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Welcoming address by President of Uzbekistan to the participants of international conference

Press Release 16

Dear guests!
Distinguished participants of conference!

I sincerely welcome you in the capital of Uzbekistan – the city of Tashkent.
Today’s conference is dedicated to one of the very complex and very urgent problems for the countries of Central Asia the significance of which, it can be said without exaggeration, is not limited to the issues of water security and boundaries of one region.
You have gathered with a noble mission – to comprehensively discuss the issues related to consequences of the Aral crisis and elaborate the measures which will allow the world community to render assistance to the Central Asian states, and firstly, to the population that resides in the zone of immediate crisis, in preventing the worsening of life conditions, preserving the delicate ecological balance of unique flora and fauna of this region.
The problem of Aral Sea traces its roots back to the far past. But it acquired the threatening scales in 60s of the 20th century. Intensive development of new lands, further development of irrigated land farming, construction of irrigational systems for such purposes throughout entire territory of Central Asia, the continuing growth of demand for water for the household and industrial consumption, as well as systematically repeating low-water 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 reservoirs on our planet. For over the last fifty years the water area of the Aral Sea has decreased by over four times, the volume of water has diminished by ten times with its mineralization having increased by as much as the same-fold.
The newly-emerged desert conquers the area adjacent to Aral. The zone of permanent ecological risk encompasses not only the regions located around the drying sea impacted by the factors that negatively affect the quality of life, health, and the gene pool of the locally residing population – the Kyzyl-Orda region of Kazakhstan, Dashkhovuz region of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Karakalpakstan, Khorezm, Navoi, and Bukhara provinces of Uzbekistan, but also the entire region of Central Asia.
The deficit of water resources, including the decrease of access and quality of drinking water, degradation of lands, rapid diminishing of biodiversity, climatic changes as a result of high haziness of atmosphere, and perhaps, the related to it lessening of area of glaciers on the Pamir and Tian Shan, where the significant part of flow off of the region’s major rivers is formed – these are the brief list of results of dying up of Aral. Today it is quite obvious that the tough complex of ecological, social, economic and demographic problems has emerged in the area adjacent to Aral which on their origins and level of consequences are of an international and global nature.
The 2005 UN report on human development in Central Asia which has noted that depletion of the Aral Sea was not only of a regional but also a global significance had also reflected the realization of those problems.

The issues of rational use of water resources of transboundary rivers of the region acquire a special urgency in this context. Those rivers at all times have provided for pivotal needs of states located in their basins. Today, these are the vitally important interests of more than 50 million people that reside in six states of the region which dictate the need of undertaking the comprehensively thought-out approach and solutions in using the water resources, firstly, of the flow of transboundary rivers in the interests of all countries and peoples that reside in the region.
Otherwise this may much worsen the situation in terms of providing water in the downstream of Amudarya and Syrdarya, accelerate the ecological catastrophe of drying up Aral and put into doubt the prospects of sustainable development and practically as a whole the residence of tens of millions of people of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan here.
In line with the key documents of international law, including the conventions on the protection and use of transboundary watercourses and international lakes (1992) and on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses (1997) which define the major principles of using the transboundary rivers, it is envisaged that all states of watercourse “use within boundaries of their corresponding territory the transboundary watercourse in a reasonable and equitable way”.
Those documents also envisage the commitment of states of international watercourse on its use on their territory to take “all necessary measures to prevent the infliction of significant damage to other states of watercourse”, and in the case of infliction of such damage all measures must be taken “to liquidate or abate such damage, and if needed, to discuss the issue of compensation”.
The international law on using the water resources of transboundary rivers also envisions the general commitment of states of the region to cooperate “with an aim to achieve the optimal use and due protection of international watercourse”.
The meeting of heads of states of Central Asia which took place on March 1993 served as an important start of such cooperation. That meeting in the city of Kyzyl Orda saw the signing of Agreement on joint actions to resolve the Aral Sea crisis. For over all these years the states of the region jointly with international organizations have undertaken the considerable efforts to overcome the ecological, social and economic crisis in the Aral Sea basin and improve the situation in the region.
I am convinced that the global social problems including those in the framework of achieving the Millennium development goals are necessary to resolve in line with the formula “towards globalism through regionalism”, by way of establishing the effective regional mechanisms.
In accordance with the resolution of the UN General Assembly, the years 2005-2015 have been announced as an International action decade “Water for life”. It is also symbolical that today’s Tashkent conference is taking place not only during the period of fifteenth anniversary of signing the first agreement on joint actions of the Central Asian states on resolving the Aral Sea crisis, but also not long ahead of March 22 – the World water resources day in the World year of planet of Earth declared as such by the UN.
I am convinced that the results of conference will allow to shape the new vision and understanding by the international community of the Aral crisis and elaborate the concrete measures to improve the situation which will become the basis for further fruitful cooperation with an aim to protect the gene pool of population, flora and fauna of the Central Asian region.
I wish the participants of conference the fruitful work and further successes in implementing these most important and principle tasks.

Most Sincerely,

Islam Karimov,
President of the Republic of Uzbekistan

London, 23 April 2008

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