Finnish water expertise in Central Asia introduced to potential partners

In Central Asia, water issues play a key role in achieving the goals of sustainable development as well as conflict prevention.

A webinar held on March 25, 2022 introduced capabilities of Finnish water sector projects in Central Asia. The water sector also enjoys growing activity by the extensive “European Union – Central Asia Water, Environment and Climate Change Cooperation” (WECOOP) initiative. Its goal is to enhance these fields at national level, align them with EU norms and to promote green investment.

One of the key themes of Finnish development cooperation in Central Asia is to support the sustainable use of natural resources and to prepare to the impacts of climate change. Finland aims to achieve these goals for example in the form of inter-institutional cooperation. Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) and Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) carry out projects funded by Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Central Asia.

Climate change poses ever more complex a challenge for Central Asian water basins and water accessibility. Photo: SYKE

EU Special Representative in Central Asia, Ambassador Terhi Hakala described the EU’s extensive role in the region for the webinar audience. She stressed that the in the EU’s view, water is for Central Asia a key challenge as well as a key chance for regional cooperation. The EU’s extensive project funding in the region focuses on national reform processes, strengthening intraregional cooperation and encouraging mutually acceptable solutions on transboundary water resources.

Olli Matti Verta, Director of Water Resources Management at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland, presented the audience the Finnish strategy on water sector cooperation (Finnish Water Way). The strategy offers a great framework for future cooperation.

From the Finnish Environment Institute, Head of International Services Tea Törnroos presented SYKE’s projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tadzhikistan. These projects focus on monitoring surface water quality.

Project Manager of Geological Survey of Finland Jaana Lohva presented GTK’s projects, which focus on developing sustainable use of natural resources using geoinformatics. GTK has also developed methods for groundwater monitoring in their projects.

Head of Consulting Services Harri Pietarila spoke for the Finnish Meteorological Institute. He presented how the FMI is cooperating to modernize weather forecast and early warning systems in Central Asia.  The FMI also conducts glacier research in the region.

Managing Director of the Finnish Water Forum (FWF) Dr. Topi Helle explained the central role the FWF plays in the Finnish water sector. The FWF is ready to act as a link between Finnish water sector businesses, research institutions and ministries.

Ambassador Sirpa Mäenpää from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Centre for Peace Mediation spoke about Finnish water diplomacy. Key strengths in the field include Finland’s experience in peace mediation and strong commitment to international water cooperation. The priority of Finnish water diplomacy in Central Asia is conflict prevention.

Roving Ambassador of Finland in Central Asia Ilkka Räisänen and Ambassador of Finland to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan Soili Mäkeläinen-Buhanist hosted the webinar. The Ambassadors stated that climate change poses ever more complex a challenge for Central Asian water basins and water accessibility. Addressing regional water questions is essential to achieve sustainable development goals. Water is a source of political tension between Central Asian states.

The aim of this webinar was networking with the Central Asian water sector. It also aimed to inform that Finland and the EU possess great tools for cooperation to solve water questions in the region. The webinar attained widespread interest, with over 50 participants tuning in. The webinar successfully established contacts for further cooperation opportunities.