The EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, in cooperation with the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan, organized an official visit of delegations from a number of EU member states to the Aral Sea region, Karakalpakstan.
The drying up of the Aral Sea, which until the 1960s was the fourth largest lake in the world, is one of the largest global man-made environmental disasters, the negative consequences of which transcend national and regional boundaries. It had a negative impact on the economic and social situation of millions of people living in the region with the epicenter in the Republic of Karakalpakstan.
The crisis developing against the backdrop of the Aral Sea catastrophe has a number of negative consequences, including land degradation and desertification, lack of drinking water, and deterioration in the health of the local population. In addition, the socio-economic and environmental situation is aggravated by the speed with which adverse impacts worsen.
On the first day of the visit, the campaign of the EU Delegation to plant 27,000 trees on the dry part of the bottom of the Aral Sea officially started. The ambassadors of the European Union planted the first batch of trees in Muynak district and installed a commemorative plaque, thereby marking the contribution of the EU and Member States to the “green” future of the region.
The EU is a close partner of Uzbekistan in supporting environmental and socially significant projects within the framework of the activities of the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region, created on the initiative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Currently, the EU has provided financial assistance to the Fund in the amount of 5 million euros. Finland and Norway also contributed 1 million euros each. In addition, the European Investment Bank and Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW, Germany) allocated financial resources in the amount of 125 million euros and 31.5 million euros, respectively, in the form of blended financing.
During the visit to the facilities of the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund, the participants got acquainted with the implementation of projects to provide the local population with drinking water, health services, as well as to support entrepreneurship, discussing the importance of further mobilizing investments in the region and prospects for further expansion of the Fund’s activities.
The Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade presented promising programs and projects aimed at comprehensive stimulation of the socio-economic development of the region, worth more than US$210 million. The parties discussed the practical aspects of the implementation of these projects and outlined further steps to promote them.
“The disappearance of the Aral Sea is a tragedy that spreads beyond national borders. In line with the European Green Deal and the new EU Strategy for Central Asia, the European Union and its member states are ready to support Uzbekistan in all efforts to prevent environmental degradation and increase the resilience of the population affected by the tragedy. The EU has allocated more than 5 million euros to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region, thus highlighting the high level of commitment to mitigating the adverse effects of a natural disaster.
At present, together with the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade, an investment project for the green development of the Aral Sea region is being launched in the amount of more than 150 million euros. The project includes the development of forestry, water and agriculture in the Aral Sea region and the modernization of irrigation systems.
The EU hereby also commits to planting 27,000 trees by the end of this year as a gift to Uzbekistan from the 27 EU member states and in support of the efforts of the Government of the country to restore land affected by desertification. “In this way, we hope to pave the way for future green investments and improved ecosystems and sustainable living in the Aral Sea region, said Charlotte Adrian, Ambassador of the European Union to Uzbekistan during her visit to the Republic of Karakalpakstan.
In Karakalpakstan, members of the delegation met with the Chairman of the Jokargy Kenes M.K. Kamalov, the leadership of the Council of Ministers, the State University of Karakalpakstan.
During the meetings, the parties discussed promising areas of investment cooperation, including the development of the higher education system, the organization of student exchange programs between European and Karakalpak universities, the dissemination of sustainable agriculture methods, the development of tourism and other areas.
A visit of the delegation to the project area in Takhtakupir district forestry was also organized. During the site visit, the European side was presented with the results of projects implemented at the expense of the Trust Fund.
In particular, it was noted that the following works were carried out within the framework of the projects:
1. Modernized perinatal centers in Nukus, Beruni and Kungrad districts. As a result, 11.5 thousand people in 5 adjacent districts are covered by specialized medical care. Currently, 27 medical institutions are being equipped with laboratory equipment and 35 with telecommunication equipment.
2. In 20 medical institutions and 15 schools of Muynak, Kungrad and Bozatau district, work has begun on the reconstruction of water supply and sewerage systems, modern ICT classes are being created in 2 schools.
3. In 5 rural gatherings of citizens of Takhtakupir district (Beltau, Tazakonys, Mulik, Marzhankol and Zhanadarya), 3.5 thousand residents are provided with clean drinking water.
4. In order to support persons included in the “iron” and “women’s” notebooks, 13 small enterprises were supported. Work is underway to introduce 3 agro-cooperative farms with the installation of modern resource-saving technologies, as well as a workshop for the processing and production of wool.
It is planned to supply 7 households with new equipment for gardening, poultry farming, and beekeeping. As a result, 200 new jobs will be created in Muynak, Kungrad and Bozatau regions.
5. The area of nurseries in the Takhtakupir forestry has been increased from 12 ha to 50 ha, the volume of forest planting – from 2200 ha to 5000 ha, the harvesting of seedlings of desert plants – from 8 tons to 65 tons per year. A demonstration section of water-saving technologies is being created at the International Innovation Center of the Aral Sea Region.
6. Work is underway to support 40 innovative projects, deworming 26,000 children, preventing anemia in 10,000 girls, teaching 1,500 families a healthy lifestyle, and involving 400 young people in social entrepreneurship in Muynak, Kungrad and Bozatau districts.
During the visit to the Republic of Karakalpakstan, the delegates also got acquainted with the rich cultural heritage and natural sites of the region.
As a result of the visit, agreements were reached on the further development of project cooperation, the purpose of which is to mitigate the consequences of the Aral Sea catastrophe.