Uzbekistan - from destruction of the Aral Sea to the melting of water-generating glaciers

Two interdependent and interrelated global environmental threats - the Aral Sea tragedy and the intensive melting of mountain water-generating glaciers ensuring human security in the region have appeared in recent decades in Central Asia. Only in recent decades glaciers in Tajikistan have lost more than one-third of their area.
It should be noted that along with the impact of climate change on the intensive melting of glaciers, it has to some extent influenced on drying of the Aral Sea. Thousands of tons of dust and salt, lifted by strong winds from the dried Aral Sea bed to the atmosphere, spread over large areas. According to the estimations of experts, part of these salts settles on the glaciers of the Pamir and Tien Shan facilitating their active melting.
In regard to the human impact on climate change, the contribution of Tajikistan in the process of global warming is one of the lowest in the world. The country ranks last in Central Asia in terms of emissions, since its share in total regional value makes up less than 3%. This mainly is cleared by the use of water resources that provide clean energy. Over 95% of energy in Tajikistan is produced by hydropower plants, which unlike thermal power plants are not sources of harmful emissions.
Uzbekistan, by its inefficient and wasteful irrigation policy has predetermined an actual death of the Aral Sea. Central Asia should not allow a more global regional tragedy - the disappearance of glaciers which are the source of life in the region. Along with this, with the view to ensure water security in Central Asia in terms of demographic explosion and uncontrolled development of new lands, as well as wasteful water discharge, Tajikistan considers it necessary to undertake a comprehensive examination of the impact of outdated and inefficient water systems in the region, as well as a huge number of lowland reservoirs of Uzbekistan on the environment.
Individual Uzbek politicians, trying to distract world community’s and its people’s attention from above mentioned distinct environmental challenges created by unsustainable use of natural resources, seek to blame neighboring states.

Recently, the issue of use of inland water resources of Tajikistan for hydropower purposes has turned into an international problem. Baseless and unfounded statements are made through the media and from high tribunes about alleged negative impact of emissions from the State Unitary Enterprise "Tajik Aluminum Company" on the border area - Surkhandarya region of Uzbekistan.
In particular, it is surprising a statement by Vice-Speaker of the Uzbek Parliament, Chairman of the parliamentary group "Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan", Bory Alikhanov at the European Parliament about State Unitary Enterprise «Tajik Aluminum Company». According to him, this factory has been built on the basis of outdated and polluting technology for the production of aluminum.
Another groundless and incompetent statement was a message of the NGO «Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan» placed at the web-site of "Asia Plus" newspaper on 19 October, 2010 under the title SUE "Tajik Aluminum Company" has inflicted $ 228.3 million damage to the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Under the guise of concern for pollution in Central Asia such pro-government public associations of the Republic of Uzbekistan oppose any infrastructural development in the Republic of Tajikistan, especially in the modernization of the aluminum production in Tursunzade and particularly vital project of the people of Tajikistan - construction of «Rogun» hydro-power plant (HPP). The tension is forced around these intentions and there are trying to urge the population of Uzbekistan on the demonstrations against the construction of the Rogun HPP and aluminum smelter.
Uninformed representatives of the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan should be aware that Tajikistan in compliance with the paragraph 5.2 of the Minutes of the second meeting of the Joint Tajik-Uzbek commission on trade and economic cooperation has established a Government commission on studying effects of industrial enterprises on the environment of problematic regions of the Republic of Uzbekistan and Republic of Tajikistan. Under the Protocol, there was submitted a «Program of Action on the impact of industrial enterprises on the environment of problematic regions of the Republic of Uzbekistan and Republic of Tajikistan» by the State Committee for Environment Protection of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Republic of Tajikistan studying the Program and placing its proposals via Notes Verbal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan № 9-2/14-435 dated 20.11.2009 and № 9-2 / (16 057) from 29.12.2009 has informed official authorities of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Prior to that, on November 17, 1994 for the settlement of disputable issues the Government of Tajikistan and the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan have signed the Agreement on cooperation in improving the environmental situation in affected zone of the Tajik aluminum plant, for a period of 3 years, which was automatically extended until 2002. Based on this agreement, both sides have developed a joint scientific research program on the improvement of the ecological situation of State Unitary Enterprise "Tajik Aluminum Company" for 1996-2000. Four joint scientific and practical conferences and seminars have been organized, two of which were held in the Republic of Uzbekistan.
During 1989 and 1994, joint sample drawing and analysis had been conducted in Uzbekistan. The joint review of analysis held by specialized laboratory of Sariosiyo district of Uzbekistan and a laboratory of State Unitary Enterprise "Tajik Aluminum Company" shows that only in 1989, the average concentration of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride in the air exceeded the maximum permissible level 1,2 times. All further years, the concentration of hydrogen fluoride did not exceed the maximum permissible level. There is a letter from October 1991 and September 1993 signed by Chief of the UzGidroMet laboratory Eshov A., Head of hygiene and sanitary laboratory of sanitation and epidemiological station of Sariosiyo district of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shonazarov Z. and the inspector of nature protection committee Bobochalov A.Kh. which affirms the fact that not a single case of maximum permissible level exceeding was recorded during this period.
Plant’s environmental and health hazards monitoring and assessment is being conducted systematically by the Analytical Control Service of the Committee for Environmental Protection under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan jointly with the Laboratory of the “Tajik Aluminum Company” (TALCO) SUE.
Environmental Assessment is also being done by the Botany Institute of the Academy of Science and Tajik Research Institute of Preventive Medicine of the Ministry of Public Health that is to study environmental pollutant effect on objects of flora and fauna and sanitary state of workshop, plant’s site and adjacent territory.
According to data of the State Office for Hydrometeorology of the Committee for Environmental Protection under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan the background pollution concentration in the atmospheric air in Tursunzoda city has considerably reduced in 2009-2010 due to shrinkage in aluminum production and environmental measures taken in the plant.
Information on wind velocity and wind rose is critical for assessment of atmospheric air pollution made by plant facilities.
Wind rose in the TALCO area is eastward in 50% of cases. Wind velocity during this period and in this area is 1-3 m/s in 80% of cases. Wind with velocity of more than 6m/s Hissor valley of Tajikistan is observed in less than 1% of cases annually and it blows from north to south. Under 1-3 m/s pollutions are spread within the territory of Tajikistan only and do not reach the territory of Uzbekistan.
Over the past 10 years, the concentration of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride in the work site amounts 0.16-0.35 mg/m3 that is significantly less than set standard (maximum permissible concentration - 0.5 mg/m3)
Measured air concentration of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and solid fluorides in the plant adjacent settlements to a circle of up to 10 km in 11 settlements showed excess maximum once and average concentration of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and solid fluorides only in 1999 and 2000 and even that only in plume adjacent area to a circle of 0.5 to 2.0 km.
No case of excess of maximum permissible concentration of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (0.005 mg/m3) has been observed so far in other settlements up to Uzbekistan border. Pollution measurement held in 2009 and 2010 showed that concentration of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride in sanitary protection zone of TALCO is under set standard of maximum permissible concentration.
If to have a good look at dynamics of emissions on TALCO since 1988 up to date we can see that emissions in 1988 amounted 37.5 thousand tons, while the same indicator for 2009 is 23.3 thousand tons that means emissions have decreased 1.6 times.
TALCO has introduced the most efficient gas purification technology. Emission purification consists of 2 stages. At the outset, dry method is used in electrostatic cleaner which is followed then by liquid method in gas cleaners with soda-and-acid aperture. This two-stage method allows ensuring 95-98% purification of emissions.
It is notable that TALCO has taken a number of environmental protection measures over the past years. More than 80 million Somoni has been spent for these goals over the past three years only.
Tajikistan has the right to raise a claim to Uzbekistan on the effect of industrial enterprises of Bekabad and Almalik zones of Uzbekistan on the ecological situation of Sughd region.
More than two million people of Sughd region are living in the area of negative effects of industrial enterprises of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Visual and analytical studies of territories were carried out to assess the impact of industrial enterprises of Bekabad city on the environment of border areas of Spitamen district and an impact of Almalyk Mining and Smelting Plant on the ecological state of Mastchoh district of Sughd region.
Bekabad cement factory exploited limestone quarry («Khilkovskoe») for the production of cement and lime. As a result of disposal wastes of this factory in the border areas of Tajikistan littered lands in Spitamen district.
In addition, these facilities output air emissions of cement, metallurgical, inorganic dust, various gases and strong organic pollutants (dioxins). There is a constant pollution of the border areas of Tajikistan from the precipitating dust (particularly cement and steel production emissions), trans-boundary transfer and air pollution by gaseous substance (carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, sulfurous anhydride, hydrocarbons and etc.) in view of the wind roses in this area given the sanitary - protection zones of these objects.
The main factor adversely affecting the border region of Mastchoh district is Almalyk Mining and Smelting Plant and especially its tailings dump, located immediate to the border with the Republic of Tajikistan.
The units of the plant emit 39 ingredients into air: dust, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfuric acid, fluoride, lead, arsenic, benzopyrene, molybdenum and zinc concentrates and etc.
Emissions of the plant, which yet in 2005 were amounted -111.912 thousand tons consist of 86,3% of the sulfur dioxide emissions. Plant emissions have resulted in damage to juniper forests of Qaramazar forestry and affect the health of plant adjacent population.
It should be noted, that from an aggregate volume of emissions in Central Asia (7.5 million tons), 28.7% accounts for Uzbekistan (2,152 million tons), while 1,6% lays on Tajikistan (0,12 million tons).
Everyone knows that the nature is our common home. Atmospheric air has no boundaries. We are firmly convinced that environmental challenges cannot be addressed by accusations of this or that party.
Historically, Tajiks and Uzbeks share a common culture and religion and ties of relationship allowed us to live in peace and harmony over many centuries and solve problems together. With regard to current environmental challenges - they must be solved in an equal and friendly atmosphere. This will benefit future generations.

Shams Nazarov
Doctor of Chemistry,
Head of Department of the
Committee for Environmental Protection
under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan