EGU24-14942, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

EU engagement for sustainable water management in the Aral Sea basin

Aliya Assubayeva1 and Jenniver Sehring2
Aliya Assubayeva and Jenniver Sehring
  • 1Centre for International Development and Environmental Research (ZEU), Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany (
  • 2IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, the Netherlands (

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) stands as a globally advocated approach heralded for its promise to orchestrate equitable and coordinated water allocation, usage, and governance. However, its implementation varies significantly across different river basins and countries. Transboundary water resources management in the Aral Sea basin presents a critical environmental and political challenge in the region, bringing concerns not only to basin countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan but also to external actors.  The European Union (EU) has emerged as a pivotal donor in developing sustainable water resource management since the early 1990s. The EU's involvement stems from recognizing water challenges as potential threats to regional security and stability and fosters diverse regional and bilateral water programs and projects. This study delved into the evolution of the EU policies concerning environment and water management in the Aral Sea basin, focusing on promoting IWRM, raising environmental awareness, and building capacities. Methodologically, the research employed semi-structured interviews conducted with national, regional, and international experts engaged in EU initiatives, along with a synthesis of academic publications, EU official documents, and recent reports. 

Research reveals the changes in EU water policy in Central Asia since the 2000s, including shifts in objectives, the scale of cooperation, and the interplay between EU policies and the perceptions, responses, and shaping by regional actors. The EU has successfully promoted certain norms of ‘good water governance,’ and Central Asian countries have, to a certain degree, adopted them in their policies and legal frameworks. However, The EU's reliance on soft tools and multi-stakeholder dialogues, limited financial commitments, coordination challenges, and local political constraints have constrained its impact on the ground. This situation has created a palpable sense of 'dialogue fatigue' among national stakeholders. The contextual disparities, divergent interests, and issues at stake between the EU and Central Asian countries pose significant obstacles to transferring EU experiences and practices. Central Asian actors' responses to EU water initiatives, amid the influence of the external and internal political environment, bear implications for sustainable water management. These implications are particularly pressing given the region's vulnerability to climate variability, the geopolitical landscape, and the countries' capacity to navigate multiple crises.

How to cite: Assubayeva, A. and Sehring, J.: EU engagement for sustainable water management in the Aral Sea basin, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-14942,, 2024.