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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Off-the-Cuff

Secretary-General's press encounter upon his return from the Muynak, Aral Sea

Nukus, Uzbekistan, 4 April 2010

Good afternoon, Salaam u aleikum,

I have just flown over the Aral Sea by helicopter with Prime Minister [Shavkat] Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan.

It is clearly one of the worst environmental disaster of the world. I was so shocked. It really left with me a profound impression\\, one of sadness that such a mighty sea has disappeared.

Standing on piers, on what was once piers, I could not see anything – I could see only a cemetery of ships marooned in the sand. It was shocking.

It was a vivid testament to what [?] happens [?] when we waste our common natural resources, when we neglect our environment, when we mismanage our environment.

I have seen [a] vast flats of salt, I have seen salty dust storms blowing. These really harm the livelihood and health of people. Millions of people have lost their places, their livelihoods were destroyed. [?] I was so saddened to see this for myself. It reminded me of when I flew over Lake Chad in Africa in 2007. These two mighty bodies of water have disappeared because of our neglect to mismanage the environment.

I have learnt a great lesson, a very sad lesson and I am sending out this message to the whole world: we must work together – collectively. This is a collective responsibility, a responsibility shared among the communities in the region and shared among the nations of the world. In this regard, I welcome and support the international fund for saving the Aral Sea which was initiated by the five leaders of Central Asia. I would like to discuss this matter with all the leaders of Central Asia.

Solutions can be found [through] the political leadership of Central Asia. They have invited the partnership of the United Nations and the United Nations is ready to stand with their initiative. All relevant specialized agencies of the United Nations will work to provide the necessary assistance their technical expertise. That's what I am committing myself to, after having seen these very sad consequences.

We should become better stewards in managing the environment. We need to save this planet. We must deliver this Planet Earth to our succeeding generations, so that they can live in a more hospitable, in a more environmentally sustainable way. That is a moral and political imperative of the leaders.

These solutions, again, can be found, among the leaders of the regions. I urge all the leaders, including President Karimov of Uzbekistan, to sit down together and try to find solutions for the future of the succeeding generations and for common and better prosperity.

Thank you very much.


Off-the-Cuff on 4 April 2010