Toktogul: Analysis of Unfolding Situation Concerning Water and Energy Supplies

These days various meetings and forums, as well as mass media concentrate on discussions with regard to grave problems of deficit of energy and water resources that touch on the interests of countries of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. Various reasons, possible consequences and ways to address the unfolding situation are being analyzed.

At the moment, there are all grounds to speak about many reasons that have brought about such situation, including the periodical lack of water in the region, problems of thrifty and rational use of water resources and many other factors. Each of them is worth a most special attention, according to the website that reported referring to a message by the group of ecologists and experts at the Ecosan Fund.

At the same time, when we speak about addressing such situation and reasonable use of the year-to-year decreasing volume of water and increasing deficit of water resources in the region, to our mind, the impact of the Toktogul series of hydro power plants on the state of affairs the construction of which was launched in 1968 in the upper streams of Syrdarya yet in the times of Soviet five-year plans and commissioned in late 1987 is worth a special attention.
The Toktogul hydroelectric complex includes a water reservoir with a total capacity of 19.5 billion cubic meters, as well as the hydroelectric station with 4 aggregates with a total power of 1200 megawatts.

In this, it is important to take into account that almost entire annual flow of rivers of the Naryn-Syrdarya cascade, which according to the observations during 1974-2007 made up on average 12.3 billion cubic meters, is fully absorbed by the Toktogul water reservoir and ensures just 70% of its project capacity.
Simply speaking, the entire flow of rivers of the Naryn-Syrdarya cascade and transboundary river of Syrdarya is almost made to flow through Toktogul hydroelectric complex, that is to say, the time and schedule of letting the water out for users down the flow (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) is fully controlled by Kyrgyzstan.

It becomes extremely important how optimally, i.e. with taking both irrigational and energy interests into account, the release of water from Toktogul is regulated, while keeping in mind that particularly at vegetation period the producers of agricultural products of all countries feel an enormous deficit in irrigation water. Particularly, at this vegetation period – from April through to September the fate of harvests are decided for millions of people in the region.
The year-based detailed analysis ranging from 1974 when the temporary exploitation and infill of the Toktogul water reservoir was started, the use of water resources of hydroelectric complex shows the following.

Up to 1991 the average annual water release from Toktogul hydroelectric complex made up in not-vegetation period (October-March) about 3150 million cubic meters and in vegetation period (April-September) 8520 million cubic meters, or summer releases exceeded by 2.7 times than the winter releases.
Starting 1991 when the exploitation of hydroelectric complex came under control of the Kyrgyz Republic the tendency of annual growth of autumn-winter releases (in not-vegetation period) is clearly observed. On average this volume has increased up to 7400 million cubic meters from 1991 to 2000, and in the period till 2008 – up to 8750 million cubic meters.

And the releases at summer vegetation period in 2001-2007 came down to 5300 million cubic meters, that is to say, the scene has changed absolutely the other way around – the Toktogul hydroelectric complex has practically turned into an energy generating regime.

Let alone the fact that such tendency of powerful water releases in winter and spring periods gravely worsen the ecologic situation in the region lead to mass under-flooding of lands and residential areas, demolition of dams and habitable facilities, salinization and water-logging of irrigated lands.
It is especially inadmissible the very fact that during the transition into an energy generating regime the autumn-spring releases (whereas the needs in electrical power rise) have started to tangibly exceed the natural inflow of the Naryn River by 2.4 – 2.6 times.

Particularly big water releases took place in winter period of 2007-2008 when the water output from the water reservoir exceeded the inflow of up to 5 billion cubic meters that led to a sharp decrease of level of water in Toktogul.

If average annual volume of water reservoir made up 15 billion cubic meters by September 1, or 80% from its project capacity, then by September 1, 2008 the volume of water reservoir is expected to be observed at the level of 9.6 billion cubic meters, or 49% from its project capacity.

If to assess this policy from the standpoint of international law, then the international experts unambiguously interpret it as a breach of international norms of using the transboundary watercourses.

In particular, Kyrgyzstan breached the regulations of: the Vienna Convention on rights of international agreements (1969), Nukus (1995) and Almaty (1997) Declaration of Central Asian states, Agreement between the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan “On cooperation in the sphere of joint management, use and protection of water resources of interstate sources” (1992), as well as the respective UN conventions, and particularly, the “Regulations of using waters of international rivers (Helsinki, 1966), Convention on protecting and using transboundary watercourses and international lakes (Helsinki, 1992), Convention on rights of non-navigation types of using international watercourses (New York, 1997).

Given current conditions, when not less than six years are needed to restore the normal irrigation regime of the Toktogul water reservoir, the attempts to initiate the construction of new reservoirs for accumulating water to the detriment of downstream countries may lead, simply speaking, to yet bigger tragic consequences.

The deep unprejudiced analysis of unfolding situation with water and energy supplies requires undertaking of most urgent measures on preventing such crisis situations, and firstly, observing established international norms and respective UN Conventions on using water flows of transboundary rivers, as well as unconditional implementing interstate agreements of states of the region on these issues.