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On the occasion of this
week s conference in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 27 May 2005, four
intergovernmental organisations are launching an in-depth assessment report here
of the environmental and security situation in the Ferghana valley.


Recent political developments in Kyrgyztan and Uzbekistan have once again
drawn the world s attention to the Ferghana valley. Being the most fertile,
densely populated region in the whole of Central Asia, the valley is home for 10
million people living well below US$ 500 a year per capita gross national
income, so that 60% of the population is defined as poor.  The valley
straddles three countries Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan which emerged as
sovereign states after the collapse of the Soviet Union.


The role the environment plays in causing or resolving conflict is given
increased attention in the world today.  Facing it in this complex and
dynamic part of Central Asia, four intergovernmental organisations are
addressing the environment and security situation in the Ferghana valley as part
of their the Environment and Security initiative. ENVSEC is a partnership
between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE) in association with the Security through Science programme of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).


The in-depth assessment in the Ferghana valley, a one-year process carried
out in close collaboration with the three countries, has identified several
clusters of issues on the environment-security interface.


Already in the past natural resources have caused tensions and
insecurity.  Lack of water, its deterioration, rising groundwater,
waterlogging and related problems cross borders and have caused disputes which
easily acquire ethnic dimension. High demographic pressure on limited land
resources coincides with a lack of jobs and economic prospects, contributing to
public discontent witnessed recently by Osh and Jalal-Abad, two major Kyrgyz
cities in the valley.


Industrial activities present a challenge, in particular where pollution
crosses borders such as e.g. between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Active mines and
smelters are important sources of national and local revenue, many of them are
however located near state borders and present a continuous source discontent.
Closed industrial sites are badly managed, schools and houses sprawl into former
industrial areas as at closed Uranium mine in Taboshar, Tajikistan. The legacy
of Soviet-era Uranium mining is a region-wide source of public anxiety.


Natural disasters and climate change increasingly affect the environmental
and thus security situation. A land-slide in April 2005 at Mailuu-Suu in
Kyrgyzstan passing just next to a major area of Uranium waste storage is a fresh
reminder of that.


The ENVSEC assessment takes links between environment and security as a
starting point for developing cooperation and tangible actions. A work programme
will be carried out by ENVSEC partners and the countries of the valley.
More
information on http://www.envsec.org