TO PARTICIPANTS OF INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE “PROBLEMS OF THE ARAL SEA, THEIR IMPACT ON GENE POOL, FLORA AND FAUNA AND MEASURES OF INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION FOR MITIGATING THE IMPACT"
Distinguished Participants of the Conference!
I am pleased to welcome you in the capital of Uzbekistan – Tashkent city.
This conference is focused on the one of the most complex and relevant problems for the Central Asian countries, and the importance of this problem without exaggeration is not limited only by water security issues within one particular region.
You have gathered with noble mission – to comprehesively discuss issues related to implications of the Aral Sea crisis and development of measures which would allow the world commnity to assist Central Asian countries, and primarily, the population living immediately in the crisis area, in prevention of aggravation of living conditions and maintaning of fragile environmental balance of unique flora and fauna of the region.
The problem of the Aral Sea is rooted in ancient times. However in 60th of the last century it has extended to wide scale crisis. Intensive agricultural development of new land and irrigation coupled with construction of irrigation systems throughout the Central Asia, continuing growth in demand for water for household and commercial use, as well as shortage of water resources over several years caused one of the major environmental global scale crises in modern history – drying out of the once one of the most beautiful natual water reservoirs on our planet. Over the last fifty years the area of water of the Aral Sea has shrinked in size more than four times and the volume of water decreased 10 times while the salinity increased accordingly.
The Aral Sea area is inexorably being invaded by desert. Not only regions surrounding the drying out sea – Kyzyl Orda region of Kazakhstan, Dashkhovuz region of Turkmenistan and Republic of Karakalpakstan, Khorezm, Navoi, Bukhara regions of Uzbekistan are in the zone of continuous environmental risk under impact of factors adversely affecting quality of life, health and gene pool of peoples living there are, but the entire Central Asia.
Shortage of water resources, including decline in access to and quality of potable water, land degradation, drastic reduction of biodiversity, climatic changes as a result of increase in haziness of atmosphere, and possibly related to this reduction in the area of glaciers in Pamir and Tuan-Shan, where the bulk of the runoff of the main rivers is formed is just a short list of the implications of the Aral perishing. It is obvious that the Aral region has complex set of environmental, socio-economics and demographic problems of international and global character in terms of origin and implications.
Understanding of this found its reflection in the UN Central Asia Human Development Report of 2005, which stated that attrition (exhaustion) of the Aral Sea has had both regional and global impact.
In this context the issues of reasonable use of water resources of transboundary rivers of the region is becoming increasingly important. These rivers at all times ensured vitally important needs of the states located in their basins. At present those are vital interests of more than 50 million people, living in six countries of the region, which call for comprehensive and well-considered approach and decisions in use of water resources, primarily runoff of transboundary rivers for the sake and in the interests of all countries and peoples living in the region. Otherwise this can aggravate the situation with water supply in lower Amudarya and Sirdarya even more, accelerate ecological catastrophe of the shrinking Aral Sea and question prospects of sustainable development and even habitation of dozens of million of nationals of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
In accordance with key documents of international law, including Conventions on Protection and Use of Transboundary Waterways and International Lakes (1992) and On Right of Unnavigable Use of International Waterways (1997), defining major principles of using transboundary rivers, it is stipulated that all countries of waterway "use within the limits of their territories the international runoff in fair and reasonable manner”.
These documents also provide for obligation of international runoff states to undertake "any appropriate measures for prevention of considerable harm to other runoff states" in using it on their territories and in case of such harm, undertake adequate measures "for liquidation or minimization of such harm, and if necessary, discuss compensation issue".
International law in part of use of water resources of transboundary waters also provides for general obligation of the countries of the region to collaborate “in order to achieve optimal use and proper protection of international runoff”.
Summit of Heads of Central Asian states in March 1993 has become an important start of such cooperation. At this meeting in Kyzyl-Orda city, Agreement on Mutual Actions on Resolution of the Aral Sea Crisis was signed. Since those years countries of the region jointly with international organizations have made considerable efforts for overcoming of environmental and socio-economic crisis in the Aral Sea basin and improving the situation in the region.
I am convinced that global social problems, including those within the framework of attaining Millennium Development Goals should be addressed through the formula “towards globalism via regionalism”, by creating efficient regional mechanizms.
Under General Assembly of the UNO decision, the years from 2005 to 2015 were declared International Decade of actions “Water for Life”. It is symbolic that this Tashkent conference is being conducted not only since 15 years of signing of first Agreement on Joint Activities of Central Asian Countries in Resolving the Aral Sea crisis, but also shortly before 22 March – International Day of Water Resources and in International Year of the Planet Earth, proclaimed by the UNO.
I am convinced that the outcomes of this conference would enable to formulate new vision and understanding of the Aral crisis by international community and develop specific measures for improvement of the situation, which would become a foundation for further fruitful cooperation with the aim of protecting gene pool of the population, flora and fauna of the Central Asia.
I would like to wish participants of the conference to work fruitfully and future success in implementation of these crucial and fundamental tasks.
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Source: Jahon information agency, .03.2008