Aspects of the IFAS activity are reviewed during international forum

Photo: Yuri Shkurin

Large conference hall of the Agricultural Complex of Turkmenistan held International Conference “The Role of International Fund for Saving of the Aral Sea in Development of Cooperation in the Central Asian Region”. The forum was organized under the chairing of our country in the IFAS in 2017 – 2019.

Representatives of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the UN Development Programme, the UN Regional Centre for Preventative Diplomacy for the Central Asia, Regional Ecology Centre of the Central Asian countries, German Society for International Cooperation, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, heads of foreign representative missions accredited in our country and other took part in the conference.

Representatives of the Ministry of foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Management, the State Committee for Natural Protection and Land Resources, different universities of the country and other participated in the meeting from Turkmen side.

It was mentioned during the conference that rational water use is an important aspect of the policy led by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov what in its turn is closely connected to protection of ecological prosperity and environmental protection. General programme for provision of the population with drinking water, stipulating construction and opening of new water purifying plants, is implemented in the country. The works for desalination of seawater are also carried out.

Drain waters from the oases were connected to single highly efficient hydro system after commissioning of the first phase of Altyn Asyr Turkmen Lake. As the result, the condition of irrigated lands is improved and discharge of drain waters to the lowlands and water mains is prevented. These measures help to restoration of the ecological condition in the country and n the region in general.

Construction of facilities of the second phase of this grandiose projects is continued. It opens large perspectives of secondary use of drain waters for agricultural needs. This is especially important taking into account the limit of water sources in the Central Asia.

Various aspects of the IFAS activity aimed at the countermeasures against aftereffects of the Aral crises and prevention of ecosystems degradation in the Aral Sea zone, protection of biodiversity and the environment in the Central Asia and sustainable use of natural resources, assistance to economic and social development of the peoples of the region were revealed in the speeches of foreign participants of the forum.

The Aral crisis is recognized by the world community as ecological catastrophe of the XXI century, which is long beyond the borders of the region and turned to be a global problem, - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Turkmenistan Orman Nurbayev noted. Such international institution as the International Fund for Saving of the Aral Sea is more required as the measure of collective influence on ecological, social and economic situation in the Aral Sea basin.

The diplomat highlighted that large efforts were put for its improvement and number of projects for restoration of sea coasts and fishing industry were successfully implemented but the extend of the Aral Sea degradation remains quite serious and we have plenty of joint work ahead.

The problem of the Aral Sea is one of the largest in the history, which destroyed the ecosystem of the region. Its restoration is a long and complicated process.

The provision of sustainable water use and prevention of critical reduction of water resource potential of river systems in the central Asia require more large-scale measures, coordinated activity of the countries of the region on solution of interrelated water, energy and ecological objectives. In this regard, the necessity of consolidation of transboundary water cooperation based on integrated approach considering all aspects including medical, social, economic and legal was mentioned. O. Nurbayev aslo reminded that during the visit of the President of Turkmenistan to Astana on April 18 – 19 of this year, the subject of cooperation in the International Fund for Saving of the Aral Sea was one of the key topics during the talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. This urgent issue was also raised during the meeting of Turkmen Leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov with the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Ashgabat on June 13.

In this context, the Ambassador mad special mention of the initiative of the Head of Turkmenistan on development of the UN Special Programme stipulating specific plans for stabilization and improvement of ecological situation in the region. All of these as well as the opening of the office of the Executive Committee of the IFAS are the evidence of the contribution of Turkmenistan in solution of the Aral Sea problems.

The scientists notified on the drying up of the water body in the beginning of the 50s of the last century and in the 60s the sea started to draw back fast from its coast. In the 90s, when the problem reached catastrophic scale, the countries of the region united, having recognized that only the only solution of the situation and mitigation of the consequences is able only by joint efforts.

Speaking of this, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic f Tajikistan to Turkmenistan Farukh Shareefzoda highlighted that the International Fund for Saving of the Aral Sea is a unique organization by its structure and mission, which for the years of its work supported the establishment of quality new interstate relations of member countries and peaceful solution of complex water management issues.

However such factors as global climate change, population growth, world financial crisis and the necessity of the support of further development of national economies of considerably complicated the objective of the region. In this context, the Ambassador noted exclusive importance of more resolute coordinated activities, integrated and balanced approach based on the principles of equality and justice, mutual respect and support, commitment to good neighbourhood.

The diplomat expressed the confidence that the chairmanship of Turkmenistan in the International Fund for Saving of the Aral Sea and implementation of the initiatives of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov will promote the trust and give new impulse to further development of cooperation between the members of the Fund.

Speaking at the conference, Head of the Secretariat of the Interstate Commission for Sustainable Development (ICSD) of the IFAS Batyr Mammedov outlined the main objectives of the regional partnership in environmental protection and sustainable development of the Central Asian countries. At present moment, the management of the ICSD is headed by Turkmenistan.

The presenter noted that taking into account the adoption of the Goals of Sustainable Development and Paris Treaty of Climate by the world society, the necessity of review of joint action plan is required what would allow presenting new priorities and frames of cooperation. This subject was included as one of the main activity in the concept of the chairmanship of Turkmenistan in the IFAS for improvement of ecological segment of the Fund’s activity and development of new programme for support of the Aral Sea countries. The works in this direction have been commenced – first Central Asian Ecology Forum was held in Ashgabat on June 5 – 8 and at the same time the session of the Interstate Commission for Sustainable Development took place where important decision on discussed subject were taken.

The attention in the speech was focused on regionalization of the Goals of Sustainable Development. Particularly, the following goals are recommended to be adapted for the work of the ICSD: provision of the presence and rational use of water resources and sanitary for all, access to cheap and reliable sources of energy, responsible consumption and production, control of the climate change and its aftereffects, protection of marine and restoration of land ecosystems, partnership in the interests of sustainable development.

Besides, there are several directions of activity including renewable sources of energy, transport and trade where regional cooperation can make considerable input to successful implementation of the tasks set by the global development agenda until 2030 adopted in September 2015.

Joint accountable nature management today is the only way of sustainable development of the countries and the people. The Aral Sea, which is virtually disappeared from the Earth within one generation, is an opposite example. There is no opportunities to restore it to its original state. However, the main subject is to reduce negative impacts of the Aral crisis on the environment and on the life activity of millions of people by implementation of considered, scientifically based, targeted projects guaranteed by reliable sources of investments, - Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uzbekistan Akmaljon Kuchkarov highlighted in his speech.

The diplomat expressed the confidence that Turkmenistan, owing to political will of its Leader, would reach the progress in many direction of the activity of the IFAS, including in restoration of ecological balance and improvement of social and economic situation in the Aral region during the chairmanship in the organization. In this context, it was mentioned that common vision and understanding of the role of the International Fund were outlined in the joint statement of President of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Shavkat Mirziyoyev by the outcomes of the visit of the Head of Uzbekistan to Ashgabat on March 6 – 7, 2017. It was also highlighted that number of specific and efficient measures for improvement of the Fund’s activity and expansion of wider and more dynamic regional cooperation in improvement of ecological situation in the Central Asia have been undertaken for the short period since the beginning of the chairmanship of Turkmenistan in the IFAS

Role of international organizations in the activity of the International Fund of Saving of the Aral Sea was reviewed and main directions of the partnership in this range of problems with involvement of expert and sponsorship support were discussed. Circumstantial share of the visions on the key subjects and reports also took place.

Deputy of the Permanent Representative of the UNDP in Turkmenistan Vitaliy Vremish noted that the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres went to the Central Asia recently, visited Turkmenistan as well as inspected the basin of dried Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. He was shocked with what he has seen. The Head of the UN called the Aral Sea, which is the fourth largest enclosed sea, as the biggest ecological catastrophe of today. Its negative impact is continued. For example in form of the dust that is lifted from the bottom of the sea and spreads for thousands of kilometres making negative effect on the millions of people. The catastrophe could have been prevented in its times. That is why the UN calls upon for coordinated activities aimed at the elimination of the consequences of similar disasters together with restoration and preventative measures concerning natural resources. Fulfilment of the obligations of Paris Treaty is the most important direction of joint work in this direction.

Integrated approach involving numerous spheres of human activities and economies of the countries is required for reduction of the risks and impact of the climate change. The UN Development Programme supports the promotion of newest technologies and advanced methods of water and agricultural management, implementation of components of protection of biodiversity, etc. the programme cooperates with national departments and agencies as well as with non-governmental organizations. There are projects aimed at adaptation to the climate change in the agriculture, improvement of energy efficiency in living construction sphere, development of green cities and water resources management among those which are being implemented in the country.

V. Vremish made special mention of the importance of the initiative of President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for opening in Ashgabat of the UN Office for partnership in sustainable development. The opening of the office is planned for the next year. Joint work in ecological sphere and climate change are to be the most important part of the activity of this organization.

Representatives of international organization expressed the willingness to close cooperation with Turkmen specialists supporting the formation of efficient team for taking the decisions on regional level. At the same time, active role of Turkmenistan in development process of ecological partnership, which important steps have been made by our country in this direction, was highlighted.

By unanimous opinion of the delegates of the forum, foreign policy status of neutrality of Turkmenistan is a core factor of the expansion of constructive dialog between neighbouring states what would undoubtedly serve to reliable foundation of future agreements in management of water resources.