Some 400,000 people live in the five rayons covered by Amu Zang irrigation system; 88% of them reside in the rural areas, compared to the national average of 64%. The population within the Project area depends primarily on irrigated agriculture for their livelihoods, since the industry and service sectors are less developed than in other parts of Uzbekistan. The poverty incidence in Amu Zang area is estimated to be 31.4% compared to the national average of 27.5%.
The Amu Zang irrigation system was built in 1973 and is at the end of its useful life. The reliability and capacity of the aging pumping cascade significantly declined; high sediment levels in the pumped water damage pumping equipment and deposit a large amount of sediment in canals and drains reducing their capacities and increasing the O&M costs. Due to deteriorated canals' conditions and high level of seepage, only about 50% of the water reach farmers' fields. Unless major overhaul is provided, some of the key components of the main system could collapse in less than five years.
Direct dependence of large number of rural population on rapidly deteriorating Amu Zang irrigation system without much alternative employment opportunities in the area makes them extremely vulnerable to potential slippery into poverty. Negative environmental impacts of sudden decommissioning of large-scale irrigation would also be significant, as it is likely to exacerbate land degradation.
Besides providing the rehabilitation that is urgently needed for the sustained livelihood of the large population, the proposed Project offers valuable opportunities for ADB to help the Goverment address the important reform issues such as strengthening irrigation and water management, formulating and implementing of an irrigation cost recovery policy and further expanding the agreed agriculture reform initiatives to a larger scale.
ADB's operations in Uzbekistan are guided by the Country Strategy and Program (CSP) of March 2006in which the agriculture and rural development has been recognized as the key sector for ADB's assistance. ADB's Water Policy promotes, among other things, basin management principles, development and strengthening of the capacities of national water management institutions and WUAs as well as the development of sustainable O&M policies through the introduction of water delivery fees and greater participation of beneficiaries in maintaining and managing basic irrigation infrastructure. Since, the proposed Project aims to assist the Government in implementing its recent reform initiatives in irrigation sector.