Central Asian countries highlight Aral Sea crisis for help

May 28th, 2008 - 1:53 pm ICT by admin  

United Nations, May 28 (Xinhua) The UN ambassadors of five Central Asian countries have highlighted the deepening environmental crisis involving the world’s fourth largest lake Aral Sea, which shrunk to one-tenth of its original size. At a UN seminar Tuesday, the permanent representatives of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, whose countries share the Aral Sea Basin, requested the international community for help.

Officials from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), who also attended the meeting, shared their views on the severity of the situation.

“The unsustainable use of water resources over the past 50 years has caused one of the biggest catastrophes of modern history which is drying out one of the most beautiful natural water reservoirs (Aral Sea) on our planet,” Uzbekistan’s UN ambassador Alisher Vohidov, who chaired the gathering, said.

According to Vohidov, the water level of the Aral Sea has dropped more than 29 metres, and the coastline has receded to almost 10 km.

Citing problems such as spread of diseases, lack of drinking water, desertification and biological degradation in the region, Vohidov urged help from the international community.

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 from the international community.”

Vohidov announced that the Central Asian states plan to introduce a draft resolution on the Aral Sea at the 63rd session of the 192-member UN General Assembly.

The one-day seminar was held as a follow-up to the international conference March 12 in the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent to boost international cooperation on tackling the Aral Sea crisis.

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