Uzbekistan hosts conference on Aral Sea’s problems

The Government of Uzbekistan hosted an international conference in Tashkent on 11 and 12 March 2008 on the impact the problems of the Aral Sea are having on the gene pool of the human population, flora and fauna in the region.

For centuries, the region has been highly dependent on water because cattle breeding and crop cultivation are traditional livelihoods for indigenous communities. The rapid development of irrigation systems over the past forty years has overstretched the ecosystem however, driving climate change, desertification, salinization and water-logging. This has in turn curbed biodiversity, eroded fertile land and made farming difficult in the Aral Sea region. With freshwater polluted by cotton fertilizers, pesticides and salt, and with sand and salt storms becoming more frequest, chronic diseases like tuberculosis are on the rise. According to some reports, lung disease, cancers and infant mortality are 30 times higher than in the past.

The conference agenda focused on all of these issues. It also examined opportunities for fostering sustainable socio-economic development in the region through joint projects with international partners. In this regard, Olcay Ünver, Coordinator of the World Water Assessment Programme involving UNESCO and 23 other UN agencies, presented participants with An Overview of Global Freshwater-related Problems. He also signed a Letter of Cooperation with the Government of Uzbekistan for the preparation of future case studies on the Aral Sea. UNESCO’s Deputy Director General, Marcio Barbosa, also attended the event.

For details of the conference, click here. (English and Russian)

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