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On the outcomes of high level conference of the European Union - Central Asia Platform for cooperation in the area of environment protection and water resources

Press Release 46

On December 3, 2008 the high level conference in format of the European Union - Central Asia “Platform for cooperation in the area of environment protection and water resources” was held in Ashgabat city. Among the participants of the international forum were the representatives of governments, heads and senior specialists of water economy and environment protection agencies of the region, as well as other countries - member-states of the EU.

EU special representative for Central Asia Pierre Morel addressed the meeting and spoke about the necessity of resolving the issues of joint managing of water resources at the Aral Sea basin on the basis of provisions of international law. Mr. Morel noted that “sensitivity” and importance of this problem for Central Asian countries must be taken into account while resolving the issue of water consumption in the region. Any solution must be taken proceeding from the position of each interested side.

The need to enhance the cooperation of the EU with Central Asian countries with a view of countering the common regional ecologic threats, observing the norms of international law, ensuring the balanced regional approach considering the interests of all countries, reducing the negative influence of ecologic factor on the health of population has also been underscored at the conference. Participants have expressed grave concern on the problem of Aral Sea and emphasized the need to elaborate the strategy for preventing this kind of natural disasters in the future.

At the same time, the representatives of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan attempted to express unjustified claims with regard to construction of new hydro-technical facilities at the flow of basins of Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers. However, the representatives of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, as well as delegations of the international and national organizations of the leading EU countries have principally underscored inadmissibility of such attempts without observing the following principles, which were stated by President Islam Karimov at the Bishkek Summit of SCO in August 2007. Those principles envisage that issues of water consumption at the trans-boundary rivers of Central Asia must be addressed with consideration of the interests of more than 50 million people residing in all countries of the region; any actions conducted at trans-boundary rivers must not affect the ecologic and water balance of the region; the current international legal framework in the area of water consumption and ecology must become a basis of building the efficient system of joint use of resources of the region's trans-boundary rivers. This position has found understanding and support among the conference participants.

The final document underscored that the Ashgabat Meeting has once again showed that the international community, the governments of European countries and representatives of the European Commission have unequivocally stand against unjustified attempts of starting the building of hydro-technical facilities without relevant technical appraisal, which would guarantee constancy of volume and regime of flow, as well as inadmissibility of creation of new threats for ecology of the region particularly at the Aral Sea basin.

Participants of the meeting said that catastrophe of Aral Sea must serve as a warning against new precipitate attempts that cause threat to life of hundreds of thousands of people both in terms of change of nature management and technogenic catastrophes related to high seismicity of the zones of perspective construction of dams.

Participants underscored that the assessment of impact of ecologic factors to the health of people must not only be carried out but also considered as an important component of coordinated activities as a part of cooperation. The delegates to the event also came to agreement with views on the need of joint considering the problem of environment and water resources, including the use of trans-boundary rivers in the framework of the EU Strategy for Central Asia. 

Acting chairman of State Committee for Nature of Uzbekistan B.Alikhanov who took part at the conference said that sustainable management of trans-boundary watercourses and development of their water resources should be premised on existing international legal basis in the sphere of water consumption, and regulate the order of their use proceeding from mutual beneficial interests of all countries of the region. In this regard, any acts being carried out at the trans-boundary rivers shall not have a negative impact on the current water balance and ecologic requirements.
The Uzbek side believes that all decisions on using watercourse of trans-boundary rivers, as well as when constructing hydropower facilities shall in no way inflict damage to ecology and infringe upon interests of populations of the countries in adjacent territories. All decisions on using flows of these rivers, as well as when constructing hydropower facilities, shall surely take into account these interests. Otherwise, it can yet more worsen the situation with ensuring water in the lower reaches of Amudarya and Syrdarya, much aggravate the ecologic catastrophe of drying up Aral Sea.
If the damage is inflicted all measures must be taken to liquidate or abate it, and if necessary the issue on compensation is put forward. According to fundamental requirements of abovementioned UN conventions, the guarantees must be given by authoritative international experts that the construction of hydro-technique facilities shall not have an irreparable ecologic affects, shall not infringe existing balance of using watercourse of trans-boundary rivers by all countries located on their basin. Implementation of these requirements must be mandatory when implementing various projects on constructing hydropower facilities in Central Asia with participation of both national and transnational companies in order not to allow for catastrophic worsening of ecologic situation in the region.

Those, who took a floor at the conference, emphasized that the position of Uzbekistan on the issues of using water resources of trans-boundary rivers of the region was clearly and precisely enunciated by President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov in his address at the session of Council of the heads of the SCO member-states on August 16, 2007. In particular: the issues of using water resources of trans-boundary rivers of Central Asia shall be addressed by taking into account the interests of over 50 million people who reside in all countries of the region; any efforts undertaken at the trans-boundary rivers shall not have a negative impact on existing ecologic water balance of the region; existing international legal basis in the sphere of water consumption and ecology shall become the basis of constructing an effective system of joint use of resources of trans-boundary rivers of Central Asia.

The Uzbek side believes that for achieving the tasks of the EU Strategy for Central Asia it is important to lean on existing efforts of international community which can promote succeeding in aforesaid goals.

At the same time, the leader of the Uzbek delegation expressed the hope that international community, as well as the EU structures would render positive and constructive assistance to forming deep awareness and responsibility for strict observance of norms of international law when designing new hydro-technique facilities at the trans-boundary rivers of Central Asia, as well as safeguard tens of millions of citizens who reside at the basin of Amudarya and Syrdarya from new precipitate attempts the consequences of which are observed with sorrow in the example of ecologic catastrophe of the Aral Sea.

Information Agency “Jahon” based on the
materials of the Uzbek national press


London, 25 December 2008

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