Promoting Cooperation to Adapt to Climate Change in the Chu-Talas Transboundary Basin


Jump to: navigation, search

Project ID

Project Title

Promoting Cooperation to Adapt to Climate Change in the Chu-Talas Transboundary Basin.


Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

Lead Organization(s)

Project Partners

*Committee of Water Economy, Ministry of Agriculture, Kazakhstan
  • Water Agency, Ministry of Natural Resources, Kyrgyzstan
  • Secretariat of the Chu-Talas Commission



Sources of Financing:


3 years. January 2010 - December 2012


Under implementation

Project website(s)






Climate change may threaten livelihoods, economic development, human health, water resources, and thus security. Water resources will be directly affected by climate change through changes in the hydrological cycle. Moreover such impacts on water resources will have a cascading effect on other sectors such as agriculture (decreased availability of water for irrigation, coupled with increased demand), energy (reduced hydropower potential and cooling water availability), recreation (water-linked tourism), fisheries and navigation.

Therefore climate change could, potentially, lead to increased competition for scarce resources, decreased food production and decreased economic growth. In transboundary basins this could potentially result in the “politicization” of the water resources – mostly in areas where tensions already exist - and increased resentment and mistrust between riparian countries. If not properly addressed, this may increase the risk of conflicts and impose the threats towards regional security. Therefore, adaptation and early action are crucial.

Central Asia is very vulnerable to climate change and most impact assessments predict a reduction in water availability due to glacier melting. Climate change impacts are already visible now. Moreover, water resources in Central Asia are mostly transboundary so water security is closely linked with political and economical implications (hydropower productions vs. irrigated agriculture) that establish a direct link between changes in hydrological regimes and water availability and regional security. The transboundary nature of water in the Central Asia region also means that risks and challenges are shared and that solutions need to be coordinated. Transboundary cooperation in the development of adaptation strategies is necessary to ensure that measures decided on unilaterally do not have unintended effects in neighbouring countries thereby increasing vulnerability and causing controversy over water use. Without cooperation there is the risk that adaptation strategies and measures chosen in different riparian countries might be diverging or even contradictory, with security implications. Cooperation on adaptation can therefore prevent conflicts. Moreover it can also bring numerous benefits through the pooling of knowledge and resources.

This project will increase the adaptive capacity of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and of the Chu-Talas Commission to ongoing and future climate change impacts, ensure coordination of adaptation actions in the Chu-Talas basin and thereby help to prevent possible negative effects on regional security.

The Chu-Talas basin is selected for this project since it is the only bilateral transboundary water Commission in the Central Asia region, and since water-sharing agreement and relevant tools for costs compensation have been agreed upon. These cooperative arrangements might, however, be put at risk in the future by the possible negative impacts of climate change on water resources in the basin leading towards the need to re-consider current cooperation. This basin will provide a good example of adaptation to climate change for other transboundary basins in the region, and beyond, which have at the moment less advanced level of riparian cooperation; and therefore act as a pilot case for more problematic areas in the region. Other transboundary water basins might use this experience.

To assist in addressing this challenge, the Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change, has been developed under the Water Convention and its Protocol on Water and Health, with a particular emphasis on transboundary cooperation. Based on the concept of integrated water resources management, and its implementation, the Guidance provides advice on how to assess impacts of climate change on water quantity and quality, how to perform risk assessment, including health risk assessment, how to gauge vulnerability, and how to design and implement appropriate adaptation measures. Therefore this Guidance will be used as a methodological base for cooperation and, as far as possible, the project will follow the Guidance in its implementation.

The proposed project is built on already completed activities in this area under the Water Convention such as several workshops/ conferences organized on water and climate change adaptation. This project will be closely linked and synergies developed with the OSCE-UNECE project on Development of Cooperation on the Chu and Talas Rivers and the UNDP-EC Programme “Promoting Integrated Water Resources Management and Transboundary Dialogue in Central Asia”. The project will also be linked to other ongoing processes in the region such as the Berlin Water Process, implemented by GTZ and UNECE, the proposed ENVSEC projects on glacier-melting in Central Asia and the activities of other International Organizations such as the World Bank and the Eurasian and Asian Development Banks.

Project goals

The project aims to reduce risks from climate change for security by improving the adaptive capacity of recipient countries in transboundary basins where forecasted impacts of climate change may have security implications.

The project also aims to support dialogue and cooperation on the needed steps to design an adaptation strategy in the transboundary context and thereby prevent controversy on the use of water resources.

The specific objectives of the project will be:

1. Modelling of the possible changes in water resources of the Chu-Talas basin associated with climate conditions and elaboration of joint scenarios
2. Preparation of joint vulnerability assessment, focusing on selected areas/sectors of importance for the work of the Commission,
3. Development of a package of possible adaptation measures and relevant procedures for the Commission, which may contribute to decreasing potential tensions over changing hydrological regimes. Such procedures and measures will be built into the regular Commission’s operations and policies, where appropriate.

Relevant experience will be shared with other countries in the Central Asia as they face similar problems and this topic is considered as one of the priority for joint initiatives in the region. Positive experience will be replicated in other transboundary basins in Central Asia and beyond.

This project will explore the feasibility of linking this initiative to or building upon existing modeling efforts and collaborate where appropriate

Short activities description

The pilot project will be carried out as part of the overall programme of projects aimed at implementing the Guidance, which is part of the workplan 2010-2012 of the Convention and partly funded and implemented by ENVSEC. This will allow sharing experience with other similar projects in other parts of the UNECE region.

As a first step, a baseline study will be conducted to identify and assess already ongoing or completed projects and national and international initiatives as well as existing data and impact assessments. This will be done through interviews with officials, initial data collection, contact with other previous and ongoing projects etc. Depending on the results of the baseline study, subsequently, the collected data and information will be processed and used as a basis for developing an agreed upon impact assessment, based on joint scenarios and modelling. Based on the results as well as further information, a vulnerability assessment will be carried out in order to identify the most vulnerable areas, economic activities, ecosystems and population groups. The focus of the vulnerability assessment will be designed taking into account the work of the Chu-Talas commission.

Based on the results of the vulnerability assessment, adaptation measures and their financing and implementation will be planned jointly with the riparian states, including financing aspects. If possible, contacts to relevant donor institutions will be established. At the same time, the opportunity and options for adapting the Commission’s procedures to allow coping with climate change impacts will be discussed and agreed upon so to integrate project findings into the regular commission activities.

The project will be executed in two main phases as described below. The present proposal aims to raise the funds needed for the inception phase while the implementation phase is dependent on the findings from the same.

Project Phases

Inception phase – data collection and getting all partners on board, contacts with other initiatives and donors, proposals on modelling and content of vulnerability report/scenarios. Starting modelling activities (depending on available data and other conditions).

Implementation phase - all detailed technical operations (such as modelling and scenario development). Based on the agreed scenarios, vulnerability assessment will performed following already developed outline. Relevant Commission procedures will be worked out, adaptation strategies and their implementation/financing will be discussed and, if possible, agreed among all key stakeholders and potential donors. Sharing experience – relevant experience will be shared with other basins and countries and built in into water-related state operations. This will be done throughout the project.

Expected Outcomes

The following deliverables will be developed:

  • Common scenarios and models agreed upon by the riparian countries assessing the expected climate change impacts on water resources;
  • Joint vulnerability assessment for the respective basin, including environmental, social and economic vulnerability and the security implications;
  • Proposal for the procedures to be employed by the Joint Commission to tackle uncertainty related to climate change and maintain needed level of cooperation and benefits sharing;
  • Proposal for coordinated measures to be taken in the specific basin enabling climate change adaptation, including cost-benefit assessment and environmental impact assessment.

Achievements: Results and Impact

Lessons for Replication


See also




Central Asia


Commission on the Use of Water Management Facilities of Intergovernmental Status on the Rivers Chu and Talas

External Resources


4728 Rating: 2.4/5 (28 votes cast)