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Uzbekistan: Conference To Review Environmental Dangers

Munich, 18 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A major conference on saving the endangered environment in Central Asia will be held in Tashkent next week with the participation of international experts, the U.N. and the World Bank.

The three-day conference has been jointly organized by the Government of Uzbekistan and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). It begins on Tuesday (Sept. 22).

An OSCE spokesman said today that a major issue would be the drying-up of the Aral Sea on the borders of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which was largely the result of incompetent Soviet planning in the 1960's.

The two main Central Asian organizations dealing with water management problems are sending their chief executives. These are the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea and the Inter-state Council of the Central Asian Economic Association. OSCE officials say this is considered a breakthrough since relations between the two agencies are usually cool.

Water and energy management is a problem for most Central Asian countries and is expected to be the most important topic. The agenda also includes the threat of trans-border nuclear pollution due to unsafe nuclear power station or unsafe tailing dumps.

An OSCE economic advisor, Aidan Kirwan said today the environmental problems of Central Asia cannot be solved by individual countries, but only co-operation. "Many of the problems are multilateral and the solutions also have to be multilateral," he said.

He said next week's conference would pay special attention to the potential economic threats and security risks if the environmental situation in central Asia continues to deteriorate.

Apart from the five central Asian countries, there will also be delegations of experts from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Latvia. Other experts will come from Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Italy, Turkey, Poland and Hungary.