Kyrgyzstan wants to sell dirty water – Nathan Greenberg

In parliament of Kyrgyzstan the same old story about payment for water by Kazakhstan was raised once again. This subject was born not yesterday, but now Deputy Umbetala Kydyraliyev brought up this question again during hearings under the bill of introduction of amendments to the Water Code of KR and the legislation on water (these changes provide introduction of payment for water resources).

But, as it often happens in Kyrgyzstan, quick-tempered discussion of this question was not without any incidents. Kydyraliyev, in particular, said that Kyrgyzstan has already adopted a certain law which obliges Kazakhstan to pay for water which it receives from Kyrgyzstan and angrily questioned why KR Zhogorku Kenesh does not demand neighboring states to execute this law.

In general, many in Kyrgyzstan referred to this law adopted in 2002 at discussion of cross-border water problems. But it is strange to refer somehow, without specifying exact date of its acceptance, its title and other details of this document. And it looks very strange. Kydyraliyev could refer to the main argument more precisely.

Search in the database of the Kyrgyz legislation on water resources made by the Ministry of Justice of KR gave a little unexpected result. As one would expect, Kydyraliyev (or who first started a subject about the law on introduction of payment for water resources for neighboring states) forgot a lot. Firstly, if to be more exact it was not in 2002, but in 2001, or on June 29, 2001. It is the law “About Interstate Use of Water Objects, Water Resources and Water Constructions of the Kyrgyz Republic”.

Secondly, there is a phrase: «chargeable water use in the interstate water relations”. But it belongs to Article 3 in which the principles of cooperation in the sphere of the interstate water relations by which Kyrgyzstan is going to be guided are formulated. And it runs: “… and also when carrying out interstate negotiations on water problems the Kyrgyz Republic proceeds from the following principles and provisions”. And further the list in which the principle quoted at the beginning of the paragraph is on the third place. You will not forbid guiding such principles in negotiations, because this business is sovereign.

Thirdly, declaration of the principle does not mean the actual introduction of payment for water yet. Because, in the same Article 3, on the same list on the sixth place such situation is formulated: “the solution of questions of water supply, chargeable water use, and distribution of profits on use of reservoirs and other irrigational constructions of the Kyrgyz Republic by other states is provided by interstate agreements and contracts”.

That is, if Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan would conclude the agreement among themselves that Kazakhstan pays for the water received from Kyrgyzstan then Kyrgyzstan would have the right this payment to demand. But, as far as I know, such agreement is still not concluded, and Ministry of Water Management order of the USSR of 1983 about water intake quotas from the Chu and Talas Rivers still works (Talas – 50% to Kazakhstan, 50% to Kyrgyzstan; Chu – 42% to Kazakhstan and 58% to Kyrgyzstan).

So, all pathos of Kydyraliyev’s performance should be directed to Kyrgyz government, in particular to the MFA of KR which did not make an agreement with Kazakhstan about payment for a cross-border drain of water. However, they will hardly be able to achieve it. Kazakhstan, undoubtedly, will protect the right to water which, by the way, is based also on international law.
If there is no interstate agreement on payment for water, then and the statement of the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, the food industry and melioration of KR Zhanybek Kerimaliyev (he said that Kazakhstan pays 119 million tenge for water) to which the deputy Kydyraliyev referred is the most ordinary misinformation. This sum was granted by Kazakhstan for the maintenance of hydraulic engineering constructions on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, and is not payment for water at all. By the way, Kazakhstan fulfills the obligations under the agreement with Kyrgyzstan, concluded in 2000 and come into force in 2002 in which joint financing of expenses on operation and service of water management constructions on the territory of Kyrgyzstan is provided.
The amazing thing is the deputy of Zhogorku Kenesh does not know and does not remember the Kyrgyz legislation on the question which is brought up by him. Before taking floor on a tribune, he should guide necessary references. Otherwise there happened embarrassment.

Well, the Kyrgyz deputies (under the law “About Water” of KR the owner of water in Kyrgyzstan is legally the parliament) want to sell the water to Kazakhstan. They imagine rosy pictures as flowing-down from mountains pure water turns into dollars…In the same vein Turdakun Usubaliyev who was the chairman of parliamentary committee on use of water resources acted in parliament of Kyrgyzstan in 2002. He then shone with eloquence: “Hydropower and other irrigational constructions of Kyrgyzstan transfer clean, non- mineralized water to the lower currents and still this fact was challenged by nobody and cannot be challenged because water is so pure as far as it can be clean in our modern world”.

It is already possible to speak in the past tense that Kyrgyz water is clean. All available data on pollution of the cross-border Chu and Talas Rivers say that water coming from Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan is strongly polluted. And, if in 2001 the Chu River still belonged to pure waters, then in 2002 – to moderate polluted, and in 2007 – “very dirty”. The content of nitrogen nitrating (which notes water pollution by sewer and agricultural sewage) exceeded threshold limit value by 29 times!

And in 2017 the Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz experts investigated tests of water from Chu and Talas. As agency reports, on average in Chu current, below dumping of the Bishkek sewerage, the content of ammonium nitrogen was in 2.8 times more of admissible concentration, and nitrating nitrogen – by 2.7 times. Oil products in the river were 4-10 times more of admissible concentration. Such water cannot be drunk, and it does not suit for irrigation of fields.
This circumstance shows all absurdity of the proposal of the Kyrgyz deputies selling water. As a matter of fact, they want to sell water to Kazakhstan, I’m sorry, having spoiled it previously. And how is it possible to qualify so strong pollution of the Chu River drains of the sewerage of Bishkek?

If Kyrgyzstan wants to sell water, then it has to or put in order all the treatment facilities, so that water on a boundary alignment always conformed to sanitary and epidemiologic requirements, or to pay Kazakhstan compensation for all harm and damage which is caused by dirty water. All or nothing and other options are simply unacceptable. If Kyrgyzstan tries to fulfill these requirements, then probably it will receive clean and very considerable loss from water trade.