Climate factors, international cooperation key to saving Aral Sea, Ban says

Climate factors, international cooperation key to saving Aral Sea, Ban says

Any solution to the disappearance of Central Asia’s Aral Sea, which has shrunk by 70 per cent in recent decades, must recognize the importance of regional cooperation and the struggle against climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Once the world’s fourth largest lake, the drying up of the Aral threatens livelihoods and national prosperity in Central Asia, Mr. Ban told the Summit of the Member States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a message delivered by his Special Representative for Central Asia, Miroslav Jenca.

Adding to the problem, the mountain glaciers of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that feed the lake are melting at an alarming rate. By 2050, water flow in the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya rivers could diminish by up to 40 and 30 per cent each.

Mr. Ban said he was heartened that, despite the serious global economic crisis, the decision-makers of the Central Asian region have agreed, at the highest level, to discuss ecological issues of common concern, including those of the Aral Sea basin.

The region comprises Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

For his part, Mr. Jenca strongly welcomed the commitment of the leaders of the five Central Asian nations to discuss the challenge of managing shared water resources. He pledged assistance in those efforts through the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), which he heads.

In a related development, the first part of Mr. Ban’s report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, which aims to facilitate discussions among Member States on issues that have arisen in the implementation of the related UN convention, was released today.

It describes the development of a consultative process to deal with matters ranging from piracy to the production of nautical charts and international standards for seafarers and fishers.

Other reports on the Law of the Sea, marine biodiversity, fishery management and related issues will be issued before the General Assembly meets on those topics, Mr. Ban said.