In Central Asia, energy and water security are critical to boosting income levels, reducing poverty, and ensuring sustainable development for all citizens across the region. This cannot be achieved, however, without enhanced cooperation at both the national and regional level.
To this end, the World Bank’s Central Asia Energy-Water Development Program (CAEWDP) works to strengthen energy and water security through partnerships with all five Central Asian countries, plus Afghanistan, in regional initiatives and with development partners. The Program delivers substantial technical expertise, analytics, and diagnostics in order to stimulate more informed decision-making and smarter investments.
CAEWDP also oversees the “Central Asia Knowledge Network Program” which aims to foster cooperation and knowledge exchange among local and regional institutions and practitioners in the areas of water resource management, energy, and climate change in Central Asia.
Developed in 2013, this comprehensive integrated knowledge and capacity building program has established a regional network of knowledge institutions and communities of practice of technical specialists, providing advice to its members through different forms of knowledge sharing, experience exchange, collaboration, and outreach.
On June 16, 2016, representatives of national, regional, and international organizations working in water-energy resource and climate change management across Central Asia convened at a workshop in Almaty, Kazakhstan to discuss the results of the Knowledge Networks and Communities of Practice for Water-Energy and Climate Change Management Program, conducted by CAEWDP.
Opening the discussions, Ato Brown, World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan, said “Today, I am pleased to present the results we achieved with our partners under the CAEWDP’s “Water and Energy Linkages” component dedicated to integrated knowledge and capacity building which we launched three years ago. The energy-water nexus remains a complex and challenging transition for Central Asian countries and I’d like to use this opportunity to express my appreciation to all participants for their commitment to this agenda and long standing fruitful cooperation in this region.”
At the workshop, some of the main achievements of the Central Asia Knowledge Network Program were highlighted and discussed:
- Several meetings of the Cross-Sectoral Working Group were held in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic in order to establish a cross-sectorial community of practice for transboundary and early systems geo-hazards monitoring.
- The Almaty-based Regional Center of Hydrology, a key facilitator of water-energy-climate cooperation and knowledge exchange among local and regional institutions and practitioners, submitted to the Kazakh Government a project proposal for evaluation of risks related to hydrological disasters in the Syr Darya River Basin (Kazakhstan part) in partnership with the Kazakh Institute of Geography, the National Hydrometeorological Service of Kazakhstan, the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture, the Committee of Water Resources, and the National Center for Space Research and Technology of Kazakhstan.
- The Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia, the program’s key academic network facilitator, received support from CAEWDP to launch the regional Master of Arts student contest for research projects in the area of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). This project runs from February 2014 to June 2016, with 18 Masters students receiving awards to undertake thesis research.
- The Kazakh-German University successfully completed a student pilot project on the creation of mobile applications in the field of IWRM. Three student projects were developed: a mobile version of an e-Journal on IWRM for the University; a mobile application for Kazhydromet for automatic decoding of data received from hydrological stations across the country, and a mobile application for the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. The World Bank plans to start a new project in support of operationalization of an e-Journal on IWRM.
“In the past, all hydromet data transmitted from river stations was received, decoded and entered into databases manually. The Kazhydromet asked us to develop an application so that their analysts could use their mobile devices to quickly process and access the data they need,” said Marina Vorobyova from Kazakh-German University, describing her experience working with the mobile apps project. “Thanks to the desktop and mobile apps we developed, the Kazhydromet now spends significantly less time on decoding and sorting the data.”
“It was the first time we worked with students on developing a specialized mobile app, and I must say they have done a great job,” said Paiyzkhan Kozhahmetov, Director of Kazhydromet’s Department of Water and Climate Studies. “They represent the next generation of Central Asian hydrologists, and we were very pleased to see their enthusiasm and genuine interest in the profession.”
Ilaria Dali, Director of Cooperation with SDC’s office in Tashkent, noted the importance of CAEWDP’s Knowledge Network Program putting such a heavy emphasis on involving youth in the IWRM sector. “Working with youth is very important for the region,” said Dali at the workshop. “I am sure there will be opportunities to use the tools as well as the competences that have been developed under the program, including for a political dialog between the Central Asian countries. Such programs are kind of seeds for future activities and that’s why they are important and should be continued.”
“Indeed, youth seeds yield high crops. Our program activities were developed as pilots, but they are also a source of good practices and lessons to be used as a rich ground for the development of new joint World Bank and donor partners projects,” said Julia Komagaeva, Program Coordinator of the Central Asia Knowledge Network Program.
“We are delighted to note that some of the academic exchange activities carried out under our program will be further scaled up under the USAID-funded Smart Waters Project, to be implemented by CAREC in 2015-2020. Linking now practitioners with youth from all over Central Asia in the area of water resource management will contribute to enhanced security and development in the region in the future.”