Mobilized Central Asian youth transforming the region

Central Asian youth mobilized by the ISW are already making waves in southern Kazakhstan.

On October 27, Bota Sharipova and Abdikayum Zhienbek took part in the 20th Syrdarya Basin Council meeting in Shymkent. Participants addressed the ongoing consequences of the Aral Sea Crisis, which affects this region more than any other.

The Aral-Syrdarya basin covers southern Kazakhstan and the Aral mountains, winding through peaceful foothills and plains. It empties into the vast Aral Sea, a saltwater lake that has been rapidly dessicating since the 1960s due to Soviet-era agricultural diversions. As the dry lake bed turns to dust, heavy metals pollutes air and water for thousands. Cases of cancer, respiratory and digestive diseases, and maternal and child mortality are more frequent here than anywhere else in Kazakhstan.

At the meeting, Bota and Abdikayum had 15 minutes to present themselves and the results of the Central Asian Youth Initiative at Expo2017 Astana, organized by the ISW. Abdikayum presented the results of his research into modelling tools for improving crop productivity – research with a direct application in South Kazakhstan. Bota and Abdikayum also expressed their desire to ensure youth participation in Kazakhstan basin council meetings.

Stranded ships at the port of Muinak, Aral Sea, Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan

The Committee for Water Resources, which coordinates Kazakhstan’s basin councils, agreed with the young leaders. Youth representatives will now be involved with the meetings of all eight of the country’s Basin Councils.

The meeting involved more than 50 stakeholder representatives from two regions. Stakeholders were from the local administration, nature protection committees, state hydrology and hydrogeology agencies, representatives of Kazakh Committee on Water Resources, International Fund for saving the Aral Sea, the German Agency for international committee and others.

The following week, Bota and Abdikayum appeared along with Daud Hamidi from Afghanistan at the International Scientific and Practical Conference on Water Resources in Central Asia from November 2-3 in Almaty. Abdikayum presented his research to an audience of 95 water specialists.