Water-saving Irrigation Technologies Supported by Uzbekistan Government

Irrigation water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource for the agricultural sector in Uzbekistan. The water scarcity at the user end is due not only to a poor irrigation infrastructure,  but also to the wasteful irrigation practices resulting from poor implementation of water pricing mechanisms, lack of incentives to adopt advanced irrigation technology,  and lack of water-use control as well as measurement.

For many decades, Uzbekistan has been one of the largest cotton producers in the world. The irrigation water needed for these high production levels has been delivered by the massive diversion of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, which naturally flowed into the Aral Sea. This diversion for agriculture was the main cause of the rapid decline of the Aral Sea, which is at only 10% of its original size today. The traditional method of irrigation, which relies on simple open canal systems, is highly inefficient for managing the region’s critical and limited water resource. With the future availability of water at risk for agriculture in Central Asia, primarily due to the loss of glacial volume linked to global warming, along with declines in seasonal snowpack, it is clear that new approaches to water management are badly needed. Any serious efforts to restore the Aral Sea and its ecological services would also reduce supplies of irrigation water for Uzbekistan. To insure against these risks to agricultural production and the underlying economy, better irrigation technologies are needed across Uzbekistan.

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Strategy for management of water resources and development of irrigation sector

In the end of February 2021 President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed the decree on the adoption of a strategy for the management of water resources and the development of the irrigation sector in Uzbekistan for 2021-2023. The strategy includes a number of infrastructural, institutional and capacity-building measures covering sustainable water management and improvement of the irrigation sector in the country.

In particular, it is planned to increase the proportion of concrete-coated canals from 35 percent to 38 percent in the system of irrigation canals, and to increase the efficiency of the irrigation system and irrigation networks from 0.63 to 0.66. Irrigated land with a low level of water supply is expected to decrease from 526,000 hectares to 424,000 hectares.

The strategy also includes the introduction of water-saving irrigation technologies in 308,000 hectares to 1.1 million hectares of land, including drip irrigation technologies; reducing the area of saline land from 1,926,000 to 1,888,000 hectares, including medium and highly saline land.
The number of agriculture facilities keeping water accounting based on digital technology “Smart Water” will be increased to 18,576 units, which also includes transferring 60 large water bodies to automated digital management systems.

Subsidies for introduction of water-saving irrigation technologies

Government resolution approved the Regulation on the procedure for reimbursing part of the costs of agricultural producers for the introduction of water-saving technologies and the return of the subsidy provided. According to the Regulation, a subsidy for the introduction of water-saving irrigation technology is allocated from the State budget only once for each circuit.

The subsidies of the Ministry of Water Resources are to cover part of the costs of introducing drip irrigation technology for growing cotton, part of the costs for the introduction of water-saving technologies for the cultivation of grain crops, vegetables, potatoes, melons, fodder crops, oats, legumes and medicinal plants, for leveling the land using laser equipment, as well as for the purchase of automated land-planning units with a laser installation produced by domestic manufacturers.

The Agency for the Development of Horticulture and Greenhouse Economy will cover part of the costs for the introduction of water-saving irrigation technologies for the cultivation of fruit crops and grapes. as well as the Agency for the Regulation of the Alcohol and Tobacco Market and the Development of Winemaking for Plantations grapes of a technical variety grown in an industrial way.

Sources: UZDAILY, kun.uz