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UNDP projects boosts efforts in the field of climate change and water management in Turkmenistan

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UNDP projects boosts efforts in the field of climate change and water management in TurkmenistanWater scarcity and its quality, as well as efficient management of available water resources are among the most critical issues to be addressed for sustainable development of Turkmenistan.

The National Climate Change Strategy of Turkmenistan, adopted in 2012, envisages  the implementation of a whole set of activities aimed at improving the quality of irrigated lands, re-equipment of the existing irrigation systems and introducing of innovative technologies in the land and water management. In this context, the primary importance is reserved for international cooperation on the issues of rational use and protection of land and water resources, and increasing the water and land management efficiency by learning from best international practices.

The annual reserve volume of inland water resources per capita in Turkmenistan is 232.0 m3. That is the lowest in the region of Central Asia. This stresses the critical importance of the issue. Almost all surface water resources of Turkmenistan (95%) are formed outside the territory of country. At the same time, the volume of incoming water flow to Turkmenistan is determined not only by natural factors, but in a considerable manner by human economic activities. Over 90% of water resources is used for irrigation, and the area of irrigated lands comprises about 2 million hectares.

The forecast of the second National Report of Turkmenistan, prepared within the framework of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is that in the next decade the average temperatures will rise, and water resources will get noticeably reduced. Therefore, the improvement of water management in Turkmenistan, within the context of climate change, should be based primarily on the rational use and protection of water resources used in irrigated agriculture. It is especially important that the industry, communal services and other sectors of the national economy are developing rapidly, and their future needs for water resources will be satisfied at the expense of reducing of water consumption in agriculture.

UNDP has been providing policy and technical support to the government’s endeavors for improving water management within the project of “Addressing climate change risks to farming systems in Turkmenistan at national and community levels” (AF project) by Adaptation Fund/UNDP/Ministry of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan and the UNDP Regional project on "Climate Risk Management in Central Asia" (CRM project). The two projects adopt the approach to combine the demonstration of community-based water efficiency measures and providing policy advisory of improving national water legislation, in order to ensure the sustainability of the project results.

Three pilot districts were selected for demonstration of community-based water-efficient and climate-resilient projects. The pilots are located in three different geographic areas representing three typical agro-ecological areas of the country - mountains, desert and oasis (irrigated agriculture area). In the pilot districts, located in mountainous and desert areas, adaptation activities include harvesting and storage of the surface runoff waters being formed by atmospheric precipitation and gathered using traditional water collection technics. The pilot area located in the oasis represents lands with a wide irrigation and drainage networks. Water supply of this region depends on river waters, which in turn depend on the level of water content of the year.

All pilot districts are different in terms of water supply and types of agricultural production. That is the reason why the implementation of these projects envisages strengthening the capacity building at all levels, implementation of measures to ensure awareness of the importance of problems, and improvement of water management practices considering current and forecasted changes in climate.

Activities were carried out for climate risk and vulnerability assessment at community level in three pilot areas. With the participation of the relevant stakeholders the needs of communities in rural areas in adaptation and mitigation measures were identified and the relevant investment plans were developed.

Drilling two wells, construction of new and renovation of the existing dams and reservoirs, implementing activities for protection and rational use of spring waters, introduction and enhancement of drip irrigation for growing vegetables and fruits, as well as improvement of the soil fertility on the basis of production and use of compost and bio-humus are envisaged in the pilot mountainous area. It is also planned to carry out works aimed at reforestation for the purposes of combating soil erosion in the water harvesting area.

In the desert zone it is planned to construct new wells and conduct overall renovation of the existing ones, also to construct underground water storage reservoirs (sardobs) made of concrete or reinforced concrete, and rain pits (kakov), to clean and reconstruct surface takyrs (natural water harvesting areas) with the purpose to increase the volume of runoff waters formed by atmospheric precipitation. Fixation of sands and afforestation of moving sand dunes are planned to protect local houses and infrastructure from moving sands.

A significant amount of adaptation measures is planned in the pilot area of irrigated agriculture. In this pilot area, it was planned to carry out a whole set of hydraulic and agro-ameliorative activities including construction of new and reconstruction of existing drainage systems in the farms and those shared among the farms, construction of regulation facilities for in-farm irrigation systems, planning of the irrigated lands by application of laser technology means, establishment of field protection belts to provide microclimate and biological drainage for more efficient use of irrigation waters. The implementation of these and other adaptation and mitigation measures will contribute to a more rational use of water (reducing its consumption per unit of cultivated product), and in general, provide the required productivity of irrigated fields, and satisfy the requirements for environmental safety.

In 2014, taking into account the specifics of pilot areas, the CRM project plans to introduce new innovative technologies and train local farmers and specialists on their use by inviting leading specialists from peer and other countries. The need in such technologies was identified in the course of discussions of project experts with farmers, specialists and representatives of local communities. In this regard, there were planned the procurement of a laser land leveler and inviting the specialists to train the farmers on laser land leveling in an irrigated agriculture area; introduction of mini-greenhouses for individual households; training on modern agro-technical methods for fruit trees’ cultivation in mountainous areas; installment of a drip irrigation system in the local school yard along with a training on water saving technologies and growing agricultural crops in the desert areas. Eventually, the implementation of the CRM project activities will create enabling environment for rendering consultation services and expert assessment of the adaptation activities planned under the AF project.

Within the framework of AF project, adaptation activities to address the needs of local communities were planned in consultations with community representatives, experts and farmers. At the policy level, a series of consultations, round tables, seminars and workshops on climate change, selection of adaptation measures, and application of innovative and resource-saving technologies for crop production were conducted to raise awareness of ministries and agencies, and local land and water users. Policy options on water legislation improvement with respect to climate change, socio-economic aspects of water resources management, and participation of water users at community levels were discussed with relevant government institutions to contribute to the on-going process of revision of the Water Code and its related protocols.

The activities of two projects are envisaged to contribute significantly to efficient use of water resources and ensuring the participation of stakeholders at all levels through introducing best international practices.