UNDP-GEF Kura II: Advancing IWRM Across the Kura River Basin

ASK AN EXPERT - UNDP Water Guru Ahmed Abou Elseoud

Recently there have been a lot of reports about the severe drought we are facing in the Kura River Basin. UNDP Water Guru, Ahmed Abou Elseoud has some answers today.

Q: Are we now seeing the impact of climate change today?

A: Climate change is now a reality. We all feel it, not only in Azerbaijan and Georgia, but in many countries of the world people are suffering from severe droughts, and other areas are suffering from severe flooding.  The prediction about the impacts of climate change show that there will be a future drought and impacts on water resources. The countries must make adaptation plans to cope with this.

Q: What is causing the water scarcity today, some people have said it might be agriculture? 

A: If we talking about the current water problems in Azerbaijan and eastern Georgia, definitely the problem is not only agriculture. It is all uses. It is every one’s responsibility. In addition to the climate change we mentioned before. We have a shortage in the resources due to the natural climate change but also we need to have better management of all demands including agriculture. For example, agriculture in the main water consuming sector in Azerbaijan where more than 60% of total water demand in Azerbaijan goes to agriculture, therefore it should be taking a priority for any plans or policies for rational water use.

Q: Will this all be over soon? Won’t there be more rain to solve this problem?

  • A: This is a tricky questions because no one can predict with 100% assurance what will happen next year because it is a natural and complex process. But according to the predictions of climate change experts we have to plan for the worst case scenario and not wait until we have a severe drought in order to react and start plans and programs for rational water use. You have to start from now expecting the drought to continue, and implement plans and actions to combat the drought. If next year we have a good volume of rain and snow that will fill our reservoirs the current efforts will not be wasted. In any case we must reduce water losses in all sectors in order to increase the economic benefits from each drop of water. 

Q: Who is going to fix this serious problem? What can we do?

A: The way out this situation lies on the shoulders of all stakeholders involved in water resources management. I mean here not only the government institutions but also you and me, and all members of society. We all share the responsibility of facing this drought together. And specifically there are roles for each of us in this situation. The government role is to put plans and to implement projects to reduce water losses in all sectors, and improve the water distribution in the municipal network, and also in the irrigation canals. The government also should encourage the use of smart technologies for saving water, like smart taps, drip irrigation, water reuse, and others. We should start thinking about economic incentives for rational water use so that we can subsidize farmers installing modern drip irrigation systems and also aggregated tariffs so that for the more water consumed the higher the price.  As for other members of society we have a responsibility to save our country from this drought by rational water use in our daily activities and our daily use of water. Please do not leave the tap on. If you have a leak at home please fix it as soon as possible. If you see leakage in the streets please report it. We have to know that every drop of water matters. When you save water you save your country and you save the planet. And we save ourselves too.

For example, from my point of view I think the decision of the His Excellency President of Azerbaijan to establish a water commission is the a big milestone in facing this problem. And I think this commission must play a critical role in planning and managing this situation. This commission must review and assess all the water demands for all sectors. Using the participatory approach they must develop measures to reduce water losses and increase efficiency. These measures must be taken onboard by the Cabinet of Ministers and the implementation by all sectors must be followed closely by the Cabinet in order to ensure the success of these measures so that the most negative impacts are avoided. 

Q: Do individuals have a role to play in this? Will we have to change how we use water?

A: Will we Yes definitely we have to. The patterns of water use in the past must be changed now because we are shifting from the era of plenty of water available to the era of water scarcity. And this means our behavior towards this water has to be changed. We can not treat water as an endless resource any longer. We have to know that resources are limited and this limitation has now has become obvious. However the situation in Azerbaijan is still manageable IF we all work together towards saving and protecting these limited resources.

So I encourage everybody to change their behaviors about water. We have to start this from school kids and put lessons about the importance of water how to save water in our all curriculum. We must use the media and all social media platforms for awareness raising on water resources and the importance of water saving. This awareness campaign must be careful not to make people panic, it is not to scare everyone. But these awareness campaigns must inspire action and encourage each and everyone of us to take our responsibilities seriously, and to always use water more carefully, aware of that every single drop is precious.