Kazakhstan at the IFAS Anniversary Summit: 30 years of struggle for the Aral Sea


The second day of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's working visit to Tajikistan began with his participation in the meeting of the Council of Heads of State – Founders of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS), DKNews.kz reports.

At the beginning of his speech, the Head of State expressed gratitude to the Tajik side and personally to President Emomali Rahmon for the warm reception and excellent organization of the event, and welcomed the participation of Kaha Imnadze, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, in the forum.

The Kazakh leader emphasized the symbolic significance of the milestone summit held in the year marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of IFAS.

During its existence, IFAS has become the most important institution of regional cooperation in the issues of transboundary water resources sharing, as well as solving environmental and socio-economic problems in the Aral Sea basin. It is difficult to overstate the role of the Fund in ensuring security, stability and sustainable development of Central Asia. Moreover, IFAS is one of the few successful mechanisms of regional cooperation demonstrating Central Asia's agency on the international stage. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

The Head of State praised Tajikistan's chairmanship, during which efforts to enhance the organizational structure and legal framework of IFAS were actively underway.

For the first time in almost half a century, the UN Water Conference was held in New York under the co-chairmanship of Tajikistan and the Netherlands. Undoubtedly, this is a landmark event for our region. From the high rostrum of the UN General Assembly, a unified voice of the Central Asian region on the future of the Aral Sea was heard, and the Joint Statement of the Central Asian States was presented. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

President noted several challenges and problems facing the region.

Central Asia's security is threatened by global climate change, the onset of the dry season and the shortage of irrigation water. According to international experts, the temperature in our region is rising much faster than the global average. This leads to a reduction in the area of glaciers, the main source of water in the Aral Sea basin. Their volume has decreased by 30% over the last 50 years. According to analysts' estimates, by 2050, droughts in Central Asia may cause amounting to 1.3% of GDP per year, resulting in approximately 5 million internal climate migrants. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

He then addressed the issue of inefficient water use.

The degree of flow regulation of two main rivers of our region - Syr Darya and Amu Darya – is extremely high. More than 80 reservoirs have been built in their basins, the total volume of which reaches almost 65 cubic kilometers. As a result, we can expect an increase in anthropogenic load, continuation of extensive natural resource use, and an aggravation of various socio-ecological problems. All of this creates serious risks to regional security. A Kazakh proverb says: "Water is a source of well-being". I believe that our states should form water policies based on the understanding that water is a limited natural resource, upon which the well-being and sustainable development of the entire region directly depend. The issue of maximizing water saving through the introduction of digital technologies is pressing. This direction can become the main focus of our cooperation on water resources. In my recent Address, I paid special attention to water issues. At my directive, Kazakhstan has established the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, which will closely address the pressing issues in this sector. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

The President then shared his vision for the further development of the Fund. He called for the swift completion of the process of improving the organizational structure and legal framework of IFAS.

The powers and responsibilities of the Board and Executive Committee of the Fund should be expanded. I also propose to transform the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination into the Interstate Commission for Water and Energy. These steps would increase the efficiency of IFAS. It is necessary to address the issue of equitable distribution of IFAS working bodies among the participating countries and to staff them with representatives of all Central Asian states. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

The Kazakh President emphasized the need to create a mechanism for long-term and sustainable cooperation for the effective use of water and energy resources in Central Asia, taking into account the interests of all countries in the region. He suggested that the International Water and Energy Consortium could serve as such a mechanism.

To ensure transparency of water use in the region and strengthen the dialogue and friendship between Central Asian countries, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed to develop a Work Plan, which would introduce a unified automated system of accounting, monitoring, management and distribution of water resources in the Aral Sea basin.

In addition, President Tokayev highlighted the need to establish a Project Office of Central Asian countries focusing on climate issues, which would enable joint development of effective measures to adapt to climate change and mitigate its consequences.

Having positively assessed Bishkek's participation in the work of the working bodies, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called on the Kyrgyz Republic to resume its full participation in IFAS.

In his concluding remarks, the Head of State emphasized that only close cooperation, mutually beneficial partnership and respect for each other's interests can ensure stable development, security and economic self-sufficiency of the region.

The President proposed to hold the next summit within the framework of IFAS in Kazakhstan in 2026, combining it with the Regional Climate Summit initiated by Kazakhstan under the auspices of the UN.

President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, President Serdar Berdimuhamedov of Turkmenistan, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan, and Adylbek Kassymaliyev, the First Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic also addressed the meeting.

The summit concluded with the signing of several documents:

  1. The Dushanbe Statement of the Heads of States – Founders of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea;
  2. Decision of the Heads of States – Founders of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea: On the outcomes of the Republic of Tajikistan’s chairmanship of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea;
  3. Decision of the Heads of States – Founders of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea: On actions to improve organizational structure and legal framework of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea;
  4. Decision of the Heads of States – Founders of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea: On election of the President of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.

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