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Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan. Just add water

Relations between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which complicated on October 10, continue to create hotbeds of tension. One more may appear following the difficulties at the border, where hundreds of heavy trucks with cargoes and people are forced to toil in the queue for days with checks and hassles.

It became known that the Kyrgyz authorities started discharging water from Kirov water reservoir. Almost 90 percent of its volume is spent on the needs of Kazakhstan. The Kazakhs can feel all the fullness of serious problems in the spring of 2018, when water is required for agricultural needs.

Thick as thieves

Kyrgyzstan has one big advantage — Chu and Talas rivers. They are formed on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, but Kazakhstan directly depends on water releases. There were cases when Kazakhstan’s farmland remained without irrigation. In May 2010, 49,000 hectares of irrigated lands of the Republic of Kazakhstan remained without water, and there were no warnings about water supply suspension. Because of these actions, Kazakhstan could lose a crop of potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and beets.

The decision to discharge the water from Kirov reservoir caught Kazakhstan flatfooted. As the head of the Kazakhstan section of Chu-Talas commission secretariat Indira Akbozova told 24.kg news agency, Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan is threatened with flooding. «Every action must be coordinated. It is unacceptable to make a decision unilaterally. The volume of drained water should be discussed. The consequences will be flooding, introduction of the emergency regime. Last year, there were floods, villages were flooded, gas facilities, high-voltage transmission lines were damaged,» she noted.

Resources of Talas river are distributed between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in equal shares, and, consequently, the Kyrgyz Republic can manage its half of the accumulated water volume.

«If the water is completely drained now, will the Kyrgyz Republic meet the conditions of the agreement next year? Manas district of Talas region of Kyrgyzstan and the districts of Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan as well as Taraz city take water from the reservoir. In the spring, Kyrgyzstan will not be able to fulfill the provision on interstate water sharing,» Indira Akbozova added.

However, there are no penalties and sanctions for violation of the conditions of the provision.

Last year, Kyrgyzstan only took note of the information about the losses incurred by Kazakhstan agricultural producers and residents.

Indira Akbozova is sure that the decision to discharge water from the Kirov reservoir is political.

Emergency Situations Ministry is on alert

According to the official representative of the Committee for Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan, Ruslan Imankulov, Kazakhstan received a notification of forthcoming repair work. «Kazakhstan’s duty services keep their fingers on the pulse. The Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic will report about the beginning of the discharge of water. We keep in touch with their duty services,» he said.

According to him, Kyrgyzstan promises to discharge water at a speed of 100 cubic meters per second, the Kazakhstan channel is designed to receive water at a speed of about 200 cubic meters per second. «Therefore, there is an additional volume that we can accept. Nothing serious is expected so far. In any case, all state bodies of Zhambyl region are notified on the fact, all relevant preparatory work has been carried out,» Ruslan Imankulov stressed.

Scheduled repairs

Kyrgyz officials do not see politics in the taken decision, assuring that this repair work is being carried out according to plan. According to the director of the Department of Water Resources and Land Reclamation Kokumbek Tashtanaliev, the flow of Talas river is actually divided in half, but consumers are not using equal amounts of water from Kirov reservoir. «Only 12 percent of the water remains for Kyrgyzstan, other 88 percent go to Kazakhstan. The work carried out is related to the observance of water apportioning. If we replace worn parts, conduct an inspection, there will be more confidence in our hydraulic engineering structures. The vegetation period has just ended. Some farmers still needed water for pre-plowing irrigation. The Kazakh side received a telephone message. Objections were not received from them,» the official said.

The volume of the Kirov reservoir is 550 million cubic meters. To make an inspection, one has to discharge the water to the dead mark — 10 million cubic meters. 30 million cubic meters of water remained in the reservoir after the growing season. This amount will be discharged in 5-6 days.

«The emergency discharge of Kirov reservoir is 400 cubic meters per second. 120 cubic meters per second should not cause any fear. There should not be buildings in the flow flooding zone. It’s not our fault. Let them sort it out. The repair will last 15-20 days,» Kokumbek Tashtanaliev explained.

In 2000, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan signed an agreement on the use of water management facilities of interstate use on Chu and Talas rivers.

The document obliges Kazakhstan to reimburse Kyrgyzstan for the costs of maintenance and repair of canals, dams and reservoirs owned by the Kyrgyz Republic, but ensuring the supply of water to both republics. However, the Kazakh side will not participate in the planned repair.

«This is a strategic object. Strangers are not allowed to enter it, so the work inside is done by the Kyrgyz side, and from the outside — by the Kazakh side,» Kokumbek Tashtanaliev told.

The head of the department promised that by April the reservoir will be filled to the design mark. However, he can not give an absolute guarantee. «The water supply of Talas river is 75 percent. We can not give a 100% guarantee even to our customers that there will be water,» he admitted.

The discharge of water started today. Will it turn into an additional problem for the Kazakhstanis now or in the spring with the beginning of field work?