Statement by the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon at the High-Level International Conference on the implementation of the International Decade for Action “Water for Life”, 2005-2015
Distinguished Heads of Governments and Delegations
Distinguished UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon,
Ladies and gentlemen!
At the outset, I would like to welcome you on the hospitable Tajik soil and your participation at the High-Level International Conference on the implementation of the International Decade for Action “Water for Life”, 2005-2015.
Ten years ago the UN General Assembly launched the International Decade “Water for Life”. The Decade, initiated by Tajikistan, was widely supported by all UN Member States due to special importance of the water as a strategically vital resource and deep understanding by the International community of the growing importance of water issues.
Today we have approached the final stage of this important Decade and it is necessary to conclude the results of work done, discuss and define steps for achievement of sustainable development of water recourses.
The level of participation in today’s Conference is the evidence of the high interest of the governments, UN agencies, international and regional, as well as children and women organizations, private sector and civil society in achievement and implementation of the International Decade’s goals and targets.
Dear participants of the Conference,
The main goal of proclamation of the International Decade “Water for Life” was contribution to the efforts of the international community on fulfillment by 2015 of obligations undertaken at the international level related to water recourses.
During the recent years of this Decade, namely thanks to new approaches and coordinated efforts, a significant progress has been achieved in implementation of the internationally agreed goals on water, including achievement of relevant Millennium Development Goals (halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation). Today the process of gradual implementation of declared initiatives are followed-up, integration of water issues into programmes and development plans are observed and consolidation of more efforts of all parties concerned in achievements of agreed water-related goals is underway.
However, today’s rapidly changing world brings new challenges and threats which, unfortunately, divert attention away from the main direction of undertaken efforts. This situation requires huge recourses, time and relevant efforts to prevent and combat them. Climate change, population growth, natural disasters, economic and financial and food and energy crisis, infectious diseases, terrorism and extremism, military conflicts in some countries and regions across the globe, other modern challenges and threats have considerably impeded the implementation of the International Decade’s goals and targets.
In this regard, the water issue still remains vitally important in today's global agenda. Despite significant achievements in meeting the Millennium Development Goals target on drinking water, sanitation still lags behind considerably. At the same time different levels of implementation of these targets in different regions, developed and developing countries, urban and rural areas, rich and poor groups of population are a matter of concern.
According to some reports near 750 million people do not have access to clean drinking water, and 2.5 billion lack access to basic sanitation. About 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity. Water disasters cause 60 billion US dollars economic losses annually, and drought and desertification threaten the livelihoods of more than 1.2 billion people all over the world.
Global climate change and demographic situation undoubtedly will have a significant impact on these processes. According to the experts’ estimations the world population will increase to more than 9 billion by 2050 causing the increase in water demand. It is expected that due to the impact of climate change at this point more than 50% of the world's population will face water scarcity.
This situation requires from us to make more consolidated efforts and take both urgent and long-term measures. To this end during the 7th World Water Forum I have proposed a new initiative of Tajikistan to the world community. Today I would like once again to bring to your attention this initiative by proposing to announce a new International Decade for Action under the motto “Water for Sustainable Development, which we believe should become an important tool for promoting the implementation of sustainable development goals related to water.
I am confident that the new decade will strengthen and enhance the progress achieved during the “Water for Life” Decade and will create a good platform for consolidation of our efforts aimed at further management of water issues for the post 2015 period.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Tajikistan is the richest Central Asian country in terms of water resources. In the territory of the country 64 billion cubic meters of water originate annually that makes more than 60% of river flow of the region.
The Government of Tajikistan attaches a great importance to improvement of water supply to the national economy and population.
During the period of the "Water for Life" Decade for Action nearly 1 billion and 648 million US dollars from different sources has been invested in implementation of water related projects and programs. In this period one and a half million people in the country have got access to safe drinking water.
Nevertheless, providing population with clean drinking water still remains the priority issue for the country’s water sector, since regardless of significant achievements of the last decade the target to improve water supply conditions is significantly behind the schedule.
Hydropower being the most important component of the economy of Tajikistan is the country’s main source of power supply to the population and economy. 98% of electricity in Tajikistan is generated by hydropower plants. Despite the enormous hydropower potential Tajikistan due to various problems currently uses no more than near 4 percent of its potential and each year up to six months during the winter season population of the country faces severe power shortages.
This situation is absolutely unacceptable in the conditions of the beginning of XXI century and will have negative impact on the socio-economic development of the country and the achievement of all development goals.
Hence, the development of energy sector is included by the Government of Tajikistan in the strategic goals of the country. It is, first of all, aimed at ensuring adequate access to energy and improving the well-being of the people of the country, in full accordance with the UN Secretary-General’s “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative, in the framework of which Tajikistan is a pilot country.
The other strategic goal of the Government of Tajikistan is to ensure food security in the country. The high rates of population growth, the country’s mountainous relief and limited area suitable for irrigation require rational and efficient use of water and land resources.
Various measures and approaches on food security are being implemented by the Government, including allocation of great efforts and resources for improvement of land reclamation. And new lands development in the condition of our mountainous country, as you might be aware, is a very high-cost activity.
Difficult mountainous conditions also make Tajikistan one of the most vulnerable countries to ongoing climate change in the Eurasian continent.
According to the observation records of the past 60 years, annual temperature in the country has on average increased by 0.5-1C. As a consequence, an intensive melting of snowfields and glaciers is observed in the highland areas of the country, resulting in loss of more than thousand glaciers of Tajikistan. According to expert estimations in the medium- and long-term perspective, this could lead to reduction in river flow, which is fraught with consequences not only for Tajikistan, but also for the whole region.
Climate change will also be conducive to more frequent natural disasters, accompanied by a significant economic loss and sometimes loss of life. For the past ten years water related natural disasters have caused to the economy of the country loss of 1 billion US dollars and took hundreds of lives.
An equally important factor in addressing the problems related to water resources is sustainable financing of the water sector and use of modern technology. In pursuing these aims, the Government of Tajikistan, along with its own resources, is attracting funds from international organizations, donors and foreign investors.
We believe that further strengthening of cooperation with all partners in addressing these issues will yield positive results in achieving the water related goals.
Dear participants of the conference,
Strengthening the water, energy and food nexus, infrastructure development, increase of funding and enhancing water cooperation are imperative requirements of the day and they consolidate the international community’s efforts to achieve sustainable development in the field of water resources.
In the outcome document of the Rio+20 the “Green” growth has been highlighted as the main approach in the strategy of further development of mankind.
For implementation of this approach certain efforts on the sustainable management and use of natural resources are required. Water resources, as a renewable energy source, also occupy a worthy place in the “Green” growth.
For all this, integrated water resources management has been and remains as an essential and rational approach to achieve the water-related goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The issues of water, energy, food, environment in Central Asia are closely interdependent and their solution requires an integrated approach. It should be noted that due to the new threats and challenges the situation is becoming more complicated every year.
The current situation in the region portends little optimistic projections. The impact of climate change has already led, as it was noted above, to the reduction of glaciers and snowfields in the volume and area, which are the main source of water resources. It is obvious that in the medium- and long-term perspective, this will led to the reduction the river flows.
The rapid population growth rate in the region, being an important factor in the region's water supply, has led to a significant increase in water consumption by the economy and population of these countries. Thus, the area of irrigated land in Central Asia, estimated at 2.5 - 3 million hectares in the beginning of the XX century, by the end of the century has grown to 8.5 million hectares and population of the region, which was slightly more than 20 million in 1956, has reached 65 million people.
As a result, if in the early 1960's of the past century, the region consumed about 60 cubic km of water per year, today this figure has reached more than 110 cubic km per year. It is estimated that by 2030, the growth of water consumption in Central Asia will increase by 15-20%.
At the same time, the available resources of the region – with their rational and efficient development – may well cover the growing needs of the population and economies of the region in water, contributing to the solution of problems related to the achievement of food and energy security. In this regard, the construction of new infrastructure by using new technology in water and energy sector, undoubtedly, is important and necessary to further address these issues.
Only mutually beneficial and adequate cooperation in the field of water resources will contribute to the solution of socio-economic and environmental problems of the region for the benefit of all the peoples inhabited in it.
Tajikistan is committed to such cooperation and addressing all existing problems on the basis of mutual respect, good neighborliness and mutually beneficial partnership principles.
Dear participants of the Conference,
Tajikistan is consistently and actively promoting the water issue on the global agenda. Our country is the initiator of most UN General Assembly “water” resolutions in the recent 15 years.
I believe that these initiatives have to some extent contributed to better understanding of water issues at the global level and the need to give high priority to address them in the name of sustainable socio-economic development, to ensure environmental harmony, peace and stability and on the whole, constructive development.
Of course, the contribution of the International Decade for Action “Water for Life” in this process, taking into account its duration, the goals and targets, is obviously essential. However, it is approaching its completion.
I am confident that with your active participation during the Conference, there will be summarized the progress made, lessons learnt and best practices in the implementation of the International Decade for Action "Water for Life" and there will be discussed further activities and efforts of the world community to achieve sustainable development in the field of water resources for the post 2015 period.
Selected topics for discussion in the framework of the Conference are the most important and comprehensive and it is important for the participants of the Conference, along with summarizing the Decade, to identify the main problems and difficulties, formulating specific recommendations and measures for further achievement of internationally agreed goals and targets in the sphere of water resources.
It is not an easy task but I am confident that, thanks to impressive level of experience, skills and knowledge of all participants gathered here today, the Conference will be able to significantly contribute to achieving these goals.
Most likely no one can deny that water is the most precious resource in human life, because water is life, water is development and water is a secured future for the new generations. We need to do everything in our hands to ensure that all these slogans become a reality.
I am confident that today's Conference, along with other events of the year, will make a significant contribution to the realization of these goals, in the decision-making process on sustainable development goals on water, which will be reviewed by the countries at the Sustainable Development Summit in September of this year in New York.
In conclusion, I would like to once again wish you all fruitful work and pleasant stay in our country.
I thank you for your attention.