Five Central Asian leaders hold Aral Sea summit in Turkmenistan

The presidents of five Central Asian states conduct a roundtable discussion on the problems surrounding the Aral Sea in Turkmenistan on August 24

ASHGABAT (TCA) — Presidents of five former Soviet republics in Central Asia met in Turkmenistan on August 24 to discuss the ways to save the Aral Sea, which for decades has been facing severe environmental issues.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov hosted Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Sooronbai Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, and Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan in the Avaza tourist zone near the city of Turkmenbashi on the Caspian coast.

The Kazakh presidential press service cited Nazarbayev as telling the summit that the talks “will give an additional boost to the process of regional cooperation in using water resources.”

The five countries are founding members of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFSAS) that was established in 1993.

During the August 24 summit, the presidents chaired sessions of the Interstate Commission for the IFSAS Development, the Interstate Coordination Commission for Water Resources, and the IFSAS’ directorate, RFE/RL reported.

In January last year, just weeks after he was inaugurated as Uzbekistan’s new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced that his country would spend $2.6 billion over five years to develop the area around the Aral Sea.

Once the world’s fourth largest landlocked natural water reservoir, the Aral Sea has lost 90 percent of its size since the 1960s — in part because the two major rivers feeding the sea, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, were diverted for Soviet irrigation projects.

The shrinking of the Aral Sea is considered one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters, and has led to significant environmental challenges in the region shared by Uzbekistan’s autonomous Karakalpakstan region and Kazakhstan.

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Times of Central Asia