A three-day international conference on the problems of the Aral Sea region opened September 18 in Nukus, capital of Uzbekistan’s autonomous Karakalpak republic. The conference is being attended by officials and experts from the five Central Asian countries, whose presidents are expected to sign a "Nukus Declaration," and also from neighboring and Western countries, the UN, and international agencies. The participants are discussing ways to deal with the ecological and human catastrophe which has resulted from predatory Soviet exploitation of the Aral Sea and its tributaries, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Once the world’s fourth largest lake, over the past 35 years the Aral Sea has shrunk to one quarter of its original size and has become a toxic dump through Moscow-imposed land use and irrigation schemes and the chemicalization of the cotton monoculture. The shrinkage of the sea has exposed some 35,000 square kilometers of unstable and poisoned soil from which the steppe winds are raising and dumping massive clouds of toxic dust on the surrounding region. The region’s population has the highest rates of respiratory diseases, anemia, and infant mortality and the lowest life expectancy in the territory of the former Soviet Union. Conference participants are considering emergency social, economic, and medical programs to remedy the situation. (18)
1. Itar-Tass, Interfax, Segodnya, all September 19.
2. As cited by Reuters, September 19.
3. Interfax, September 19.
4. Itar-Tass, September 20.
5. Itar-Tass and Interfax, September 19.
6. Russia’s Radio, Itar-Tass, September 19-20.
7. Itar-Tass, Radio Moscow, September 20.
8. Kommersant-Daily, September 19.
9. "Moscow’s Echo" radio, Russia’s Radio, September 18.
10. Itar-Tass, Interfax, September 19.
11. Itar-Tass, September 18 and 19.
12. Interfax-Ukraine and Itar-Tass, September 19.
13. Rossiia, no. 30, September 13-19.
14. Interfax, September 15 and 19; Itar-Tass, September 18.
15. Obshchaya Gazeta, September 7-13.
16. International Financial Agency, September 18.
17. Interfax, September 18.
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