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The meeting concluded that the unprecedented release of toxic and radioactive waste in Central Asia must be stopped. More financial means urgently are required to reverse the current situation. The international community should make substantial pledges at the upcoming International Donors’ Conference of 8 November 2018 at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in London especially organized for this purpose. The aim of this pledging conference is to arrive at an amount of EUR 70 million making it possible to address the most urgent needs.
The appeal for support was not only done by the directly involved countries but also by Neven Mimica, Member of the European Commission in charge of International Cooperation and Development. He stated:
“The EU has led an international programme on environmental clean-up in Central Asia. Plans are ready and will bring the necessary changes. The final phase of this vital initiative in support of Central Asia needs to start as soon as possible. The international community should provide the necessary funds at the special London donors’ conference of 8 November 2018.”
Since the mid-90s there has been growing recognition of and concern about the human and environmental consequences of historic uranium production in Central Asia. These consequences represent a threat to human health and the environment. The countries have to deal with an estimated one billion tons of highly toxic chemical and radioactive waste left behind and unsafely stored. Heavy rains causing erosion, mudslides, and landslides add to the risks. Contaminated land by the mining activities has diminished the region's capacity for safe development. Water, contaminated by this activity, is adding to the already significant regional strain on water resources.
The EU funded feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments in seven selected priority areas in Central Asia. The obtained information provides a solid basis to move ahead to the next stage i.e. the actual cleaning up of the sites and to prevent the spread of the contamination. Toxic waste has no boundaries. Therefore, the need for action is even more required because of the risks for the Ferghana valley where 14 million people live and which is spread across Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan.
The meeting in New York also gave its support to a new UN resolution calling for international solidarity and support. This new resolution follows an UN Resolution of 2013 calling on the international community to assist the countries of Central Asia “in remediating the legacy sites, and thereby avert this major threat to health, environment, stability, and security.”
The EU has worked closely with the Governments concerned in Central Asia and with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Development Program (UNDP) on all these issues. The plans for the clean-up have been endorsed by the Governments and are ready for implementation.
The EU-led regional environmental clean-up programme serves the population of all Central Asian countries, and contributes namely:
· to promote regional cooperation;
· to maintain peace and stability in the region;
· to improve human health;
· to improve the quality of the environment;
· to promote economic development, in particular, local employment.
The actions contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – especially SDG 3 "Good Health and Well-Being", SDG 6 "Clean Water and Sanitation" and SDG 15 "Life on Land". The international community has committed itself to new sustainable development goals that underline the right of all human beings to live in a safe environment.
For further information please contact Martin Andersen of the European Commission: Martin.Andersen@ec.europa.eu