Address by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at a meeting of the Council of Heads of the Founder States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea

    Uzbekistan 15 September 2023 4157

    Distinguished heads of delegations!

    I would like to join the words of gratitude to the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, distinguished Emomali Sharipovich Rahmon, for the warm welcome and excellent organization of our meeting.

    I sincerely congratulate all colleagues on the 30th Anniversary of establishing the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.

    Over the past period, the Fund has shown its relevance as an important platform for promoting common interests in countering environmental challenges.

    Coordinated approaches were developed, decisions were made, and joint programs were implemented in the Aral Sea basin during this period.

    I would also like to note the fruitful results of Tajikistan’s presidency in our Association. In particular, extensive work has been carried out to develop practical engagement within the Fund. Contacts with international organizations and financial institutions have expanded.

    I would like to point out that the activities as part of the Global Water Conference, under the co-presidency of distinguished Emomali Sharipovich, were successfully held in March this year at the UN headquarters.

    This historic event has attracted the attention of the entire international community to vital issues and problems in Central Asia’s water sector.

    Dear colleagues!

    The International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea is, above all, a unique experience of multilateral cooperation of the countries of Central Asia in addressing one of the most pressing problems on a global scale.

    I would like to especially point out that the Fund has become the most important platform for regional cooperation in the water and environmental sphere.

    The Interstate Water Commission, as well as “Amudarya” and “Syrdarya” basin organizations, carry out systemic work to coordinate water resources management issues and water intake regulation.

    The Scientific Information Center has accumulated a strong analytical knowledge base and competencies, open to all international partners.

    The activities of the Interstate Commission on Sustainable Development contribute to the expansion of practical cooperation in the environmental sector.

    In addition, the Fund coordinates the implementation of a number of regional programs and projects and interacts with international institutions and donor organizations.

    The role and significance of our structure increase even more in the context of the emergence of new challenges and threats due to global climate change.

    The consequences of deteriorating water and environmental situation in the region are of particular concern due to melting glaciers, natural disasters, and man-made factors caused by rapid demographic growth, urbanization, and industrialization processes.

    Colleagues are well aware that the water shortage problem in Central Asia has become acute and irreversible and will only worsen in the future.

    Experts believe that in some regions of Central Asia, pressure on water resources will increase three times by 2040.

    Economic damage could eventually reach eleven percent of the regional gross product.

    According to the United Nations, the countries of the region annually lose up to USD 2 billion due to scarcity and inefficient use of water resources.

    All of this requires developing and implementing further agreed long-term steps within the Fund.

    Dear participants of the meeting!

    Today, we are facing important tasks related to ensuring the legal and institutional effectiveness of multilateral partnership.

    In this regard, I would like to share our proposals in accordance with the agenda of this summit.

    First. Uzbekistan stands for further improvement of the legal framework and modernization of the institutional mechanisms of the Fund.

    In particular, we propose the following:

    – conducting an inventory and revising the key documents and agreements, including the Regulations on the Fund, which was adopted back in the 1990s;

    – performing joint analysis of the current structure and developing proposals to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the work of the Fund’s structures;

    – developing “Rules and Procedures” that clearly regulate issues of cooperation and activities of the Fund.

    The Fund’s development and reform process must be held based on cross-sectoral principle – an integrated approach “water – energy – food”, accounting for modern environmental challenges.

    In addition, generally recognized international regulations, principles, and mutual obligations in the field of management and use of water resources of transboundary rivers should be reflected in the primary documents of the Fund.

    We also stand for a radical increase in the effectiveness of the existing structures of the Fund by expanding the competence and building up their capacity and technical potential.

    Second. Prior to our meeting, we analyzed the project activities within the Fund over the past thirty years.

    There is an obvious discrepancy between the provisions of our main program documents and the declared results with real progress in the implementation of projects.

    I think all our countries should also be concerned about the progress of the fourth Action program to assist the countries of the Aral Sea basin. The work is mainly carried out in line with national plans.

    In this regard, I would like to propose instructing the Fund’s Board to critically review the current Program, providing for the preparation of “road maps” for the implementation of each regional project, identifying the volumes and sources of financing, as well as agreed schedules for their implementation.

    Third. It is necessary to strengthen systemic engagement on the issues of attracting investments, technologies, and technical assistance to advance priority regional projects.

    We have several proposals in this regard.

    First, each of our countries should commit to attracting external assistance into regional projects by defining specific targets.

    Under the coordination of the presiding party, it would be necessary to develop mechanisms for attracting and distributing investments and technical assistance.

    Second, we propose to convene a special regional conference to accelerate the implementation of joint projects with the involvement of foreign partners, leading international institutions, and donor organizations.

    Fourth. We consider it appropriate to instruct the working bodies of the Fund to engage international consultants and devise long-term development Plans for basins of the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers. It is important to provide for modeling of various scenarios to develop the situation in the basins of these rivers.

    We are confident that adopting such strategic documents will enable us to pursue a coordinated policy of integrated management of water and energy resources in our region.

    Fifth. Particular attention should be paid to working with the youth at the regional level to raise their awareness of the need for reasonable use of water and other natural resources, supporting youth initiatives and start-ups by adopting a special program.

    We count on close engagement with the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in addressing these issues.

    Dear participants of the summit!

    Specifically, I would like to dwell on the issues of cooperation in preventing further degradation of ecosystems, primarily in the Aral Sea region.

    I’d like to note that currently, Uzbekistan is carrying out large-scale work to improve the environmental and social situation in the Aral Sea region.

    Based on the UN Resolution “On declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of environmental innovation and technology” we are implementing the Action Plan and the Program of Measures for sustainable socio-economic development, employment, and improving the living standards of the population.

    In the last few years, forest plantings have been carried out on the dried up seabed of the Aral on an area of 1.7 million hectares.

    We intend to create protective green screens on another 400 thousand hectares in the next two years.

    To mitigate the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster and conserve biodiversity in the Aral Sea region, natural parks and reserves and state reserves were created over an area of more than 3.5 million hectares.

    Today, the total area of protected natural areas in the Aral Sea region is 4.6 million hectares.

    In addition, Uzbekistan is implementing full-scale measures to improve water use efficiency.

    Over the last 7 years, water-saving technologies have been introduced in more than 1 million hectares, about a quarter of all irrigated land in the country.

    As part of the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan, we intend to devise a National Water Saving Program.

    We could strengthen our cooperation in the field of water conservation, identifying it as one of the priorities of the Fund.

    As part of the International Climate Forum planned next year in Samarkand, we are keen to organize an exhibition of modern water-saving technologies from the world's leading companies.

    To comprehensively consider all these issues, we propose to establish a Regional platform for regular meetings of the ministers of water resources, energy, ecology, and economy of our countries.

    Dear heads of delegations!

    I would also like to share my vision regarding constructing the Kushtepa Canal.

    A new stakeholder in the water use process has appeared in our region, which is not bound by any obligations with our countries.

    You know very well that the Afghan side is actively constructing the canal.

    Its commissioning could radically change the water regime and balance in Central Asia.

    We believe it is necessary to set up a joint working group to study all aspects of the construction of the Kushtepa Canal and its impact on the water regime of the Amudarya with the involvement of research institutes of our countries.

    We propose to consider the issue of involving representatives of Afghanistan in the regional dialogue on the sharing of water resources.

    Dear colleagues!

    In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, distinguished Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich Tokayev, with the assumption of the presidency of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.

    I am convinced that implementing the initiatives put forward and the documents adopted will increase the efficiency and expand mutually beneficial cooperation within the Fund to benefit our people and the prosperity of the entire Central Asian region.

    Thank you for your attention.