About Aral, Time and Again

Uzbekistan Today (English) - - ECOLOGY AND SOCIETY -

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.

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