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NEWS

Uzbekistan to mitigate Aral Sea environmental catastrophe

www.azernews.az
31 December 2014

Uzbekistan has decided to allocate $3.05 billion to the mitigation of an environmental catastrophe in the drying Aral Sea basin.

Such a decision is based on a governmental decree released on December 29.

The document contains a list of 16 national projects worth $2.971 billion and a list of regional projects with a total cost of $80.2 million. Financing the projects will be implemented through loans recieved from international financial institutions in the amount of $2.15 billion. Uzbekistan will also play a role in financing the projects.

An agreement to allocate the funds was reached during an international conference titled 'Development of cooperation in the region of Aral Sea basin on mitigation of impact of the environmental catastrophe' held in Urgench, Uzbekistan in late October this year.

Aral Sea, located on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, in the center of the Central Asian deserts, was the world's fourth largest lake till 1960. However, over the past 40 years the sea has shrunk by almost twofold, the water level has fallen by 18 meters, the volume of water in the sea has decreased fivefold and its salinity has increased.

Saving the Aral Sea is one of the serious problems of the Central Asian region and without its solution it is difficult to talk about ensuring sustainable development in the region.

Today the Aral Sea is a devestated zone. Its consequences have directly affected the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of people, and have an adverse impact on the economic, social and environmental situation in the region.

In order to solve this problem and to prevent the catastrophic subsequences, five Central Asian countries-Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan established the International Fund for saving the Aral Sea in 1993. Since 2008, this fund has been enjoying the status of an observer under the UN General Assembly. The total contribution of the member states of the Aral Sea fund to the implementation of various projects in 2003-2010 amounted to over $2 billion.

Currently, the third program developed for 2011-2015 years is being implemented. This program was developed by Executive Committee of the fund in cooperation with UN organizations, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Union, as well as the governments of various donor countries. Some $8.5 billion has been allocated to the implementation of over 300 projects included to this program.

Local experts believe that the shoaling problem of the sea should be resolved with the active participation of international organizations, on the basis of universally recognized norms of international law and the interests of all states in the region.

They think the creation of a special international group of experts which in collaboration with the UN and its agencies would develop a comprehensive and international legal document on ways of resaving the Aral Sea.

Developing a special UN program to deal with the Aral Sea and to establish a partnership with the UN interregional center on climate change is among other options as well.