Five Central Asian Leaders Discuss Aral Sea In Turkmenistan

Leaders of five former Soviet republics in Central Asia met in Turkmenistan on August 24 to discuss the way to save the Aral Sea, which is facing severe environmental issues.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov hosted presidents Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, Sooronbai Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, and Shavkat Mirziyoev of Uzbekistan in the Avaza tourist zone near the city of Turkmenbashi on August 24, the Kazakh presidential service said.

The Kazakh presidential press service cited Nazarbaev 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.

In January last year, just weeks after he was inaugurated as Uzbekistan's new president, Shavkat Mirziyoev 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 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.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.