A talk with Batyr Ballyyev on the Central Asian International Environmental Forum
In early June this year, the Central Asian International Environmental Forum was held in Ashgabat, organized by CAREC in conjunction with the State Committee for Environmental Protection and Land Resources of Turkmenistan.
The event gathered more than 200 guests - representatives of state, scientific, public and international organizations. Within three days, leading experts in the field of environmental protection considered the issues of rational water resources management, adaptation to climate change and sustainable development both of the region and each country in particular.
Questions concerning the significance of the forum for Turkmenistan, and the republic’s vision of further regional cooperation - in our small interview with Mr Batyr Ballyev, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency of the State Committee for Environmental Protection and Land Resources of Turkmenistan.
- Batyr Bakhadyrovich, today for the majority of the organizations that deal with environmental issues, it is obvious that the Central Asian International Environmental Forum is a huge platform for the exchange of views and knowledge in the field of ecology; a place where a wide range of issues, methods and approaches are encountered and discussed. However, what is the significance of this forum for your country?
- For Turkmenistan, it is an opportunity to show the Central Asian countries and those organizations that work in the region the efforts that the government of Turkmenistan is making in the field of environmental protection, at the same time to share experiences with countries and get information on the programs implemented in the region, to hear about national achievements. Mutual exchange is always welcome, and it only serves good.
- Then what is the difference of this forum from other dialogue platforms?
- We have different kinds of platforms for cooperation in the region, there are the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, the Interstate Commission for Sustainable Development, the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination. Nevertheless, they collect specialists on certain specific areas.
CAREC proposed to make an environmental forum as a common platform where representatives of government agencies working in the field of environmental protection, water use, rational use of land resources, as well as numerous international and regional structures, representatives of scientific organizations and, what is very important – representatives of public organizations and associations, could speak up.
Therefore, in my opinion, this initiative is a stable platform for an extensive dialogue.
- Let's look at the experience of Turkmenistan, which you mentioned. What is currently the priority in the environmental agenda of the country, which of the issues could you single out?
- Among the main issues for Turkmenistan, and for the region as a whole, is, of course, the issue of adaptation to climate change, since we have a region with a high temperature in arid regions. The slightest change in climate in the direction of increasing temperature affects the economy of the country, and we have a large agricultural sector, in which a large number of people and labor are employed. Rational use of water resources is also very important.
CAREC has worked hard in this direction in recent years: it conducted regional reviews, now it is implementing the regional program CAMP4ASB together with the World Bank. The organization also has a good accumulated experience in implementing projects for the integration and management of water resources.
In this case, we are referring to water precisely in the context of quality, in the context of the state of pollution: over several years, harmonization of water quality standards is being discussed in Central Asia. This work has been going on in the region since 2009, but the process of developing quality standards is still in process, which is also relevant for Turkmenistan.
- Speaking about water issues, this year, on a rotational basis, Turkmenistan took over as chair of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS). In this regard, what contributions and changes are expected from the country?
- Last year, when the process of a handover of the chairmanship to the IFAS by Turkmenistan began, a corresponding concept was developed, which was presented to the countries of Central Asia. The main points of this concept are issues related to the functioning of the IFAS Executive Committee itself, summarizing the implementation of the Aral Sea Basin Program 3 (ASBP 3), and the launching of ASBP 4.
But, in addition, other environmental issues are broadly covered in the concept. For example, Turkmenistan proposed the promotion, the establishment of a regional center for climate change - that is, a structure that would unite countries specifically on climate change. Also, Turkmenistan proposed to begin work on the revision of the regional action plan for environmental protection (REAP), which was adopted by the Central Asian countries back in 2003, 14 years ago. And now there is a need to revise it, taking into account what has been done, and taking into account the emerged problems that are present in the region today. Again, with an emphasis on what is now more relevant, i.e. issues of climate change and issues of rational use of water resources.
- What are the most effective forms of regional cooperation in the priority areas that you mentioned - the rational use of water resources, adaptation to climate change?
- As I have already noted, Turkmenistan earlier proposed the establishment of a regional center on climate change - this is one of the forms of cooperation. Then - REAP - a new regional action plan, in which each country will be assigned certain directions.
For example, Kazakhstan will fix problems related to water resources pollution, Turkmenistan - issues of land degradation and combating desertification, Uzbekistan - monitoring of the state of air, i.e. issues of air pollution, not as fixation of weather phenomena, namely the state of atmospheric air pollution. For Kyrgyzstan - the issues of mountain ecosystems, as well as for Tajikistan, together with the issues of forest resources management, taking into account the fact that about 80% of the territory of Tajikistan is covered with forests.
Such regional action plans will have specific directions for the countries, i.e. they are delegated to a significant environmental direction, and all countries will support this country in this direction