Tashkent, Uzbekistan, November 10, 2022 – Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced the launch of the second phase of its Environmental Restoration of the Aral Sea (ERAS II) activity. USAID will spend approximately $1.6 million to counter the adverse effects of desertification in the Aral Sea region by improving air quality and living conditions and by strengthening climate change resilience. ERAS II will focus on planting new forests in the Aral Sea region of Uzbekistan, building on the ongoing first phase, which focuses on the northern part of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. USAID will promote bilateral cooperation to advance the restoration of the Aral Sea ecosystem and improve livelihoods in the region.
Laura Cizmo, USAID Central Asia’s Economic Development Office Director, said: “Providing support and capacity building for national initiatives is one way the United States seeks to lend its expertise to improve economic prosperity and sustainable development in Central Asia. Projects such as this one are as much about improving livelihoods and creating resilience as they are about fostering cooperation between nations for long-term vision.”
The Aral Sea tragedy is one of the world’s most infamous environmental disasters. Once the fourth-largest lake in the world, by 1997 the sea had shrunk to approximately 10% of its former size due to water diversions from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers for agriculture. Today, the area contributes heavily to annual sand and dust storms that negatively impact the environment and human health for hundreds of kilometers around the region.
This work supports the United States Government’s Roadmap for Nature-Based Solutions which was announced at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) to advance nature-based solutions as a go-to option for fighting climate change and boost progress towards U.S. climate goals.
In addition to planting new forests (afforestation) in the Aral Sea region, USAID will support research into, and the dissemination of, innovative technologies for planting and irrigation. Both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have committed to promoting knowledge exchange and integrating efforts to address the adverse effects of the Aral Sea disaster.
This research will improve understanding of desert biomes and support private sector initiatives for environmental restoration and agribusiness. By incorporating new technologies into afforestation work, USAID will promote public and private ownership of the environmental agenda and increase the long-term sustainability of soil and forest initiatives in Uzbekistan.
ERAS II will be implemented by the USAID Regional Water and Vulnerable Environment activity in cooperation with the State Committee on Forestry, State Committee for Ecology and Environment Protection, Ministry of Innovative Development, International Innovation Center for the Aral Sea Basin under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, academic and research institutions and administration in Muynak district, and the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan.
USAID’s Regional Water and Vulnerable Environment activity focuses on strengthening regional capacity to manage shared water resources and mitigating environmental risks in the Syr Darya and Amu Darya river basins. The activity takes a multi-level approach to tackling complex regional water challenges by strengthening collaboration through stakeholder dialogues, developing a shared vision for integrated and sustainable river basin management using evidence and modeling, and fostering collaborative action across sectors and governance levels.