Reducing Transboundary Degradation in the Kura/Aras River Basin


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Project ID


Project Title

Reducing Trans-boundary Degradation of the Kura-Aras River Basin (GEF PDF-B)

This GEF-PDF-B project has 2 sub-components:


Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

South Caucasus, Kura and Aras/Araks River Basins

Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, I.R. Iran, (Turkey)

Lead Organization(s)

GEF, UNDP/BRC (Implementing Agency). UNOPS (Executing Agency)

Project Partners


Total: 1,562,755 (GEF 723,328; UNDP 125,000; National Contributions 145,000; SIDA 594,427)




Preparation phase (PDF-B) under implementation

Project website(s)

Link to IW:LEARN entry for this project




The project, under implementation of the UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre, is currently in the preparation phase (PDF-B), with the the project document to be finalised in early 2007. Four of the basin countries are signed up to the project: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Efforts are being made to involve Turkey in the project. The Ministry of Foriegn Affairs in Baku has confirmed Azerbaijan's comittment to the project and to work with Armenia in a multi-lateral setting.

The project preparation phase is 18 months and began July 05. It's co-funded by Sweden and has following main activities:

  • A Transboundary Diagnostic Assessment (TDA) of the priority environmental problems in the Kura-Aras basin, including water quantity, water quality, flooding, habitat protection and bioresources. The first meeting of the technical experts to discuss the TDA took place in Nov 2005 (see attached meeting report).
  • Development of Kura-Aras Strategic Action Programme (SAP) and National Action Plans. The activity is supported by Sida helping the countries produce draft National Action Plans (NAPs) that will act as implementation mechanisms for the SAP. The SAP and NAPs will be developed in parallel in an iterative process. At the end of the preparatory phase the hope is to produce a preliminary SAP which all four countries can endorse and build on during the main project phase.
  • A stakeholder analysis and the establishment of a NGO forum. The qualitative part of the stakeholder analysis has been completed in fall 2005 in three of the four countries and a quantitative survey is planned for early 2006. In conjunction with the Eurasia Foundation two NGO meetings - comprising 10 NGO representatives per country - have been held to asisst NGOs develop transboundry projects for funding and advance ideas for a Kura-Aras NGO forum. The estblishment of a forum has now been agreed and a working group established to develop the charter and a management structure. (See attached NGO Forum Report below for more details.)
  • Development of 4-5 demonstration projects for implementation in the main project. Initial ideas include establishment of transboundary water monitoring stations on the Aras (Az, Ar and Ir), creation of a Flood Management Commission (first stage between Ge and Az) and improved environmental management controls at selected mining sites. Work on development of these demonstration projects will begin in spring 2006 when co-funding will be activiely sought.
  • Two regional conferences to discuss options for future management of the Kura-Aras basin to which representatives from the MoFA and Ministries of Ecology or Natural Resources will be invited. These discussions will continue into the main project. At the end of the preparation stage it is hoped that the countries can sign a declaration to work together to protect the environment of the Kura-Aras basin.
  • Development of the main project document with GEF funding of $6 million and hoped for co-funding of more than $5 million. Co-funding is to be sought in particular for the implementation of the demonstration projects.

Background: The Kura-Aras river system is a principal source of water for industry, agriculture, residential uses and energy in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey. The rivers are important to regional cooperation as they cross and form many of the borders. Both rivers are seriously degraded in places. Water quality is impaired by the dumping of untreated municipal, industrial, medical and agricultural wastes, and by high sedimentation loads resulting from upstream deforestation. Water quantity is constrained by use of water for agricultural and hydropower purposes, which impacts upon the river ecosystem in places. Integrated, inter-country efforts are urgently required to evaluate the degree of ongoing degradation of these river ecosystems and to take action to halt and reverse damaging trends where necessary.

The project aims to ensure that the quality and quantity of the water throughout the Kura-Aras river system meets the short and long-term needs of the ecosystem and the communities relying upon the ecosystem. The project will achieve its objectives by: fostering regional cooperation; increasing capacity to address water quality and quantity problems; demonstrating water quality/quantity improvements; initiating required policy and legal reforms; identifying and preparing priority investments and; developing sustainable management and financial arrangements.

Expected Outcomes

Achievements: Results and Impact

Lessons for Replication

Following lessons can be drawn from the project so far (March 2007):

  • The project has been able to strengthen the regional network of technical experts working on groundwater issues. The regional meeting organized is the first time many of the experts had met since the break-up of the Soviet Union;
  • There is a lack and/or absence of valid and reliable data and this will affect the quality of project deliverables;
  • There is no capacity to undertake integrated management of water resources at the basin level but, also given the current evel of management/regulation, it is not clear that it is implementable in the short to medium term;
  • Lack of funds and understanding of importance of groundwater monitoring among decision makers are the main reasons why GW monitoring has been abandoned in Kura-Aras basin countries since early 90ies;
  • There is lack of clear vision of good management of water resources and absence of national and a regional strategies;


Following progress was made up to date (march 2007):

  • 3 national and a regional report on ground waters completed;
  • First regional meeting held to discuss problems of GW management in the Kura-Aras basin;
  • Initial demonstration project document produced and reviewed for the Alazani-Agrichay (Georgia-Azerbaijan) transboundary aquifer. The project has been supported by the UNDP-GEF Kura-Aras Steering Committee and now a specific project proposal development is being prepared.
  • Possibilities of development of a demonstration project in Samtskhe –Javakheti (Georgia-Armenia) region has been discussed and an initial project document is being prepared. In parallel it has been recommended that a TDA be carried out to identify the issues to be addressed.


See also

External Resources


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