8th of December 2020, @10.00 a.m.
Venue: National Library of Tajikistan
Excellency Davlatali Said, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic Tajikistan, (and Head of the Commission on Implementation of the International Humanitarian Law),
Director Muhabbat Ibrohimzoda,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to speak at the meeting of the Commission on Implementation of the International Humanitarian Law.
Globally, as well as in Tajikistan, mine action has evolved as a sector over the two decades. Mine action is critical for ensuring humanitarian protection, and reinforcing peace and security, and is a catalyst for sustainable development. Mine Action is of paramount importance in enabling progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. For example, once land contaminated by explosive and chemical hazard is cleaned, it can be used for cultivation, housing, health clinics, water supply, schools, etc. thereby reducing poverty and food insecurity and thus contributing to human development and advancement of SDGs.
UNDP has played a crucial role in supporting Tajikistan in coordinating, managing and monitoring its Mine Action Programme, of course, in close collaboration with the Government of Tajikistan and national and international partners. Starting back in 2003 as a UNDP project, Tajikistan National Mine Action Centre has obtained its legal status as a national entity on January 3, 2014. Since 2003 and for 15 years, UNDP worked on building capacities of Tajikistan’s Mine Action Centre on monitoring, coordination and quality assurance of mine action work in the country. We are happy to see that as a result of UNDP’s technical assistance, the capacities of Tajikistan National Mine Action Centre have grown strong over the years, and the Centre is now capable of coordinating mine action at the country level.
Thanks to the leadership of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan and effective coordination with the international community, the land is being freed up from land mines, and is now utilized for different economic purposes, giving development dividends. All these efforts present Tajikistan as an active country striving to meet its obligations to Ottawa Convention on Mine Action in international community.
Uranium waste management
Excellencies, distinguished colleagues,
I would like to draw your attention to the legacy of uranium mining in Tajikistan, that remains a grave concern today, over several decades after many mining and minerals processing operations ceased following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. The issue of environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and radioactive waste has many implications for people and planet, for generations to come.
An estimated amount of around 55 million tons of waste from mining and processing radioactive ores is stored on 10 tailings sites and in mining waste dumps of Tajikistan (Istiqlol town, Sougd, population approx. 200,000). As these sites are located in proximity of the trans-boundary Syrdarya River, in case of a natural disaster, this can lead to contamination spread in Northern Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
This situation poses a serious threat to livelihoods, human health, and the environment in Tajikistan, and entire Central Asian region. The high political importance of the uranium legacy sites in the Central Asia region was also stressed by the adoption of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution, on “The role of the international community in averting the radioactive threats in Central Asia” (December 20, 2013).
As you all may be aware, the EU has worked on feasibility studies and environmental impact assessments across Central Asia, in close collaboration with the Central Asian governments concerned, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for more than a decade now. The remediation plans have been developed and endorsed by the relevant governments and now require urgent action to deal with an estimated 1 billion tons of hazardous processing waste abandoned in the Central Asia region.
Since 2016, UNDP is engaged into targeted public advocacy and outreach campaigns, to inform at-risk population of radioactive hazards, and thus facilitate reducing risk of the negative impact of the uranium legacy sites on people, livelihoods, and environment.
I am pleased to share that in 2020, UNDP secured funding from EU (€1 mln.), to further focus on increasing the understanding of local authorities and communities about uranium waste risk and its impact on people, livelihoods, environment; and community engagement in the safe governance of legacy sites, strengthening national and cross-border cooperation in uranium legacy remediation, and targeted community level socio-economic interventions to reduce the risk of radioactive impact in at-risk communities in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The project will be implemented in partnership with Organization for Security and Co-ordination in Europe (OSCE), with active engagement of the local authorities, communities, academia, and local NGOs. I would like to note that the Governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have already endorsed the project and started its implementation.
I call for accelerating the project proposal review and endorsement process in Tajikistan as well. This step will showcase Tajikistan’s political commitment and strong national ownership of uranium legacy remediation agenda and will help to move forward towards the ultimate goal of remediation of the uranium legacy sites.