26 November 2003

$6.5 Million GEF Grant for Caspian Sea Protection

GEF pledges support for Tehran environmental treaty

The Council of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) on November 24 approved a $6.5 million grant for a project that will support implementation of a new treaty designed to protect the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water.

The treaty, the "Tehran Convention," was signed in early November by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan. The five countries agreed to take all necessary measures, individually and collectively, to reduce and control pollution and to protect the environment of the Caspian Sea.

The United Nations Development Program, in cooperation with the UN Environment Program, will manage the project, and the $6.5 million grant will be supplemented with $25.8 million in cofinancing from governments and other sources, according to a World Bank press release.

The release said four regional environmental concerns will be addressed: unsustainable use of biological resources; other threats to biodiversity, including invasive species; pollution; and unsustainable coastal area development.

The GEF is an international financial organization with 176 member countries that supports environmental projects in developing countries.

Following is the World Bank release on the Caspian Sea project:

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World Bank Washington, D.C. www.worldbank.org

News Release No: 2004/160/S

GEF COUNCIL APPROVES $6.5 MILLION GRANT FOR THE RESTORATION AND PROTECTION OF THE CASPIAN SEA

Washington, D.C., November 24, 2003 - The Council of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) approved today a $6.5 million grant for a project that will support the implementation of a new treaty for the protection of the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest enclosed body of water.

"The five countries participating in this GEF project have made a promising start in creating a regional framework for protecting and restoring the Caspian Sea environment," said Len Good, CEO and Chairman of the GEF. "This GEF project will support the countries as they take the next steps needed to protect their shared ecosystem — an endeavor that is critical to the health and livelihoods of people in the region, as well as the survival of globally significant biodiversity."

Each of the five participating countries — Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan — signed the Tehran Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea in early November. Under this convention, the five countries agreed to take all necessary measures, individually and collectively, to reduce and control pollution and to protect the environment of the sea. GEF played a key role in the preparation of the convention by providing a grant for a previous project that laid the groundwork for regional cooperation. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) facilitated the negotiation of the convention.

The UN Development Programme, in cooperation with UNEP, will manage the project, which will be supplemented with $25.8 million in cofinancing from governments and other sources. The project will initiate implementation of the countries’ trans-boundary environmental convention and fill remaining gaps in the understanding of how human activities damage the ecology of the Caspian Sea. The overall goal of the project is to facilitate the sustainable development of the Caspian environment, while protecting human health and ecological integrity for the sake of future generations. Four regional environmental concerns will be addressed: unsustainable use of biological resources; other threats to biodiversity, including invasive species; pollution; and unsustainable coastal area development.

A plan, based on national action plans for each country and adopted by the participating countries along with the convention in early November, will drive the implementation of this project. The plan, developed during the previous phase of GEF support, outlines country commitments to legal, policy, and institutional reforms to protect the Caspian Sea.

Among other targets, the project aims to:

- Implement agreed-upon approaches to minimize transfer of invasive species from ship ballast water to the Caspian Sea.

- Develop regional strategies for pollution reduction, including remediation of pollution hotspots and a program to dispose of stores of banned agrochemical products in accordance with the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

- Promote environmentally sound agricultural practices in the region, including appropriate use of agrochemicals and harmonization of water quality networks.

- Reduce risk of pollution disasters and improve response capacity through the signing of a regional agreement on oil spill response, updating of the mapping of sensitive areas of the Caspian, assessment of risks for oil and hazardous substances, and development of a regional agreement on minimum standards of maintenance of the existing Caspian tanker fleet.

- Provide assistance to the recently-signed Tehran Convention, including development of new legislation relating to convention implementation and support in the preparation of four key protocols to the Convention.

The Caspian Sea, which occupies a deep depression on the boundary between Asia and Europe, contains some 44 percent of all inland waters on the earth. Approximately 40 percent of the species found in the Caspian are not found elsewhere; without intervention, the potential loss of globally significant biodiversity is high. The region is internationally renowned for its fisheries, and specifically, the delicacy of Caspian caviar. These fisheries provide much-needed protein to the diets of coastal residents; however, the overall fish catch is declining due to pollution, over-fishing, and other factors.

About the GEF

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an international financial organization with 176 member countries that acts as a major catalyst for improving the global environment. GEF grants support projects in developing countries in the areas of biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.

Since its creation in 1991, the GEF has allocated $4.5 billion in grants to support more than 1,300 projects in more than 140 developing nations and countries with economies in transition. GEF has committed approximately US $117.4 million in small grants to NGOs and community groups in developing countries, directly involving them in addressing global environmental problems.

Media Contact: Hutton G. Archer, Global Environment Facility (GEF), Tel: 1 (202) 473-0508, Fax: 1 (202) 522-3240, E-mail: harcher@theGEF.org, Internet: www.theGEF.org

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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