Regional Scientific and Technical Council for Emergency Situations has been established in Central Asia with the assistance of the World Bank and regional partners. It comprises scientists and government officials working on disaster risk issues, hydrometeorology and climate change, says the World Bank’s press release.
The main task of the Council is to provide a platform for knowledge exchange and cooperation between national and international experts.
For the first time, the members of the new interstate structure met in early December in Almaty. The participants of the meeting shared their experience in solving the problems of increasing the resilience of the Central Asian region to natural disasters, and also presented their feedback on the upcoming regional disaster risk assessment, which will be held under the auspices of the World Bank.
The assessment will help to evaluate the potential damage and losses from natural disasters for each Central Asian country, as well as to identify budget and investment gaps in order to minimize their impacts.
The work of the Regional Council will be supported by the EU-funded Strengthening Financial Resilience and Accelerating Risk Reduction in Central Asia Program, which is managed by the World Bank and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, jointly with the Center of Emergency Situations and Disaster Risk Reduction based in Almaty.
What dictates the expediency of setting up a Regional Scientific and Technical Council for Emergency Situations in Central Asia?
In Central Asia, the vast region that unites Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, environmental disasters manifest themselves in different ways – from incessant floods and droughts to such sudden events like earthquakes, landslides.
In particular, seismic disasters pose a significant threat. The last century will stand out in the regional memory with several biggest earthquakes – in Almaty in 1911, in Ashgabat in 1948 and in Tashkent in 1966, which turned into tragic pages in the history of these flourishing Central Asian cities.
And in the twenty-first century, earthquakes in Central Asia, according to the World Bank, annually negatively affect the lives of about 1.9 million people and cause economic damage of up to US $ 3.5 billion. Every year, 950,000 people are affected by floods, and total economic losses are estimated at US $ 4.7 billion.
Unfortunately, the changing climate is projected to increase the risk of such extreme weather and natural events.
The Fergana valley is a vivid example of the need for regional cooperation in terms of minimizing the risks of natural disasters. The valley is densely populated and located at the junction of Eastern Uzbekistan, Southern Kyrgyzstan and Northern Tajikistan.
In addition, the Tajik Pamir is a home for the Sarez lake, whose waters reach Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. The Sarez lake and its natural Usoy dam are themselves the product of a once raging the earth’s interior.
Any powerful shocks that can shake the Fergana valley or destroy the Usoy dam are fraught with a crushing mudslide, floods and other disastrous consequences for several countries at once and millions of people. The cross-border risk of such natural disasters clearly requires a closer multilateral partnership to reduce it.
The desire of the Central Asian governments to ensure stable and environmentally sound development for the population of their countries, resilient to the devastating impacts of natural disasters, has been identified as one of the priorities at the national levels.
For example, since January 2019, Turkmenistan has been implementing a program to reduce seismic risk, aimed at ensuring safe social, economic and environmental conditions for the population living in seismically dangerous zones of the country.
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have adopted disaster risk reduction strategies. The Kyrgyz Republic has launched a new program to improve the seismic resistance of schools. Kazakhstan, systematically conducts activities on the ground to build up the responding capacity.
It is encouraging sign that countries are increasingly focusing on regional cooperation in addition to national efforts, as natural disasters do not recognize borders. The idea of developing joint approaches to addressing climate change and mitigating its consequences was strongly supported by the leaders of the Central Asian countries at the recent summit in Tashkent.