Central Asian countries highlight Aral Sea crisis for intl help
|The UN ambassadors of five Central Asian countries on 27 May put a spotlight on the deepening environmental crisis involving the Aral Sea, which used to be the world's fourth largest lake but has only shrunk to one-tenth of its original size. |
In their respective statements delivered at a UN seminar, the permanent representatives of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, whose countries share the Aral Sea Basin, were unanimous in appealing for attention and support from the international community, Xinhua reported.
Their view on the severity of the situation was shared by officials from relevant UN agencies - the UN Development Program (UNDP), the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) - who also attended the Uzbekistan-sponsored meeting.
"The irrational use of water resources over the past fifty years, which begun in the Soviet era, has caused one of the biggest catastrophes of the modern history - the drying out of one of the most beautiful natural water reservoirs on our planet - the Aral Sea," said Uzbekistan's UN ambassador Alisher Vohidov who chaired the gathering.
According to Vohidov, the volume of the Aral Sea has shrunk almost 10 times, and water surface area has shrunk more than 4 times. Water level has dropped more than 29 meters, and coast line has stepped away for tens of kilometers.
Despite efforts made so far, "much less efforts have been made to actually rehabilitate the environment in and around the drying sea or to improve coordination of work at regional and international level," he said.
"Efforts of Central Asian states have not achieved effective international community mobilization against this growing disaster," he observed.
"As a result, a complicated set of ecological, social-economic and demographic problems have emerged in the Aral Sea region," he said. "Their origin and the subsequent severity of their consequences have assumed an international, global character."
Citing such problems as spreading diseases, lack of drinking water, desertification and biological degradation in the region, Vohidov urged help from the international community.
"Today it is obvious, that without serious expansion of financial and technical assistance by the international donors, it is simply impossible to rehabilitate the Aral Sea region and resolve most outstanding issues," he stressed.
Tajikistan's UN Ambassador Sirodjidin Aslov echoed his Uzbekistan colleague's view.
Although the ecological situation in the area may not be restored to its original level in the 1960s, Aslov said, efforts must be taken to prevent its further deterioration.
"This problem can be resolved in case of efficient regional cooperation and adequate financial support on behalf of the international community," Aslov said.
Kori Udovicki, head of UNDP's European branch, told the meeting that the Aral Sea situation "is probably one of the most acute... environmental crises in the world."
Unlike tsunamis, earthquakes and cyclones, the crisis does not call for "immediate and urgent attention to itself," she said. " And yet, it does require a concerted and committed response by the entire international community."
Vohidov announced that the Central Asian states plan to introduce a draft resolution on the Aral Sea to the 63rd session of the 192-member UN General Assembly, whose term ends this September.
"Giving the importance that Central Asian states attach to this severe problem, we hope that UN member states will support this initiative," said the Uzbekistan envoy.
The one-day seminar was held as a follow-up to the international conference on March 12 in the Uzbekistan capital, Tashkent, which aimed at boosting international cooperation on tackling the Aral Sea crisis.
As a parallel event, a photo exhibition depicting the dire ecological effects of the crisis was opened Tuesday by the Uzbekistan mission at the UN Headquarters in New York.
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