OSCE Centre fosters dialogue on environmental security threats in the Aral Sea basin

May 17. OSCE

OSCE Centre fosters dialogue on environmental security threats in the Aral Sea basinA two-day roundtable discussion on environmental security threats to the Aral Sea basin, co-organized by the OSCE Centre in Astana and the Kazakh branch of the International Foundation for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS), started today in Kyzylorda, in southern Kazakhstan.

The participants will discuss how to develop existing and proposed national and international initiatives to address water and environmental security challenges in the Kazakhstani part of the Aral Sea and Syrdariya water system basin.

“The drying up of the Aral Sea has consequences not just for local families and towns here, but for all Kazakhstan and indeed the entire Central Asian region,” said Ambassador Alexandre Keltchewsky, the Head of the OSCE Centre in Astana. “It is critical to have the active engagement of the international community to better co-ordinate and facilitate efforts to address this serious environmental threat.”

A fly-over excursion by airplane to the banks of the Northern Aral Sea and the outfall of the Syrdariya river has also been arranged for participants to further raise international awareness of the seriousness of this man-made disaster.

More than 70 representatives from embassies in Kazakhstan, international organizations, local and national government authorities and non-governmental organizations are taking part in the event. International and local experts will present findings from projects in the area and discuss efforts to stabilize the environmental situation and improve the socio-economic condition of the local population.

The OSCE Centre and IFAS Kazakhstan will also present a proposed OSCE extra-budgetary project to implement the integrated water resources management concept in Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea basin. The draft project emphasizes practical national steps and the strengthening of institutions and monitoring to protect the population of the Aral Sea basin from the negative effects of depletion and pollution.

“Despite the measures being taken in the process of project implementation for the Aral Sea Basin, a range of imminent problems remain an obstacle to socio-economic development in the region,” said Rzakyl Nurtayev, Deputy Governor of Kyzylorda Oblast. “Today, the main priorities are water quality, health and employment of the population, and protection of the environment.

“I hope that this event will serve as an impetus for further co-operation and engagement of the international community in the solution of key socio-economic and environmental issues in the Aral Sea Basin.”

The event was organized following last year’s call from Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev for greater OSCE involvement in addressing environmental and water security in the Aral Sea region – a priority of Kazakhstan’s 2010 OSCE Chairmanship. A memorandum of understanding with IFAS Kazakhstan on contributing to the IFAS Third Aral Sea Basin Programme for 2011-2015, was signed last November.