Central Asian countries pledge to combat environmental woes

Zubair Qureshi

Islamabad—Experts, researchers and scientists from Central Asian regional countries have renewed their pledge to further enhance intra-regional collaboration and cooperation for tackling common environmental, climate change and sustainable development-related challenges.
Tackling these fundamental challenges through increased collaboration and cooperation in research, transfer of scientific, technical know-how and technology in environment, energy, water, biodiversity, health, education, transport and communication fields is key to achieving sustainable development goals, conserving natural resources and tackling poverty, hunger and disease, emphasized the environmental development and climate change experts from the member countries of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO).
Addressing the inaugural session of the 6th ECO Working Group Meeting on Environment here on Wednesday at a local hotel, the Federal Secretary Climate Change Ministry, Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, said that poverty, hunger, malnutrition and health diseases are common regional issues, which have been exacerbated further due to environmental degradation and global warming-induced climate change.
The ECO is an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey for the purpose of promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation among the member states. In 1992, the Organization was expanded to include seven new members, namely: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan.
“However, tackling these common issues, are blocking the ECO-member countries’ efforts for achieving socio-economic sustainable development goals, fighting environmental degradation and climate change challenges calls for unified action and cooperation among the member countries,” the secretary climate change cautioned during his keynote address.
He highlighted that the 6th session of the ECO member countries, being hosted by Pakistan, provides unprecedented opportunity to discuss and strengthen mechanism for dealing with environmental and climate change challenges in the region.
He told the participants that the present Pakistani government is committed to achieving United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals, poverty, hunger, malnutrition eradication, tackling environmental degradation, deforestation, and myriad climate change risks, particularly floods and water scarcity in the country.
The present government is also poised to join and support efforts of the ECO member countries to fight the identical issues for achieving overall socio-economic development goals, he added.
Chairman of the 6th ECO Working Group Meeting on Environment, Muhamamd Irfan Tariq, told the meeting that deterioration of natural resources continues to affect livelihood and health issues in the 10 regional countries of Central Asia, which have aggravated the vulnerability of poor to climate change-caused disasters and environmental challenges. “Environmental degradation, air and water pollution, ozone layer depletion, deforestation, desertification, vanishing bio-diversity and land degradation have resulted in climate change and ecological imbalance in all the regional countries,” he noted.
President of ECO Science Foundation (ECOSF), Professor Dr. Manzoor H. Soomro, told the meeting during his address highlighted the yawning gap of collaboration in science and technology within ECO member countries and urged the regional countries to plug the gap.
“The ECO member countries need to work hard to development joint research projects in environment, biodiversity, forestry, energy, education and health fields and jointly explore funding avenues for implementation of these research projects for addressing environmental, climate change and other socio-economic challenges,” he urged. Dr. Soomro said that unprecedented potential of scienctific and technological know-how and absence of advanced technology in the regional countries still remained untapped.
Director Economic Coooperation Organisation, Mr. Orkhan Zeynalov, said that 21st century global environmental challenges have immensely increased impacts on our planet and triggered changing climatic conditions and abrupt global warming, combined with the region-wide socio-economic disparities along various trans-boundary environmental issues, particularly desertification air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, heat waves, droughts, torrential rains, deluges, natural hazards, biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystems throughtout the ECO region.

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