Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ statement following his visit to the Aral Sea, in Muynak, Uzbekistan, today:
Visiting the Aral Sea and seeing what was the fourth-largest inland sea in the world almost dead has caused a tremendous shock. This is probably the biggest ecological catastrophe of our time. And it demonstrates that men can destroy the planet.
The Aral Sea’s progressive disappearance was not because of climate change, it was mismanagement by humankind of water resources. But it also shows that if in relation to climate change we are not able to act forcefully to tame this phenomenon, we might see this kind of tragedy multiply around the world.
So let’s use the Aral Sea as a symbol of how humanity can destroy the planet and let’s make it a lesson for us all to be able to mobilize the whole international community to implement the Paris Agreement — Governments, businesses, civil society, cities, States — in order to make sure that tragedies like the one I have seen in Uzbekistan will not be repeated.