ESCAP's analytical work on managing in-land water disasters in the Aral Sea is organized in two parts. While Part I titled 'Aral Sea, Central Asian Countries and Climate Change in the 21st Century' (https://www.unescap.org/kp/2022/aral-sea-central-asian-countries-and-climate-change-21st-century) deals with water management perspectives, it unfolds the processes that led to complete depletion of water resources, i.e. water use exceeding available resources. It also highlights that by 2030-2050, the countries of the region will also reach the limits of irrigated land expansion because of its limited availability. Despite the depletion of water and irrigation resources in the region, in their national strategies and programs, each country plans for further growth of water use for irrigation and hydropower in the future. Therefore, a coordinated regional water policy is needed to balance the water resources use and improve the ecological situation in the subregion.
Part II of the analytical work - 'managing in-land water disasters in the Aral Sea: sub-regional pathways for adaptation and resilience' (https://www.unescap.org/kp/2022/managing-land-water-disasters-aral-sea-sub-regional-pathways-adaptation-and-resillience) capitalizes on state-of-the-art climate modelling, data science, geo-spatial tools, digital elevation models and analytics to present the risk in the region. Considering a transboundary hazard -- the Aral Sea represents shared vulnerabilities and risks. It's crucial for the adaptation and resilience priorities of transboundary Aral Sea hazard to be risk informed, especially on the sub-regional specificities. Multi-hazard risk assessment and early warning systems are highly useful in mitigating all types of cropland exposure to multi-hazard, particularly drought, and flood. Early warning monitoring is necessary to plan and reduce the impact of multi-hazard on agriculture, which is directly linked to food security, and the impact on the people. Analysis results show that adaptation measures like strengthening multi-hazard risk assessment and early warning systems as well as improving dryland agriculture crop production have the highest priority score in all 5 Central Asian countries in the various climate change scenarios.
Recognizing the context of the United Nations Special Programme for the Aral Sea basin, ESCAP's comprehensive study using a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary disaster risk reduction approach aims to devise a regional mechanism involving all concerned countries of the Aral Sea.
Recommendations of the expert meeting
On 14th March 2022, ESCAP organized a regional meeting of experts on the Aral Sea to discuss the key findings of this study. Considering ESCAP's mandate and comparative advantage, the experts recommended organizing a policy dialogue on managing the risk of in-land water disasters in the Aral Sea on the side-lines of sixth North and Central Asian Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (https://www.unescap.org/kp/2022/managing-land-water-disasters-aral-sea-building-sub-regional-co-operation-mechanism-0). The objective would be to further shape and refine the proposed subregional cooperation framework with a suggested action plan. Accordingly, ESCAP plans to organize a policy dialogue at the upcoming forum in 2022. The proposed framework will help factor transboundary risks of the Aral Sea in national Adaptation Plans, Disaster Risk Reduction strategies, and Voluntary National Reviews.