International Efforts Essential
At the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev drew the attention of the international community to one of the most pressing environmental problems of the day – the drying up of the Aral Sea, and called for vigorous consolidation of international efforts to overcome its consequences.
The Aral catastrophe has outgrown the borders of the region, turning into a global problem, and requires close attention of international organizations, politicians, scientists and experts around the world. In the history of civilization there was no such case that a whole sea disappeared in the eyes of one generation.
The result of catastrophic changes in the environment was the loss of more than half of the gene pool of flora and fauna.
All the ongoing processes and phenomena of this region against the backdrop of global climate change on the whole planet are highlighted in a double degree, manifesting much more rigidly, faster and more complexly.
On the dried-up bottom of the sea, dust and salt storms are raging from time to time, raising up to 100 million tons of salt dust annually, which is spread over a distance of more than 400 kilometers. Since the early 1980s, such storms have raged more than 90 days a year.
In this regard, the region is marked by the growth of a number of diseases: respiratory ailments, urolithiasis, oncological diseases.
The deterioration of the ecological situation led to a dramatic decline in economic indicators in the region: livestock production declined by more than fourfold, fish catch – almost 7 times.
On the speedy resolution of this humanitarian disaster today depends the life and health of hundreds of thousands of residents of our countries, the fate of future generations who will live and work in this fertile land.
It should be noted that Uzbekistan has been undertaking a great deal of efforts to stabilize the environmental situation in the Aral zone: in the past few years alone, the country has implemented projects totaling more than $ 5.5 billion. Together with partners from foreign countries and international organizations, projects are being implemented to create forest protective plantations in the drained area of the Aral Sea, the improvement of the drainage system for collector drainage waters, and the increase in the level of life support for the population of the Aral Sea region. Over the past 10 years, about 350 thousand hectares of forest protective plantings from saxaul and other salt-tolerant plant species have been laid on the drained bottom of the Aral Sea.
In accordance with the government program for the development of the Aral region for 2017-2021, aimed at improving the conditions and quality of life of the population of the Aral region, it is planned to allocate funds from the state budget and attract investments in the amount of over 8 trillion soums. At the same time, it is impossible to fully resolve the ecological and socioeconomic problems that have accumulated over the decades in the region without effective interaction of all countries in the region and effective support of the international community.
These issues were discussed at an international conference “Joint actions to mitigate the consequences of the Aral catastrophe: new approaches, innovative solutions, investments” on 7-8 June this year in Tashkent, attended by more than 100 leading experts from over 20 countries, representatives of the diplomatic corps and international organizations operating in Central Asia, prominent scientists and specialists of public institutions, representatives of NGOs and the media.
The Tashkent resolution adopted at the end of the forum called upon the states of the region, within the framework of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, to strive for coordinated practical orientation and harmonization of their actions to address the problems of the Aral area, increase the effectiveness of implemented programs to mitigate the consequences of the Aral catastrophe, projects aimed at improving the environmental and socio-economic situation not only in the Aral region, but also in the entire Aral basin, as well as to deepen cooperation among the countries of the region in the joint development of new approaches and innovative solutions for the use of water resources of transboundary rivers.
In order to cement mutual understanding and trust among all the countries of Central Asia and to establish openness and transparency in relations, the Uzbek side considers it necessary to take joint efforts to find commonly acceptable and mutually beneficial solutions for resolving the issue of rational and equitable use of water resources in Central Asia.
To date, there is no other alternative to address the issue of distribution of the region’s transboundary water resources, except
Therefore, we consistently advocate the fair and rational use of trans-boundary watercourses on the basis of observance of generally accepted norms of international law, solving the water and environmental problems of the region on a constructive and mutually beneficial basis, in the spirit of good-neighborliness.
At the same time, Uzbekistan’s position on the use of transboundary watercourses is as follows:
- the use of water resources of the trans-boundary rivers of Central Asia should be addressed taking into account the interests of the entire population of the region;
- any actions carried out on trans-boundary rivers should not have a negative impact on the existing ecological and water balance of the region;
- the norms of international water law should be the basis for building an effective system for sharing the resources of transboundary rivers of the Central Asian region;
- projects on trans-boundary rivers should be implemented on the basis of a constructive approach and a compromise that does not infringe on the interests of other interested states and guarantees two necessary conditions: preventing the reduction of the level of flow to the territory of the downstream countries; preservation of ecological and water balance in the region.
In this regard, it is important to direct the efforts of international organizations to stimulate the accession of the countries of the region to the UN Water Conventions on the Protection and Use of Trans-boundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992) and on the Law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997) and promotion of multilateral legal instruments on trans-boundary water resources management on the basis of the provisions of these conventions.
In this respect, we support the initiative of the United Nations on the conclusion of international conventions on the rational and equitable use of water resources in the basins of the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers.
The use of trans-boundary water resources should not be an apple of discord, but rather an important aspect of water cooperation between our countries for years to come, and contribute to the development of our fraternal peoples.
On the dried-up bottom of the sea, vast areas of white salt fields emerged, which turned into a new desert, Aralkum, with an area of about 5.5 million hectares. Today, hundreds of lakes have vanished in the lower reaches of the Amudarya River, almost 90% of tugai thickets along with their inhabitants. for achieving regional agreement by adopting legal instruments that promote constructive and civilized dialogue.