Elyx’s travels around the world become more and more exotic and more and more informative.
Today Elyx goes to Kyrgyzstan to attend the inauguration of a new safety monitoring system on the Ortotokoi dam, installed with the support of UNECE. The dam is situated on the Chu River that is shared by Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and the inauguration took place in connection with the 15-year anniversary of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz Agreement on cooperation in the Chu and Talas Rivers.
The UNECE team explains to Elyx that the Ortotokoi dam is used to provide irrigation water to Kazakhstan as well as Kyrgyzstan and serves to protect against floods and mudslides. But Elyx also learns that dams are a potential threat; with vast volumes of water collected, dam accidents or failures can cause disastrous effects. An accident on the Ortotokoi dam would give rise to serious consequences in both countries – Villages such as Kordai in Kazakhstan with 30,000 inhabitants, or Tokmak and Kant in Kyrgyzstan, with a joint population of more than 100,000, would suffer from accidents on the dam with consequences on people and their lives, as well as through damage to cultivated fields, drinking water supply, electric lines, schools and homes.
The Ortotokoi dam was estimated to be safe but there was a need to improve the monitoring of the construction. The new monitoring system will make it possible for both countries to get real-time information about the safety situation. In case of an emergency situation measures can be taken to decrease the risks and an early warning can be provided to the downstream population.
In its visit to the Ortotokoi dam, Elyx learns that the installation of this new monitoring system is part of the project “Capacity-building for cooperation on dam safety in Central Asia” organised to help Central Asian countries to set up or revise national dam safety regulatory frameworks. The project aims at raising capacity of institutions and experts in Central Asia and at promoting sub-regional cooperation for information exchange and notification in case of accidents or emergency situations related to hydro-technical infrastructure.
Effective laws and institutions responsible for dam safety and collaboration between countries are therefore critical for Central Asia. For this reason, countries in the region requested UNECE and partner organizations to provide support. With funding from Finland, the Russian Federation and other countries a dam safety project was started to improve the supervision of dams and develop regional cooperation. While there are great challenges remaining, the situation has improved.
Work is also on-going to improve the safety monitoring equipment on the Kirov dam on the Talas river. The joint work demonstrates opportunities for transboundary cooperation on dam safety issues.