The SREB is part of the Belt and Road Initiative, being a development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries. Essentially, the SREB includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade. A major part of the SREB traverses Asia’s high-altitude areas, also referred to as the Third Pole or the Asian Water Tower. In the light of the planned development for the SREB traversing the Third Pole and its immediate surroundings, the “Pan-Third Pole Environment study for a Green Silk Road (Pan-TPE)” program will be implemented.

The project will assess the state and fate of water resources in the region under following research themes:

1. Observed and projected Pan-TPE climate change
2. Impacts on the present and future Water Tower of Asia
3. The Green Silk Road and changes in water demand
4. Adaptation for green development

A detailed Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA) report has been developed. The main findings of the CRVA are:

In terms of climate change observations over the last 60 years:

  • The average annual temperature in Kazakhstan has been rising by 0.3 ºC/decade. The rate of warming is more pronounced during spring / autumn
  • Increase in annual mean temperatures is most pronounced in Aktobe and Kyzlorda oblasts and least in East Kazakhstan.
  • The length of dry spells has increased over conterminous Kazakhstan concurrently with observed increasing trends in precipitation intensity.
  • In Kazakhstan precipitation tends to slightly decrease of 1 mm per decade in all seasons except winter when precipitation tends to increase by 2 mm per decade.

In terms of climate change projections for the coming decades:

  • Mean annual temperatures are projected to increase by 2.5°C by the 2020s, 4.5°C by the 2050s and 7.0°C by the 2080s under RCP 8.5 concentration pathway.
  • A significant increase in precipitation of about 24% during the winter by the end of this century. However, during the summer season, a decline of -13% in precipitation is projected.

In terms of impact of climate change:

  • Higher crop water requirements of about 8-10% by 2020 and 15% by 2050 compared to the reference (1990).
  • Seasonal shift with earlier planting opportunities and therefore irrigation demands earlier in the season.
  • Substantial reduction in runoff to streams and rivers as a result of higher evaporation rates and precipitation reductions.
  • Higher flooding risks due to projected extremes in daily rainfall, especially in the more mountainous regions.
  • Falling groundwater tables as a result of lower recharge.

In terms of adaptation of climate change:

  • Design crop water requirements at 10-15% higher compared to the 1990 climate data. Design criteria for canals should also be 10-15% higher.
  • Design of storage capacity should be substantially higher to compensate for the projected decrease in base flows and increase in demand. Exact numbers should be Sub-Project and Project level determined.
  • Awareness raising to farmers is needed to make them aware that changes in climate will influence water delivery and will gradually lead to a change in cropping patterns and farm water management.
Example of changes in irrigated areas based on Landsat satellite data using maximum NDVI values over 5 years. Location is just north-west of Aktobe town.

The energy sector is sensitive to changes in seasonal weather patterns and extremes that can affect the supply of energy, harm transmission capacity, disrupt oil and gas production, and impact the integrity of transmission pipelines and power distribution. Most infrastructure has been built to design codes based on historic climate data and will require rehabilitation, upgrade or replacement in the coming years. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity for adaptation. Central Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world. Expected climate impacts range from increased temperature (across the region), changes in precipitation and snow, greater extreme weather events, aridisation and desertification, health, and changes in water resources.

Toktogul reservoir, Kyrgyzstan

Energy and water are closely interrelated as water is used to generate energy (hydropower, cooling of thermal plants) but energy is also required to fulfil water needs (e.g. pumping, water treatment, desalination). Especially in Central Asia, meeting daily energy needs depends to a large extent on water. Guaranteeing sufficient water resources for energy production, and appropriately allocating the limited supply, is becoming increasingly difficult. As the region’s population keeps on growing, competing demand for water from other sectors is expected to grow, potentially exacerbating the issue.

The World Bank is committed to working with the governments of Central Asia to undertake analysis and to identify priorities in adaptation to climate change, including strengthening regional trade through a rigorous, transparent region-scale study. Therefore it currently undertakes a regional assessment to identify areas of possible coordination and possible transboundary impact. The overall project objective is to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities for effective joint management of climate adaptation, contributing to the objective of the World Bank’s Central Asia strategy of energy and water security through enhanced cooperation. The results of this assessment should guide current and future decision-makers on options for investments in and management of power generation and transmission/distribution assets through enhanced cooperation.

Amy_Darya_Syr_Darya_mapThe objective of this study is to support the “Central Asia Regional Energy Sector Vulnerability Study” led by Industrial Economics (IEc) and funded by the World Bank, by carrying out an expanded risk assessment for water availability and water related energy sector impacts in the region. The work will build on the existing tools developed previously for Syr Darya and Amu Darya basins. Various necessary extensions and enhancements of the tools will be made to include the latest understanding of climatological and hydrological processes and include the latest planned investments in hydropower facilities and cooling water abstractions of the thermal power plants in the region.

Water resources management in the Central Asia region faces big challenges. The hydrological regimes of the two major rivers in the region, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, are complex and vulnerable to climate change. Water diversions to agricultural, industrial and domestic users have reduced flows in downstream regions, resulting in severe ecological damages. The administrative-institutional system is fragmented, with six independent countries sharing control, often with contradicting objectives.

Under the leadership of the Finnish Consulting Group and in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute, FutureWater develops hydrological models to assess the water resources availability in the region under climate change. The project focuses on the Aral Sea basin (Pamir and Tien Shan mountains) in Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Hydrological models are developed for the Amu Darya and Syr Darya and include several climate change impact scenarios. The project develops national capacity in each of the participating countries to use the models to prepare climate change impact scenarios and develop adaptation strategies. This will then result in improved national strategies for climate change adaptation. We collaborate closely with the main regional and national organizations responsible for land and water management.