President Shavkat Mirziyoyev chaired a government meeting on measures for rational use of water resources and reducing their losses on Wednesday.
According to the presidential press service, 20% of water resources, or 10 billion cubic meters, are formed within the country, the remaining 41 billion cubic meters are in the territory of neighboring states. As a result of climate change, the volume of water resources in Uzbekistan has decreased by 20% over the past three years. The situation in terms of management of transboundary rivers remains difficult. According to forecasts, by 2030 the water shortage in Uzbekistan could reach 15 billion cubic meters, the president said.
“However, even in such conditions, water is used irrationally. In our country, 90% of water resources (46 billion cubic meters) are spent on agriculture. For example, 10-11 thousand cubic meters of water are spent per year to irrigate 1 hectare of cotton field, while in countries with similar climate and soil, as well as a large volume of water, they spend 2-3 times less water. And all this is achieved through proper water management and preventing their loss,” the message says.
He questioned whether this approach could lead to food security, high yields, income, exports and jobs.
About $1 billion is spent annually on water management. The sector is the 4th largest recipient of budget contributions after education, healthcare and agriculture. However, due to incorrect calculations and the persistence of outdated approaches to water resource management, this does not give the expected effect, said Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev, addressing the Deputy PM Jamshid Kuchkarov, Minister of Water Resources Shavkat Khamraev, Minister of Agriculture Ibrokhim Abdurakhmonov, governors and district mayors, noted that 2024 will be a period of transition to an emergency regimen of work to save water. The permanent republican headquarters for organizing this regimen will be headed by Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance Adiz Boboev.
In this case, the primary task is to concrete canals and ditches. It is estimated that on average 14 billion cubic meters or 36% of water is lost per year in natural cover irrigation systems without any economic benefit. The largest volume of losses occurs in Karakalpakstan (43%), Namangan (40%), Navoi (38%), Khorezm (38%) and Bukhara (37%) regions, in 19 regions the figure exceeds 40%. The situation with water supply on the 175 thousand hectares of cropland of 3,200 farmers, who are located at the end of the canals, is very difficult.
Overall, the economy loses $5 billion in revenue per year as a result of water loss.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev believes that the only solution to the problem is concreting canals and ditches. With reference to the analysis of international experts, he stated that by concreting 447 of the most important canals, losses can be reduced by 30%, or 4 billion cubic meters. The head of state announced a “shock year for concreting canals” in the water sector.
The task has been set to concrete 1,500 km next year, that is, 4 times more channels than this year. In 2025, at least 2,000 km of canals will have to be concreted.
He emphasized that the best time for this was the months from November to March. Therefore, we need to start building canals with ready-made projects now. Khokims of regions and districts were instructed to convert 3,500 kilometers of internal irrigation systems to concrete pavements in one year. It was noted that by providing special equipment and construction materials to clusters and farmers interested in this, costs can be halved.
The president instructed Deputy Head of the Ministry of Economic Finance Adiz Boboev, Head of the Ministry of Water Resources Shavkat Khamraev, Deputy Minister of Water Resources Rustam Karshiev and Chairman of Agrobank Rustam Mamatkulov to create an algorithm to reduce costs and improve the quality of canal concreting programs in each region and district.
“We must transfer pumping stations to private partners and replace [their equipment] with new energy-efficient ones... Boboev will analyze costs and quality for each district and provide a separate report to the president every month. If we work on this system for two years, then I believe that there will be big changes,” said Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Minister of Water Resources Shavkat Khamraev said that funds from international financial institutions, as well as 600 billion soums from the state budget, will be attracted for concreting the canals.
In October, it was reported that over two years, almost $2 billion was allocated from the budget of Uzbekistan for water management (excluding the state debt of $2.54 billion), but the situation with water loss and the condition of pumps only worsened during this time. In 2024, it is planned to allocate another 1.7 trillion soums and loans of $300 million.