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Transforming the challenge into opportunity: recycling the sediment to promote the transboundary cooperation and WEF security through innovative solutions

A transboundary demonstration project between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Central Asia is home to 280 water reservoirs which regulate seasonal and yearly river flow, ensuring hydropower generation, agricultural irrigation, water supply and flood protection. These reservoirs have been subject to intensive sedimentation exacerbated by the dominating mountainous relief, thereby limiting the potential benefits from the investment inflow into the sector and adversely affecting water consumers. Most of the Central Asian reservoirs have transboundary impacts, such as the Tuyamuyun Hydroelectric Complex (THC). It is a transboundary water-energy facility that regulates the downstream flow of the Amudarya River and allocates water-energy resources between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. It is located in Turkmenistan, but the ownership and management lies with Uzbekistan, who rents the land from Turkmenistan based on interstate legal agreements. 

The THC plays an indispensable role in water management and secures water resource allocation between the riparian countries. As such, it ensures: water supply to irrigated farmland in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; power supply to Uzbekistan; drinking water supply to Khorezm Region and Republic of Karakalpakstan (Uzbekistan); highway and railway communications across the Amudarya River; regulation of seasonal hydro regime of the Amudarya; water discharge for the Tachiatashsk Hydro Complex (Uzbekistan); protection against stream-bank erosion of the Amudarya.

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The reservoir sedimentation at the THC has resulted not only in a huge storage loss, but also in a high risk associated with flood passage and infrastructural safety. This problem needs to be addressed urgently.

— Dr Sanjay Giri, river and reservoir sediment management specialist from Deltares.
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Ruslovoe: a vital reservoir threatened by sedimentation

In addition to high investment needs for infrastructure upgrades, THC has been experiencing intense sedimentation of its key run-of-river Ruslovoe reservoir on the Amudarya River. Ruslovoe’s capacity decreased considerably during the period of THC operation, while sedimentation has already reached 70%, causing economic losses to roughly USD 76 mln in 2021. The reservoir is expected to be fully silted by 2040 as per the business-as-usual scenario, harnessing the WEF security for over 5 million residents in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Ruslovoe reservoir also serves the entry point for the Amudarya’s water released to the THC’s downstream reservoirs Kaparas, Sultansanjar, and Koshbulak, which supply water for irrigation and drinking purposes. As such, Ruslovoe plays a crucial role in water supply, and its sedimentation-induced diminishing capacity means a lower water allocation to a wide spectrum of customers, as well as inefficient use of massive and capex-intensive THC facilities.

Moreover, bioanalysis confirmed the recycling potential of the reservoir’ sediments, out of which commercial products such as microfertilizers, biohumus and raw brick for construction can be produced, since optimal technical and investment opportunities are provided. Hence, the governments of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have been joining efforts to implement cost-effective solutions to tackle the sedimentation at Ruslovoe reservoir.

Promoting transboundary dialogues and joint sustainable solutions

While the countries recognise the urgency for silt cleaning at national level, an efficient and sustainable solution requires joint transboundary efforts. The THC was selected as a transboundary demonstration project site under Phase II of the European Union-funded Central Asia Nexus Dialogue Project – as part of the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme Phase II. Following the proposition on behalf of the Ministry of Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the State Committee for Water Resources of Turkmenistan, it is implemented by national and international experts and supported by the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) to advance regional cooperation on transboundary water resource management. It further counted with the support of the project "Laboratory of Innovative Solutions for the Water Sector of Central Asia" implemented within the framework of the CAWEP World Bank’s TF.

The main objective of the demonstration project is to promote regional water-energy collaboration at the facility level with a focus on sedimentation at the Ruslovoe reservoir. It offers a unique opportunity to support the transboundary dialogue in Central Asia and demonstrate the costs and benefits of efficient resource allocation between countries through physical estimates and efforts.

Source: Nexus Resources Platform Factsheets.

We thank the European Union, the World Bank and the Nexus project team for helping us study the process of siltation at THC and identify possible technical solutions to address this issue. I am especially pleased that the project does not just provide us with a list of recommendations, but helps us understand the sources of possible funding, the mechanisms of return on investment and develop a good quality business project proposal.

— Mr Kurbanbai Babazhanov, Head of the THC Operation Division
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The Nexus Regional Dialogue in the Central Asian Region

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The Water-Energy-Food Nexus: : ensuring resource efficiency and availability

The WEF Nexus focuses on negotiating trade-offs, inspiring compromises, and uncovering synergies to ensure universal access to basic services and WEF security in the long run. It further promotes policy coherence and cooperation between the three sectors at the regional, local, and transboundary level, while assessing alternative resource management, technology, and governance options to promote efficiency in the use of natural resources.

Considering the high dependence of Central Asian countries on transboundary natural resources, the Nexus dialogues and interlinked solutions emerge as an effective approach to ensure the (water, energy and food) resource security of their population. According to Shukhrat Talipov, Head of the Department of Control over the operation of buildings and hydraulic structures of JSC "Uzbekhydroenergo" (Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Uzbekistan),

"The fact that the governments of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have agreed to apply the Nexus approach to the Tuyamuyun hydroelectric complex is the best proof of our interest in finding new integrated solutions to the current challenges."

By promoting the afforestation of the Aral Sea’s dried bottom, the demo project proposes technical solutions to address the adverse consequences of the desertification and helps to secure the access of water, energy and land, as well as to respond to labour demands, in the Central Asian Region.

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Tuyamuyun Hydroelectric Complex project and the combat to sedimentation: technical considerations

The project will tackle the growing sedimentation at Ruslovoe reservoir by executing the following tasks: To conduct social and economic assessment of the WEF dependence on the Ruslovoe reservoir from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan; to estimate the current sedimentation volume, forecast the sedimentation growth during the next 50 years and estimate the losses from the sedimentation in monetary terms; to conduct climate vulnerability and risk assessment of THC and supported territories; to develop technical recommendations on cost-effective sedimentation cleaning supported by profit and loss analysis; to determine the sediment’s recycling potential by conducting chemical analysis and lab experiments on producing the pilot products out of the sediment; to develop the investment proposal on cleaning and recycling the sediment.

All tasks have been successfully finalized and the project team, along with the government officials from Uzbekistan, are presenting the investment proposal to the potential public and private investors, in order to attract investments to the sediment cleaning and recycling, thereby contributing to ensuring WEF security in the region.


“The measurements taken at Ruslovoe reservoir not only show the current level of its siltation, but also enable us to anticipate the volume of water in the THC storage reservoirs which supply water to the riparian countries.”

— Mr Kurbanbai Babazhanov, Head of the THC Operation Division.

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A step towards WEF Security in Central Asia

The demonstration project showcased the positive implications of the cooperation between two riparian countries on addressing a specific transboundary challenge: reservoir siltation. This situation is not unique to Ruslovoe reservoir but affects most of the Central Asian transboundary reservoirs that ensure resource generation and allocation across the region.

Therefore, Central Asian countries recognize the importance to advance regional-level collaboration by intensifying the dialogue and developing joint solutions. The demonstration project offers a unique opportunity to develop such transboundary dialogues and ensure regional cooperation, thus contributing to an effective river regulation. This awareness has been generated along with a deep and comprehensive study on the costs and benefits of efficient resource allocation at the Tuyamuyun Hydroelectric Complex. This constitutes a valuable step towards the global objective to ensure WEF security across Central Asia.

More Information

  • Meeting the demands of the construction industry

    Find more about the economic potential for re-using sediment from the Tuyamuyun Hydropower Complex here.

  • Management of sediment-induced problems at Tuyamuyun Hydro-Complex (THC): a desk study

    Find a comprehensive report about the context and history of the THC here.

  • The Nexus news: European Union Supports Cross-border Project in Amu Darya River Basin.

    Read more about the project here.

  • The Nexus Demonstration Projects in Central Asia

    Find all information about the demonstration projects under the ‘Central Asia Nexus Dialogue Project: Fostering Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus Dialogue and Multi-Sector Investment’ here.

Please find more information about the demonstration project in Russian language in Factsheet 1, Factsheet 2, Factsheet 3, Factsheet 4 and Fatcsheet 5. Additionally, please go through these technical recommendations in English.

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