Climate change will have negative implications for water availability in the region of Central Asia, Lilia Burunciuc, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia, told Trend in an interview on climate change in Central Asia.
"It will also affect crop pests and animal diseases, intensity and frequency of which are increasing. They move freely across the borders, adding additional risks to farmers and the entire agri-food industry in the region," she noted.
The regional director added that crop productivity will suffer. Yields could drop by as much as 30 percent in some parts of Tajikistan by the turn of the century.
"Droughts are already a major problem in Kazakhstan affecting up to 66 percent of the country’s land. The country is likely to be a future hotspot of heat stress for wheat. In the north of the country, a region with low precipitations and limited scope for irrigation, grain production already experiences serious droughts two out of every five years," Burunciuc noted, adding that yields could drop from current levels by as much as 37 percent by 2030 and 48 percent by 2050, unless adaptive measures are taken.
According to her, by the turn of the century, desertification could affect up to half of Kyrgyzstan’s territory, and large stretches of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan would emerge as arid areas. In Uzbekistan, the growth in agricultural GDP dropped to 0.3 percent in 2018 from 6 percent in 2016, largely due to the impact of the drought.
Burunciuc further spoke about measures capable to improve climate resilience in Central Asia.
"Tackling the issues of aging infrastructure, for example, can offer significant potential for "no regrets" actions that will enhance climate resilience, reduce carbon emissions and generate net economic gains. That could be modernizing energy infrastructure and minimizing energy losses or supporting the rehabilitation of irrigation systems and improving water management," the regional director said.
She added that the countries should take steps to make agriculture more climate-resilient. This will involve strengthening agro-metereological infrastructure and services, introducing drought-resilient seeds, greater attention to soil fertility management and investment of water-saving technologies and improving irrigation and drainage systems.
Further, countries should spend more public funds on research, monitoring and eradication of crop pests and animal diseases - whose incidence is increasing due to climate change, according to Burunciuc.
It should be noted that the Central Asian countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change in the region of Europe and Central Asia. They are already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate, including warmer temperatures; glacier melt; increased variability in water resources; and frequent and costly weather-related hazards, such as floods and droughts.