Central Asian countries pledge to fight common environmental woes through collaboration

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ISLAMABAD, Jun 1 (APP): 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).

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: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Addressing the inaugural session of the 6th ECO Working Group Meeting on Environment here on Wednesday, Federal Secretary Climate Change Syed Abu Ahmad Akif said poverty, hunger, malnutrition and health diseases were common regional issues, which had been exacerbated further due to environmental degradation and global warming-induced climate change.

“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,” he cautioned during his keynote address.

He highlighted that the 6th session of the ECO member
countries, being hosted by Pakistan, provided 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 was 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, he added,was also poised to join and support efforts of the ECO member countries to fight the identical issues for achieving overall socio-economic development goals.

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, in his address, highlighted
the yawning gap of collaboration in science and technology within ECO member countries, which he stressed, should be plugged.

“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.

“Most of the regional environmental, climate change, energy
and other socio economic issues can be effectively tackled, if the ECO member countries help each other to bridge the gap of scientific and technological know-how and research,” he stressed.

Director Economic Coooperation Organisation, 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.

“This presses need for the regional countries to work steadily
towards development of environmentally-sound mechanism and innovative solutions for the prevailing common challenges,” he underlined.

Talking about the ECO Secretariat’s role in helping regional
countries to deal with common environmental, energy and climate change issues, Orkhan Zeynalov told the participants that since 2014, the Secretariat has been very active in implementation of its mandate in the environmental dimension and helped the regional countries stimulate high level policy debates for development of appropriate frameworks for regional and global partnerships.

He further said, ” In order to boost capacity of building of
ECO member states in the field of sustainable forest management, the ECO Secretariat in support with the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) is striving to bridge the gap of technology and scientific know-how as well as research gap.”

He also informed the participants that ECO was in process of
initiating a new ECO Vision 2016-2015, which would set important areas of cooperation at the regional and global levels, with focus on common regional issues as well as on 2030 agenda for the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, provisions of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Sendai Global Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.