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Central Asia: World Bank Pledges Funds To Save Aral Sea

Almaty, 28 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - A senior official says that the World Bank is planning to provide a total of $380 million by 2000 to help cope with the ecological disaster in the Aral Sea.

Johannes Linn, the bank's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, made the pledge at a summit today of Central Asian leaders in the Kazakh capital Almaty.

The World Bank has already granted $41 million to a special intergovernmental fund on saving the sea.

Our correspondent reports that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev told a press conference that he had agreed with the leaders of Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan that each country should allot 0.3 percent of their countries' gross domestic product to the International Fund for Saving the Aral sea. Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov said that due to the difficult situation in his country, Tajikistan would not be able to contribute to the fund.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov has been elected as new chairman of the fund, set up in 1993. He replaces Nazarbayev.

The Aral Sea, once the world's fourth largest inland sea, has shrunk by half in the last 40 years. Its progressive disappearance, due to Soviet agricultural policies, has led to economic and health problems for people living in the region.