HomeWorldAsiaWater Diplomacy: Tajikistan's Global Leadership and Sustainable Initiatives

Water Diplomacy: Tajikistan’s Global Leadership and Sustainable Initiatives


Mirsaid Rahmonov

Water is one of the most valuable and essential resources, crucial for the survival of all living creatures. This precious resource provides the energy necessary for growth and sustenance. Water can be seen as a vital solution, bringing new life and a sense of renewal to everything it touches. Tajikistani anthropologist Dr. Muzaffari emphasizes the importance of water, describing it as a miraculous substance with a memory that lasts up to 30 years. Water is undeniably a key element that plays a fundamental role in human life.

One of the main global issues related to water is the use and distribution of its resources for irrigation. In many countries, water resources are not properly regulated and distributed efficiently, leading to significant problems. This improper distribution affects people worldwide, causing disparities and conflicts over water access.

The Persian-Tajik proverb “The jeweller knows the value of gold” highlights the importance of recognizing the true value of resources. Tajikistan is one of the few water-rich countries in the world, developing into a regional hub for energy and water. Its strategic location and abundant water resources, particularly the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, have been crucial for the country’s economic and social development.

The residents of Tajikistan are proud of their abundant natural resources, including clean air, attractive mountains, and, notably, plentiful water sources. The President of Tajikistan has recognized the importance of these resources and has taken significant steps to utilize them effectively for the benefit of humanity. The global initiatives led by Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, have played a crucial role in addressing water issues on an international level.

Tajikistan has been actively and consistently promoting water issues on the global agenda for the past 20 years and is a key partner in the UN’s global humanitarian programs. Tajikistan initiated the UN Group of Friends of Water in 2009 and the Group of Friends of Glaciers in 2023, emphasizing the importance of valuing and wisely using this precious resource. Through Tajikistan’s compassionate initiatives, numerous forums and conferences, such as “Clean Water,” “Water for Life,” and “Water for Sustainable Development” (2018-2028), have been held and will continue to be organized regularly.

To raise awareness about Tajikistan’s global water policy and the outcomes of the UN 2023 Water Conference, several scientific seminars have been conducted with global partnership cooperation. Notably, a joint seminar was held from March 22 to 24, 2023, in New York, co-chaired by Tajikistan and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, focusing on water and ecological environment issues.

Tajikistan takes pride in its constructive and timely initiatives, under the guidance of its President, which have addressed water and environmental issues both regionally and globally. These initiatives are considered vital diplomacy for economic development and the well-being of people. Furthermore, Tajikistan has consistently prioritized climate change and environmental crises, with the President’s direct involvement making these efforts among the country’s most prestigious and impactful initiatives.

In this regard, the President said in his speech: “Everyone should understand that the value of water is not less than the value of oil, gas, and other types of fuels and energy sources for the stable future of the country and the region.”

It should not be forgotten that today more than 70 percent of people on the planet use water to irrigate land. Since 1950, this percentage has tripled. Another major problem is soil salinity, which, through irrigation, causes the soil to absorb water, collide with underground salts, settle on the surface, and reduce its productivity. Thus, according to sources, one-third of the world’s population currently suffers from a lack of water and is emotionally vulnerable. Water disasters indeed cause $60 billion in economic losses annually, and drought and desertification threaten the livelihoods of more than 1.2 billion people across the world. Meanwhile, global climate change and demographic shifts will undoubtedly have a significant negative impact on these issues.

Social study experts estimate that the world’s population will increase to more than 9 billion by 2050, increasing water demand. Therefore, it is feared that due to the impact of climate change, more than 50% of the world’s population will face water scarcity.

Implementation of the initiative will lead to improvements in the welfare of the population, social development, environmental protection, broad universal access to electricity, prevention of water-related natural disasters, and many other priorities.

It is worth mentioning that the Central Asian region, especially Tajikistan, is rich in hydroelectric power resources, possessing 4% of the world’s and 53% of the region’s hydel energy resources. In addition to power projects, the country is working on sustainable development and the integrated management of water resources.

It should be noted that Tajikistan has more than 1,300 lakes, most of which are located in the Pamir region. The high mountains of the region are situated at an altitude of 3,500 to 5,000 meters above sea level. The President of Tajikistan recognized these abundant resources and features with wisdom, leading to the decree on December 1, 2001, “On the approval of the Concept of effective use and protection of water resources in the country,” which emphasizes the importance of using clean, pure, drinking water accordingly.

Consequently, on June 20-21, 2018, the International Conference on the launch of the International Decade of Action “Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028” was held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Representatives from more than 110 countries attended, and in separate sessions, various aspects of water-related problems, including “Strengthening actions for sustainable development of water resources,” “Implementation of water sector reforms in the Republic of Tajikistan,” “Public dialogue on the final report,” and “Water problems in the case of refugees and immigrants” were analyzed and discussed in detail.

It is worth mentioning that the International Decade of Action “Water for Sustainable Development” was initially proposed by the Republic of Tajikistan and was approved and accepted by the United Nations. Since then, Tajikistan and the UN have been organizing high-level international conferences on the “International Decade for Action, Water for Sustainable Development 2018-2028.” Recognizing the value of this precious resource and conveying its importance to the world to be used wisely is crucial for the safety and well-being of humanity.

Pakistan was one of the first to recognize Tajikistan’s independence and opened its embassy in Dushanbe. Diplomatic relations between Tajikistan and Pakistan were established in June 1992. Tajikistan and Pakistan have signed more than 50 regulatory and legal documents, enhancing their cooperation. The government of Pakistan appreciates Tajikistan’s global water initiatives and suggests taking serious measures to become part of the water initiative launched by Tajikistan. Due to population growth, Pakistan faces acute water and power shortages affecting its agriculture and factories. A high-level Pakistani delegation regularly participates in Tajikistan conferences, offering practical recommendations for achieving sustainable development goals related to water resources.

Cooperation in this sphere will meet sector needs and generate cheap electricity to meet the fast-growing power demand. The shortage of water and power negatively impacts productivity. Pakistan is working on the Central Asia-South Asia CASA-1000 electricity import project, aiming to transform 1,300 megawatts of power from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to South Asian states such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. This project will provide energy to South Asian regions, benefiting both exporting and importing countries by generating income and supplying environmentally friendly and cheap electricity, crucial for economic development and addressing energy shortages.

Pakistan’s admittance to the SCO as a full member opened several new opportunities for the country and reinvigorated several projects that had been consigned to the file cabinet due to slow progress. One of the most important is the CASA-1000 project, which aims to limit Pakistan’s summer electricity shortfall and the resulting devastating power outages. At the same time, it will allow Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to convert their surplus electricity to the South Asian region.

Similarly, water and its role in human life are considered important issues and are consistently discussed in regional and transregional seminars. Tajikistan and Pakistan recognize water and energy power issues as major global problems and emphasize that the world is currently facing shortages. Thus, on April 24-26, 2024, at the initiative of the Embassy of the Republic of Tajikistan in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the first international conference was held at the University of Great Asia (Grand Asia) in the city of Sialkot, Pakistan, the birthplace of the philosopher and poet Muhammad Iqbal. The event focused on water, ecology, and climate change, highlighting Tajikistan’s efforts on these issues. The seminar brought together heads of meteorology institutes, water and climate research institutes, representatives and experts in climate and water energy from European countries, energy and “green” energy institutes, professors, students, and domestic and foreign media who actively participated and expressed their opinions. The conference aimed to promote efforts to meet international commitments on water and water-related issues, including the development goals outlined in the UN Millennium Declaration, and to protect safe drinking water and basic sanitation worldwide. Participants engaged in comprehensive discussions to play a crucial role in implementing the international decade and making its results evident to the wider international community.

The representative of the Embassy of Tajikistan in Pakistan addressed the conference, emphasizing that Tajikistan, with 93% of its territory comprised of mountains, is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Each year, the region faces a range of natural disasters, including floods, landslides, avalanches, and other water-related issues.

In response, the Government of Tajikistan has implemented the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the period up to 2030, aiming to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on the socio-economic sectors in the region. Despite its minimal contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, ranking 130th globally due to low emissions, Tajikistan stands out as one of the leading producers of “green” energy.

Furthermore, an international scientific-practical conference was held on April 25-26, 2024, at the initiative of the Institute for the Study of the Issues of Asian and European States of the National Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan. The conference, titled “Development of Cooperation between Central Asian Countries in the Water and Energy Sector,” gathered experts, officials, and scientists from Central Asia, Europe, and the United States. Discussions covered various topics, including the current situation and prospects for expanding cooperation on water security issues, mechanisms to encourage cooperation, new approaches to water and energy security management amidst climate change, educational programs for managing water resources, glacier-related natural disasters, diplomatic strategies for resolving water and energy challenges, distribution and proper utilization of water resources, and the regulation of transboundary water resources of the Amu Darya river basin. These discussions aimed to inform and engage the wider international community on critical issues facing the region.

It’s important to highlight that, like many other regions around the world, Central Asia and South Asia are also experiencing the impacts of climate change. If left unchecked, these changes will lead to adverse consequences. Notably, Tajikistan is a significant producer of hydroelectric power, generating 98% of its electricity from hydroelectric plants, ranking sixth globally in terms of “green” energy production. In light of this, the mayor of Dushanbe, the capital city of Tajikistan, has declared 2024 as the Year of Environmental Education. This initiative coincides with the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the State Independence and aims to promote the “900 days of city development” project, focusing on enhancing greenery.

Furthermore, an international scientific-practical conference titled “The Role of Cities in the Implementation of Green Initiatives: The Experience of Dushanbe” was convened in Tajikistan’s capital, emphasizing strategies for productive greenery protection programs. Tajikistan aspires to become a green country, with its capital poised to be one of the greenest cities in Central Asia by 2037. The objective is to raise environmental awareness, maintain cleanliness, preserve ecological values, and ensure environmental security.

The pressing water issues underscore the necessity for states to enhance cooperation in addressing this challenge. Moreover, affluent nations must recognize the value of their water resources to avoid squandering their wealth and assets. To this end, in June 2024, the third high-level international conference on the International Decade of Action “Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028” will convene in Dushanbe. This conference aims to share best practices, foster innovative solutions, strengthen partnerships, and underscore the pivotal role of water in sustainable development. Organized by the Government of Tajikistan in collaboration with the UN, this event will be attended by global leaders, representatives of UN agencies, regional and international organizations, and financial institutions, both in person and virtually.

Thus, by hosting it, Tajikistan aims to establish a platform for monitoring, promoting, and supporting the implementation of the voluntary commitments outlined in the Water Agenda of the UN Conference on Water Resources. Additionally, it seeks to foster new partnerships and expedite actions to achieve the goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030.

In conclusion, under the initiative of the President of Tajikistan, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted 4 resolutions on water and 1 resolution declaring 2025 as the International Year of Glacier Protection and March 21 as World Glacier Day. These initiatives are deemed highly significant and timely.

Tajikistan’s constructive plans and initiatives to provide water to people worldwide, enforce established laws with specific regional tariffs to safeguard the environment and economy, utilizing existing resources, are underscored by the acronym WATER—symbolizing Watering World, Activating Accordance, Tariff Territory, Ecological Economy, and Reasonable Resources. This emphasizes the value and importance of these scarce and precious natural liquids.

Countries worldwide, especially in South Asian regions like Pakistan, view positively the proposals and initiatives of the President of Tajikistan, a leading advocate on water and climate issues. Through forums and meetings, efforts are made to collectively address crucial water and climate concerns through advice, consultation, and efficient water usage.

In conclusion, the water and ecology-protected environment diplomacy demonstrates its efficacy and fairness on paper, aiding in ensuring that all regional states can safeguard their respective interests. Meeting commitments and ensuring timely and successful project completion will further solidify states’ positions in the region among concerned nations.

Tajikistan, along with its peace-loving populace and environmentally conscious states such as Pakistan and India, as active members of the UN and SCO, are grateful for their abundant resources. Thus, it is imperative to share and contribute to global greenery, ecological preservation, and ongoing regional and global peace and prosperity.

*The author is a Senior Research Analyst at the Institute of Asian and European Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan

**The opinions in this article are the author’s own and may not represent the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization does not endorse or assume responsibility for the content.

The Diplomatic Insight is a digital and print magazine focusing on diplomacy, defense, and development since 2009.

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