Manila, Philippines (BBN) – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is aiming to enhance regional cooperation on vital Central Asian waterways whose management and protection are crucial to the region’s economic growth and social well-being.

The Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, which criss-cross a large part of Central Asia, support most of the agricultural output in the Aral Sea basin and have significant hydropower capacity and potential, an ADB press statement said on Monday.

A lack of cooperation among the Central Asian countries – Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – in managing their shared water systems has been a key constraint that threatens to undermine the region’s development, according to the statement.

The ADB has approved a $998,000 regional technical assistance grant which will be used to support knowledge-sharing on water resources in the region and strengthen the capacity of institutions tasked with managing them.

The grant came from a multi-donor trust fund under an ADB-administered Water Financing Partnership Facility. The Trust Fund contributors are the governments of Australia, Austria, and Norway.

The assistance will involve regional initiatives covering the Amu Darya and Syr Darya river basins and the Chu and Talas river basins, as well as help establish a forum for exchanging ideas and developing future action plans, the ADB said.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-27October08-3:23 PM (BST)