Given the utmost importance of water resources for economies, people and ecosystems, a lot of water-related scientific and practical activities are taking place in Central Asia. Wealth of smart and locally adapted solutions, methods, and techniques are accumulated in scientific and research centers and institutions. However, the use of these research outputs in practice is inadequate. This is mainly due to limited access to available knowledge and absence of effective knowledge transfer mechanisms.
There is an urgent need to enable policy, economic and institutional conditions for knowledge driven changes in water management and land reclamation. Examples of China, South Korea, Israel, Qatar and many other countries demonstrate advantages derived from sound linkages and interconnections between practice, advanced technologies and science-based solutions.
Our task is to accumulate knowledge produced in pre-soviet and soviet time as well as after gaining independence by Central Asian countries, to merge it and enrich with modern approaches in the fields of water and irrigation around the globe with a view of providing access to this knowledge to a wide audience of water and agriculture practitioners in Central Asia. This will permit to establish a system for transferring knowledge and best practices, including scientific developments, to water organizations, farmers and their organizations in order to ensure more efficient water management and use, growth of water and land productivity and risk management under climate change.
Methods and materials
This approach is based on experience of establishing innovative extension centers on agricultural production, water delivery and use as well as land and water productivity improvement implemented within the "Integrated Water Resources Management in the Fergana Valley" (IWRM-Fergana) and "Water and Land Productivity Improvement" projects. These projects were implemented by SIC ICWC and IWMI, with the involvement of water management organizations from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan on the territory of the Fergana valley with support from the Swiss Development Cooperation.
It is proposed to establish Water Management Knowledge Centers as part of global knowledge hub campaign initiated in the early XXI century. These global knowledge hubs together with international institutions such as FAO, GCIAGR, and UN-Water among other things deal with the development of global water and land knowledge bases (FAOSTAT, IWA WaterWIKI, ICID Knowledge Base, etc).
Key underlying ideas behind the establishment of Water Management Knowledge Centers include:
1 - Knowledge Centers should be a part of public water and agriculture governance system, be linked to environmental sector and connected to knowledge sources at regional and global levels. Knowledge Centers should aim at long-term improvement of water and natural resources use and conservation for the benefit of people and ecosystems.
2 - Knowledge Centers should identify actual needs of practitioners, work among practitioners, strive to meet their demands, and bridge a gap between science and practice.
3 - Knowledge Centers should rely on experienced practitioners and on practicing scientists, who deal with both research and practical applications and have a deep insight into the real water and land management, the system approach, managerial capabilities, and determination.
4 - Knowledge Centers should have possibility to validate proposed solutions on pilot sites.
5 - Recommendations by Knowledge Centers should suggest affordable solutions, in other words solutions that are community focused, cost effective, feasible, and environmentally friendly.
Results and discussion
SIC ICWC started this work in two directions.
First, in order to make use of knowledge accumulated from field works, scientific research and water-related projects in Central Asia, SIC ICWC developed Knowledge Base as a part of the CAWater-Info portal (http://cawater-info.net/bk/rubricator_e.htm). The CAWater-Info Knowledge Base has the following thematic knowledge bases: "Land and Water Resources Use in the Aral Sea Basin", "Integrated Water Resources Management: Experience of Central Asia", "International and National Water Law", "Land Law", "Land Reclamation and Irrigated Agriculture", "Safety of Hydraulic Structures", "Knowledge Base for the Amudarya, Syrdarya, Zeravshan, Karadarya, Chirchik Basins", "Gender and Water", "Afghanistan", "Water Quality". In 2013, a Rubricator was created to systematize scientific and technical information available in the Knowledge Base and enable key words search throughout the portal. The Rubricator was designed according to the "knowledge tree" principle. The Knowledge Base and its Rubricator are expendable resources and built with the involvement of subject matter experts. Currently, the Rubricator has 15 sections: Water Resources; Water Resources Use; Agriculture; Land Reclamation; Land Degradation and Desertification; Hydroecology; Climate Change; Water Governance and Management; Water Law and Policy; Economic and Financial Aspects; Water and Education; Water and Ethics; Decision Support System; Sustainable Development, "Green Growth" and Security; Gender and Gender Policy.
Each of these sections has sub-sections, which are systemized in a specific hierarchy order. The Rubricator's sub-sections are comprise of the descriptive part that provides brief information on a subject and references section enriched by relevant primary sources and other relevant materials in the form of books, monographs, articles, reports, white papers and so on. A particular attention is paid to the preservation of past knowledge derived from rare and valuable books that have scientific and historical value. Subject matter experts responsible for population of individual sections are SIC ICWC staff members.
Second direction has to deal with the development of provincial, basin and applied water and related thematic materials corresponding to rubricator's sections but adapted to specific characteristics of given locality and basins or their parts. This is supplemented by the database, models, and algorithms to prepare forecasts and recommendations for selected areas. This part of work is developed by using the Fergana province as a pilot area, together with practitioners from basin authority and researchers from ICARDA who present their materials in various fields of specialization. The program and ideology of this approach have been already presented at various regional and international meetings and were included in the main area of activity of Network of Water-Management Organizations from Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia.
Knowledge system, regularly enriched with best practices in water management, irrigated agriculture and associated sectors all over the world, should become an important tool for better performance of these critical sectors for sustainable development in Central Asia. While ensuring easier access to knowledge, this will contribute to a deeper understanding of the community of interests and help to find feasible solutions towards survival of the humankind under growing water crisis caused by climate change, demographic pressure and intensified sectoral and cross-national competing interests.
N.B. Conclusion has been included in the 'References' section as the word count has been exceeded.