The autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan occupies the entire northwestern end of the country of Uzbekistan. With a poverty rate of 32 percent, this region is considered one of the poorest in Uzbekistan.
The Necessity of Water
Because most of this nation’s produce comes from agricultural production, water is an essential resource for the people of Karakalpakstan. The economy is supported through the production of cotton, melons and livestock, making extensive irrigation systems critical for the smooth execution of farming practices and water management.
Water is essential to life in Karakalpakstan; more than 30,000 hectares of land have been abandoned because of the lack of water. Since the shortage of water in the region often results from farmers using water inefficiently, new and effective water-saving technologies are in high demand.
Improving irrigation systems would help these impoverished farmers move out of poverty. Effective water management can reduce the cost of supplying and storing water, which would inevitably increase the farmers’ yields and enable them to cultivate more crops. With a steady and reliable source of water supply in Karakalpakstan, the region’s farmers can be assured that they will be able to tend to their crops and rely on them for financial support.
The Project to Improve Water Supply in Karakalpakstan
In response to the ongoing water crisis, the World Bank initiated a project that aims to help 1,500 private farms and 40,000 small farming households secure access to water in Karakalpakstan.
The South Karakalpakstan Water Resources Management Improvement Project (SKWRMIP) for Uzbekistan focuses on the restoration of irrigation systems and improvements in water management. With 80 percent of its resources aimed at irrigation and drainage, the project aims to build a sustainable water distribution system and a financially stable community of farmers.
“Better water management and irrigation will lead to increased farm productivity, and thus help farmers in South Karakalpakstan build their assets and improve their living standards,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, the World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. “We estimate that 41,000 water users will be provided with new or improved irrigation and drainage services under this project.”
Financial Benefits of the Project
This project would replace the 1950s water infrastructure in Uzbekistan, which is experiencing many complications due to age. The deteriorating infrastructure and poor water management of the 1950s system is estimated to cost Uzbekistani government $1.7 billion USD annually. However, the SKWRMIP proposal comes with a total annual energy cost of $2.4 million USD, saving the government a significant amount. It also relieves much of the burden on rural farmers paying operation and distribution fees, allowing them the freedom to save the money for themselves.
“Our firm is planning to complete the civil works along the Buston channel this year. Thousands of farmers in several districts of South Karakalpakstan will be able to receive water for the irrigation of their lands,” said Islombek Ismatov, a SKWRMIP construction manager. “Lack of water in this region makes it more valuable than gold.”
In regions like Karakalpakstan, water is extremely valuable for livelihood. Water supply has been erratic and fleeting over the past few decades in the Republic of Karakalpakstan, but the SKWRMIP works to build and maintain a functional and accessible source of water supply in the region.
– Jenny S Park