About Aral, Time and Again
Boriy ALIKHANOV, Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis
Sergei SAMOILOV, Member of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis
Repeatedly from the high rostrum of the UN General Assembly, Uzbekistan has called on the world community to urgently respond to the challenges of environmental safety in the multi-million-populated region of Central Asia. It was emphasized that the Aral problem is becoming global in nature due to the extent of its impact on the biosphere, living conditions and the gene pool of the population.
At the same time, decisive actions to improve the environmental situation and maintain the economic and social sphere in the Aral Sea region are carried out mainly at the national level or on a bilateral basis, although several billion dollars have been spent on the implementation of programs and projects in this zone.
The adoption by the government of Uzbekistan in August 2015 of the Comprehensive Program to mitigate the effects of the Aral disaster, rehabilitation and socio-economic development of the Aral Sea region for 2015-2018, including more than 500 projects totaling over $ 4.3 billion, was an unprecedented step aimed at improving conditions life of the population of this region.
Also, on the initiative of the head of our state, in January 2017, the State Program for the Development of Aral Sea Region for 2017-2021 was adopted and implemented, aimed at improving the living conditions and quality of life of the local population. It provides for the following specific actions. The first is the implementation of comprehensive measures to create new jobs, ensure employment of the population, as well as increase the investment attractiveness of the region. The second is the development of a water supply system and an increase in the level of providing people with clean drinking water, improving sewage systems, sanitation and recycling household waste. The third is measures for the further development of the health system in the region and the preservation of the gene pool of the population. The fourth is the improvement of the living conditions of people living in the region, the repair of inhouse engineering communications and common areas in apartment buildings, as well as the improvement of territories adjacent to houses with the creation of children’s and sports grounds. The fifth is the development of transport, engineering and communication infrastructure of settlements in the region, improving the irrigation network and outdoor lighting networks, improving the heat supply systems of the cities of Nukus and Urgench, which include the introduction of modern energysaving technologies.
Together with partners from foreign countries and international organizations, projects are being carried out to create forest protective plantings on the dried bottom of the Aral Sea and new protected natural areas, improve the drainage system for drainage waters, and increase the livelihoods of the population. Over the past ten years, about 350 thousand hectares of forest from saxaul and other salt-resistant plant species have been laid on the dried bottom of the Aral Sea. The total area of such territories was about 700 thousand hectares.
In order to further solve the pressing problems of the Aral Sea and the Aral Sea region, it is also envisaged to carry out comprehensive environmental projects aimed, firstly, at developing the dried-up coastline of the Aral Sea and the Amudarya delta of a system of local water bodies, the socalled wetlands, which will improve the socio-economic situation of the population, increase its employment through participation in the development of fisheries and livestock, and will also contribute to the restoration of the biodiversity of the region, including the saiga population. Secondly, carrying out forest protection measures on the dried bottom of the Aral Sea will allow reducing salt transfer, will help to restore tugai forests and strengthen the system of protected natural areas in the Amudarya delta. Thirdly, the implementation of the Karakalpakstan water supply program by 2020, as a result of which the coverage of water supply in cities will be increased to 100%, and in the countryside up to 80%. Fourthly, to ensure the application of the mechanisms of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and the Convention on the non-navigational uses of international watercourses, which will contribute to the provision of environmentally sound water in the Aral Sea area. Fifth, to ensure the implementation of the principles of “green economy”, in particular, the implementation of a comprehensive program for the introduction of environmentally friendly renewable energy sources and technologies, which will reduce the anthropogenic burden on the environment, preserve natural resources and improve the environmental situation. Sixth, to promote the development of ecological forms of tourism, aimed both at understanding the surrounding nature and at maintaining and preserving it.
But today, overcoming the consequences of the desiccation of the sea cannot be ensured by the efforts of only one country and requires active consolidation of international efforts, as well as to revitalize and involve young people in the practical implementation of measures in the course of ongoing reforms in the country and strengthening international cooperation. In this regard, Uzbekistan proposed to develop the UN International Convention on the Rights of the Youth – a unified international legal act aimed at the formation and implementation of youth policy in the context of globalization and rapid development of information and communication technologies.
This document reaffirmed the importance of closer and more coordinated cooperation between the states of Central Asia. It also calls on the member states to “support the efforts of the states of Central Asia aimed at mitigating the environmental and socio-economic consequences of the drying up of the Aral Sea”.
As the head of our state noted at the summit of the heads of the IFAS states on August 24, 2018, the Central Asian region is determined by the main priority of the foreign policy of Uzbekistan. In a number of significant initiatives put forward by the leader of Uzbekistan at this forum, there are the following. The first is about declaring the Aral Region a zone of ecological innovations and technologies; the second is about opening representative offices of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Global Environment Facility at the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea; the third is about the creation of a regional center for growing seedlings of desert and forage plants, which will become a unique scientific and educational base for the preparation of popular specialists; the fourth is about the creation of transboundary protected natural areas in the Aral Sea zone to preserve the unique fauna of our region; the fifth is the adoption and implementation of the Regional Program for the Rational Use of Water Resources in Central Asia in order to drastically improve the level of regional cooperation based on mutually acceptable mechanisms of interaction in water conservation, management and rational use of transboundary water resources of the Aral Sea basin; the sixth is about conducting joint interdisciplinary research, including at the site of scientific information centers of the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination and the Interstate Commission for Sustainable Development.
These initiatives of Uzbekistan are fully supported by our neighbors – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Along with this, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan launched the initiative to create a multi-partner Trust Fund for human security for the Aral Sea region, which received UN support. It will bring together the experience of various stakeholders, including international financial and donor organizations, the government of Uzbekistan, national regional and local authorities, UN agencies and public organizations. The activities of the Trust Fund will not be limited to short-term measures, but will promote integrated innovative solutions that facilitate the exchange of technologies through cooperation, with the active involvement of local communities. These decisions, in fact, are aimed at preventing consequences, rather than responding to them. Thus, the activities of the Trust Fund and its projects will fully complement and continue the efforts of the government to address the problems of the Aral Sea region, applying a programmatic approach that supports strategic, transparent and impartial development cooperation in accordance with international best practice.
It will also pursue goals such as job creation, managing natural resources, improving social services in health and education, strengthening the rights and opportunities of women and girls, including supporting women in difficult conditions, developing effective governance through joint planning and implementation of initiatives. The Fund will also give priority to the most vulnerable and remote regions of the Aral Sea region and carry out direct work with communities.
This will ensure transparency of the selection, approval, implementation and monitoring of projects with the possibility of involving donor organizations that will know where they are investing their funds online. In addition, the organization and implementation of a monitoring, evaluation and reporting system for the activities of the entire Trust Fund and its projects within the framework of international requirements and local legislation are envisaged.
On November 27, 2018, a high-level event was held at the UN headquarters in New York on launching a multi-partner UN Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral region in Uzbekistan. It was organized by the governments of our country, Japan and Norway in cooperation with international organizations. During the event, the foundation's program strategy was presented, based on the analysis and provision of the needs and requirements of the population affected by the Aral crisis through the application of the concept of human security.
The event attracted the attention of the wide international community and donor countries to the environmental disaster of the Aral Sea, which has already gone beyond national and regional borders and increasingly requires the combined efforts of the entire international community.
Undoubtedly, Central Asia is a region of unique opportunities and huge untapped potential. Ensuring sustainable development, stability and prosperity in the region is our common and achievable task.
The joint efforts of the countries of Central Asia will be another step in moving towards this noble goal, will contribute to the practical solution of key tasks, and advance new, sought-after ideas and proposals aimed at strengthening our common Central Asian home.
Only the active entry of the Central Asian countries into the system of world economic relations, into the world economic and informational space, strengthening political cooperation with leading states of the world and international institutions and, above all, the integration of the states of this region into a regional as well as global system of international security, can become a reliable guarantee of peace, stability and sustainable development.
It is gratifying to note that on June 22, 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution “On strengthening regional and international cooperation in order to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the region of Central Asia”.
The first contributor to the Trust Fund was the government of Norway, who contributed $ 1.2 million. This decision is the first step towards combining the efforts of the world community and the countries of Central Asia in solving the pressing problems of the Aral Sea region.