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04 May 2009 / 05:34

On April 28 this year the city of Almaty, the Republic of Kazakhstan, hosted the meeting of heads of founding states of the International Fund for Saving Aral. President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov participated at the summit and took a floor at it. Below is the text of the address by the head of our state.

Dear heads of states,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to greet and express my high respect to the heads of states, the heads and representatives of regional and international organizations, experts present here, as well as all participants of this forum.

Allow me also to express a sincere gratitude to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbaev for a traditional hospitality and substantial consideration, which he is showing to the participants of our meeting.

I think there is no need to underscore a special significance of the meeting of heads of founding states of the International Fund for Saving Aral and the issues being discussed at the session, which go far beyond the limits of our region.

The problem of the Aral Sea traces back long into the past. But the threatening scales it has acquired in the 60s of the 20th century. The rise in a number of population and the increasing growth of demand for water, intensive development of new lands, further development of irrigated land farming and systematically continuing water-short years have created the conditions for one of the largest global ecological catastrophes in the latest history – the drying up of once one of the most beautiful basins on our planet. The entire humanity witnesses the death of sea. To my mind, the history has not yet known such a thing.

For over the past fifty years the water area of the Aral Sea has shrunk for more than four times, the volume of water has decreased ten fold as much as increased its mineralization.

We are all witnessing that the region of the Aral Sea adjacent area is being inexorably occupied by the desert that had emerged there. The permanent ecological risk zone, which negatively affects the quality of life, health, and most importantly, the gene pool of our children, the gene pool of the locally residing population, encompasses not only the regions located around drying up sea – the Kyzyl-Orda region of Kazakhstan, Dashkhovuz region of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Karakalpakstan, Khorezm, Navoi and Bukhara regions of Uzbekistan – but also the entire region of Central Asia.

The deficit of water resources, decrease of quality of drinking water, degradation of soils, rapid reduction of biological diversity, the climatic changes as a result of growth of haziness of atmosphere, perhaps, related to it the shrinking of area of glaciers on the Pamir and Tian-Shan, where the substantial part of watercourse of the region’s main rivers is formed, - these are just a short list of results of perishing of Aral.

Today is quite obvious that the difficult complex of ecological, climatic, social, economic and demographic problems came about in the Aral Sea adjacent area, which are of a global, I would say, planetary scale.

In the unfolding situation, which according to the experts bears far-reaching threatening planetary consequences, it is becoming more and more obvious the very fact that without joint efforts coordinated with the world community, and above all, with the UN institutions, it is impossible to resolve this problem.

As a matter of fact, in March this year it has turned 16 years since establishment of the International Fund for Saving Aral and we may summarize some outcomes of its activity. The indisputable merit of the Fund is the fact that we have been able to draw the attention of the world community, governments of many countries of the world and whole number of international institutions to the problem of Aral.

At the moment, given the active support and participation of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Global Ecological Fund, various international organizations and particular states of the world a whole number of projects is being implemented aimed at recovering the unfavorable state of affairs in the region, which threatens the gene pool of the locally residing population.

The fact that the International Fund for Saving Aral was granted the observer status at the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 opens up the new opportunities for its activity at the global level.

Holding on the initiative of Uzbekistan of the international conference on Aral in March 2008 in the city of Tashkent rendered a substantial impetus for this acute problem to be broadly considered on the international format. The fact that the representatives of over 90 international organizations, the largest state financial institutions of Japan, Germany, China, Arab countries and leading research centers participated at the conference serves as a testimony to the aforesaid.

On the outcomes of forum the Tashkent Declaration and Action plan have been adopted, which envisage the implementation of projects worth in total about 1,5 billion dollars to mitigate the tough consequences of the Aral catastrophe.

In our view, the Action plan, which was approved by international institutes and donor countries, can be efficiently used by our experts and specialists of the International Fund in elaborating the third phase of the Action plan, set for 2011-2015, to render assistance to the region of the Aral Sea basin in the framework of IFSA.

In Uzbekistan we unambiguously realize that it is hardly possible in practice to save the Aral Sea in the full sense of this word, but we are simply obliged to accomplish the comprehensively thought-out Action plan to create the locally residing population normal conditions necessary for a healthy way of life. This is our duty.

We consider our most important task to overcome the consequences of drying up of Aral and ecological recovery of the Aral Sea basin, firstly, in terms of implementation of the following measures:

- establishment of the local basins at the already dried up Aral seabed, filling of delta basins with water to reduce the sand and salt storms, recovery of biodiversity and delta ecosystem;

- the tree planting – and this is very important - at the long dewatered Aral seabed, fixation of the mobile sands, reducing the removal of poisonous aerosols out from the drained seabed;

- supply of drinking water and provision of communal and medical facilities with water disinfesting tools, re-equipment of water intake facilities with chlorination installations and many others, which save and make people healthy.

- continuous study of the impact of the growing ecological crisis in the Aral Sea adjacent area on the state of health and gene pool of population, prevention and prophylaxis of a broad spread of various dangerous human diseases specific for this region, deployment of a specialized network of prophylactic and medical facilities for the locally residing population and accomplishment of the program of measures on accelerated development of the social infrastructure.

The funds worth in the dollar calculus that equal over 1 billion dollars were spent for over the past ten years alone in Uzbekistan to implement the mentioned projects and programs, including at the expense of foreign lending, technical aid and grants – about 265 million dollars.

Availing myself of this high rostrum as much as this opportunity, I consider it my duty to express the feeling of gratitude to the United Nations, its institutions, and all donor countries that have rendered us a substantial assistance.

Yet there is another issue which I would like to very shortly touch upon.

Speaking of the Aral tragedy and measures in terms of its overcoming, certainly, we all realize that the resolution of this task is most directly linked to the problems of rational and reasonable use of the water and energy resources, the most careful approach towards preserving the already fragile ecological and water balance in the region.

I think that given the currently unfolding very serious and ever more worsening ecological situation in the Aral Sea adjacent area and entire region, obviously, there is no need to prove or persuade someone in terms of adopting the most radical measures to prevent the possible negative consequences of drying up of Aral.

Dear participants of the summit,

During the tête-à-tête meeting of heads of states we have reached an agreement that at the delegation-level meeting we were going to discuss only one issue – the activity of the International Fund for Saving Aral and its major tasks for the perspective. However, the addresses of some our colleagues at the summit (plenary session) have gone out of scope of our agreement. In think that despite this today it is of no use to arrange discussions on the issues, which go far beyond the scope of activity of the International Fund for Saving Aral.

I would like only to once again remind you about the very important event for us – recently in Uzbekistan we have received a letter from the president of World Bank Mr. Robert Zoellick, which was published in the press. That was an answer to the letter of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in which all currently available complex problems in Central Asia in terms of the joint use of hydropower resources of entire region have been concretely laid out.

For over the last years the substantial debates and complex discussions on this issue have been taking place. I believe that the differences that have emerged in the debates between the countries located at the upper reaches of the two great rivers of our region – Amudarya and Syrdarya, and the countries in the downstream – Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, - are quite natural.

Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, above all, are concerned about their own interests, but we are speaking about the interests of each particular state, and I want to note that these are the interests of not today but are the interests of the future. Since, as it was spoken here, it was messed up so much during the Soviet time in terms of implementing the water and energy programs then today one has only to regret about it. Among the grandiose projects there are the turn of the Siberian rivers to the territory of Kazakhstan and Central Asia and many other initiatives, which were adopted in line with the resolution of Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Politburo and Council of Ministers of the USSR.

I am convinced, and this is confirmed by facts that not a single of those the so-called “great projects” has not been seriously thought out, did not go through not only international but also no serious expert assessment. “The decision of party shall be implemented into life” – that was the motto all this thoughtless work has been dictated by, which had brought about so much problems not only in our region, but also at vast spaces of the former Soviet Union, about which now the environmentalists have to speak with enormous indignation and regret.

This is a topic for a separate conversation. But one thing is clear today – construction of all those water reservoirs, hydropower stations and other facilities on the territory of Central Asia does not have a definite assessment. This is related to the fact that along with tackling the major issues, which have been pursued, i.e. deriving the electrical power, there have been created many problems, firstly, the ecological ones, which we have already been facing now at every step. Therefore, the debates on this topic are quite logical and natural.

I want to underscore once again that we come out for holding the independent international examination of the scheduled construction of all largest hydropower facilities in the region. In this we are supported not only by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, but also by the European Union. In particular, it was spoken about by the EU representative Mr. Morel, who has not once traveled to the region, including to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Therefore, the point is about not only the views of those countries, which are located at the lower reaches of Amudarya and Syrdarya, but about the public opinion practically in the entire world. At the same time, I would like any assessments to be excluded in these debates, which may yet intensify the discussions between us, I am repeating, the quite natural discussions. It becomes obvious, what their own strategic goals some third countries are pursuing that attempt to influence on these processes in the region.

I think that we are, the heads of states, who are responsible before our people, before history, must, firstly, think about to find today the points of contact, and not to engage these discussions and not to take them out to a political level. Otherwise, it is not excluded that the interests of our countries, our people will be moved aside and the issues related to strategic and geopolitical interests and goals of the third countries, as much as the issues of managing the region, will step onto the foreground.

Most importantly – not to strain the relations between our countries and heads of states, but vice versa, to find compromises. We don’t have another way. I want to note once again that I, as much as we all, give credit for the interests of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But the compromise must be found since without it this most important issue cannot be resolved.

I would like to underscore that I fully support the address by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov at this meeting, I would say, some principal provisions which he has laid out. The position of Turkmenistan, which is laid out in his address, is as follows: “We must achieve the balance of interests of states in this region.” This stands for everything.

If we don’t achieve the balance, don’t achieve the compromise, then we will not be able to resolve this task and the problem will be tackled for the years ahead. And it is not known, who after all will achieve its goals. Is it us, the people, who reside in this region, or in the final outcome, will the interests of others be achieved? After all, we will find ourselves in the position of a small coin along implementation of the principle “divide and rule”.

We don’t have a right to allow it.

Thank you.