tariffs, and exploration of public-private partnerships for different water infrastructure investments. Additionally, a commitment to financial transparency will boost trust and attract investment. Regionally, collaboration is essential on infrastructure assessment, modernization, and new development plans. Despite the water scarcity threats due to outdated infrastructure and governance issues, Central Asia can achieve sustainable water management through collaboration, improved financing, and strategic investments in infrastructure modernization.

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