EU and Central Asia joining forces for the environment


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Environment policy and protection of the environment
Target audience: General public


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Langue English
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International financial institutions play an important role in tackling environmental issues. Access by the Central Asian states to financial resources enables them to improve their infrastructure and allows for much investment, particularly in energy, industry and water supply infrastructure. Investments aimed at using the most advanced technologies bring immediate environmental effects: lower CO 2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, reduced water losses and less environmental impact from industry.
BUSINESS AS USUAL IS NOT AN OPTION: THE ARAL SEA WARNING The Aral Sea, a saline lake bordering on Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, 2 used to be the world’s fourth largest lake, boasting 68 000 kmof rich biodiversity and unique natural features. Since the 1960s, its volume has decreased by 75%. The shoreline has receded dramatically - by up to 120 km in places - and the water level has dropped by at least 16 metres. Combined with years of water shortage, increased irrigation from the upstream rivers of Amu-Darya and Syr Darya has led to irreversible consequences. The biodiversity of the Aral Sea has been drastically reduced and the salinity of the water has increased, bringing down fish fertility. Jobs and food disappeared along with the sea: the fishing industry was ruined and poverty became more widespread. Meanwhile, dust and pollution blown from the deserted lake has caused an increase in cancer, and other illnesses linked to poverty, like anaemia or tuberculosis, are now rife. Child mortality rates are alarmingly high: the worst in the whole of the post-Soviet territory. The drying-up of the lake also reportedly brought changes to the regional climate, with hotter and drier summers and colder winters. Measures to stop the catastrophe were put in place in the 1990s but although this belated response allowed for some limited improvement, the Aral Sea ecosystem will probably never be fully restored and a part of our natural heritage has been lost forever. This painful lesson illustrates how easy it is to destroy the nature around us. The international community must realise that it is our responsibility to take timely preventive measures wherever the first signs of danger appear.
TOGETHER FOR THE FUTURE The new EU-Central Asia Strategy enables the EU to contribute towards solving environmental problems in Central Asia, while pointing out that countries remain chiefly responsible for their own environmental protection, with huge potential benefits to their economy, health and well-being. In this respect, coordination and cooperation are needed not only among the Central Asia states, but also among all the key actors and donors operating in Central Asia: the European Commission, the EU Member States, international financial institutions and other international organisations. DG Environment actively supports all endeavours to protect the environment in Central Asia. It welcomes the conclusions of the EU-Central Asia High Level Meeting held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, on 3 December 2008 which highlighted the regional approach needed to deal with environmental issues and climate change. DG Environment has also proposed the organisation of a first regional conference on environmental integration and sustainable development, which is to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan on 13 March 2009. Central Asia - home to about 60 million people - needs our attention today more than ever. The area is a testing ground for measures to reduce and remove environmental threats. It also shows how inaction will always prove costlier than mitigation and prevention. Although Central Asia may seem far away, we must keep in mind that the degradation of its environment will have a growing impact on Europe.
For further information :
K a r lF a l k e n b e r g D i r e c t o r - G e n e r a l f o rE n v i r o n m e n t E u r o p e a n C o m m i s s i o n
The Commission has taken up a renewed commitment towards Central Asia with the adoption of the EU Central Asia Strategy. This strategy gives a new impetus to our cooperation in many sectors, including the environment. Since environmental issues such as climate change know no borders, it is of utmost importance that we work together to understand the challenges facing us and find the best ways to combat them. I look forward to fruitful cooperation with the countries of Central Asia in our venture to build together a sustainable future for our citizens.