Critics say Uzbekistan should continue to be allowed to use the water, but the reservoir's land should remain within Kyrgyzstan.
BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov has signed into law several documents on the delimitation of the border with Uzbekistan, including an agreement to jointly manage the Kempir-Abad water reservoir, a hot-button issue in the country.
The Kyrgyz presidential press service said Japarov signed the documents on November 29.
The two Central Asian countries' lawmakers approved the documents earlier this month. Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev has yet to sign the documents into law. The Kempir-Abad reservoir, known in Uzbekistan as the Andijon reservoir, was built in 1983. It is located in the fertile Ferghana Valley and is a vital regional water source. Uzbekistan, whose population of 35 million is five times larger than that of Kyrgyzstan, uses most of the water from the area. Many Kyrgyz civil activists, opposition politicians, and residents living close to the dam have opposed the deal, saying Uzbekistan should continue to be allowed to use the water, but the reservoir's land should remain within Kyrgyzstan. Last month, more than 20 members of a group called the Kempir-Abad Defense Committee were arrested in Bishkek and detained for two months after they openly challenged the deal. They were charged with planning riots over the border deal, which is more than three decades in the making. The former Kyrgyz ambassador to Malaysia, Azimbek Beknazarov, former lawmaker Asia Sasykbaeva, well-known politicians Kanat Isaev, Jenis Moldokmatov, and Ravshan Jeenbekov, and other noted public figures and human rights activists are among the committee members jailed. Japarov and his allies claim the deal benefits Kyrgyzstan and that Kyrgyz farmers will still have access to the reservoir. The two countries share a border more than 1,300 kilometers long.