The Kura River Basin is the main transboundary water system in the geopolitically challenging region of the South Caucasus. The participating countries of Azerbaijan and Georgia have undergone significant political and economic transition and are now developing rapidly across a wide range of water dependent sectors. Together Azerbaijan and Georgia cover 94,760 square km and represent 88% of the Kura basin. The two countries have demonstrated strong commitment to cooperate towards transboundary integrated water resources management.

In the previous phase of the UNDP-GEF Kura Project (2011-2014) the countries identified the following main transboundary challenges for the Kura River Basin: changes in hydrological flows; deterioration of water quality; ecosystem degradation; and, flooding due to climate change.

In May 2014 the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources in Azerbaijan and Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection in Georgia signed the Strategic Action Plan for the Kura River Basin – based on shared nationally priorities and critical needs for improved harmonization of integrated water resources management (IWRM) in the Kura Basin. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has given the countries a grant of $5.3 million USD to support the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub to implement and execute the 4-year project, with Project offices and UNDP-GEF Kura II IWRM Academy Training Centers in Azerbaijan and Georgia. The project has over $190 million USD in co-financing from the basin and focuses on the priority needs of the SAP.

The objectives of the SAP include: Improved Hydrological Management; Reduced loss of water resources; Improved water quality monitoring programs; Pollution reduction and prevention; Harmonization of water quality standards; Assessment of the status of river ecosystems; Conservation & restoration of river ecosystems; Mainstreaming river ecosystem protection in development planning; Reduction of hazards due to floods and drought; and, Harmonized Climate Change Adaptation.

The SAP was developed based on National Priorities identified by multi-sectoral committees in Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The priorities for the SAP emerged from these shared concerns . The priorities for the SAP were determined through a consensus based approach with highest level input from the Regional Technical Task Team.

To meet these objective, the top priority has been given to the following project components:

1.      Institutional strengthening and updating for improved, sustainable IWRM

2.      Capacity building for professional water managers across multiple sectors,

3.      Demonstrating applied solutions to improve water management in critical areas,

4.      Increasing stakeholder awareness, education and empowerment;

5.      Improving the use of science for governance.

There are many cross-cutting themes that this project will highlight, including: approximation of the EU Water Framework Directive (EU WFD); climate change adaptation; intersectoral coordination and cooperation within and between Azerbaijan and Georgia; pollution abatement; gender mainstreaming; meeting Millennium Development Goals; building public-private partnerships; and, emphasizing sustainable development across the Kura Basin Region.

The UNDP-GEF Kura II Project held the Inception Workshop in Baku, Azerbaijan in early April 2017 and will complete the committed work plan by August 2020. The Project Coordination Unit (PCU) is in Baku, and a partner Project Office is in Tbilisi. These offices include the UNDP-GEF Kura II IWRM Academy Training Centers.

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