October 2, 2008

Uzbek Foreign Minister Voices Concern Over Use of Trans-Border Rivers

Text of report by Uzbek privately-owned newspaper Biznes-Vestnik Vostoka on 2 October

Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov has made a speech at a round table meeting dedicated to the UN millennium development goals at the UN headquarters in New York. The minister spoke about Uzbekistan's achievements in fighting poverty, improving the population's health and educational level. He stressed Uzbekistan's efforts to protect the environment and, in particular softening the consequences of the disaster in the Aral Sea basin.

"About 10-15m dollars are allocated from the state budget every year for the zone of the environmental disaster, in particular for the health care, education and social protection of the Aral Sea region's population," the foreign minister said. He added that efforts by governments of the region's countries and of the international community over the last 15 years have produced specific positive results, which softened the consequences of the Aral Sea crisis.

At the same time, the minister expressed great concern over "plans and persistent ambitions of a number of the region's countries to artificially reduce the volume of the water flow in the Syr Darya and Amu Darya trans-border rivers and restrict the schedules for releasing water of the rivers". Vladimir Norov also recalled requirements of international law regarding the issue. When building and commissioning new hydro-power facilities, neutral, authoritative international audit organizations should be involved to assess adherence to environmental requirements, he added.

"Ignoring these principles can lead to unpredictable environmental, economic, social and political consequences in the region," the Uzbek foreign minister warned. He also said that work on increasing hydro-power capacities on the trans-border rivers will, in the medium-term, negatively affect the system of water use, the situation in the agro-industrial complex and environmental balance in the region, primarily in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

We should recall that ensuring environmental stability is the seventh of the eight millennium development goals.

Originally published by Biznes-Vestnik Vostoka, Tashkent, in Russian 2 Oct 08, p 2.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Central Asia. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.