Allow me also to congratulate you on your election to this important post and to express my confidence that your extensive professional and personal experience, together with your great diplomatic skill will advance creative dialogue and fruitful discussions, leading to specific measures and recommendations to achieve the ambitious objectives of Rio.
The conference in Rio de Janeiro reaffirmed that socio-economic development and environmental protection are closely connected and interdependent. Within the context of effective policy they must be considered in tandem. The conference also demonstrated that new ecological threats: depletion of the ozone layer, changes in the global climate, a decline in fresh water supplies, deforestation, the decline in biodiversity, environmental pollution, industrial and radioactive wastes, the spread of desertification and other problems have become more critical and require immediate solutions. States which participated in the conference emphasized that a solution to the problems of the environment and development require new forms of partnership: global partnership on the basis of an ongoing and constructive dialogue, predicated on the need to create a more effective and just world economy which fully acknowledges the interdependence of the community of nations and the high priority attached to the issue of sustainable development.
The conference also took a decision to call attention to the highest priority importance of mountains for mankind, and to propose to the UN General Assembly the declaration of the International Mountain Year. This request was supported by the President of Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Akaev. I wish to express the hope that this request will be backed by both governments and non-governmental organizations, and by various regional and subregional groups.
Mountains account for one-fifth of all dry land, and at least 10 per cent of the world’s population live here, and are dependent on mountain resources. An even greater part of the population uses other mountain resources, especially water. The glaciers located on mountain peaks are the basic sources of fresh water. A shortage of water together with a lack of other natural resources leads to an aggravation of poverty, intensifies social strife, and leads to a growth of ethnic tensions and, consequently, to the outbreak of armed conflicts. It is not fortuitous that 48 armed conflicts took place in
1995, and that 26 occurred in mountainous regions. Mountains are often the site of ecological disturbances and natural disasters. Earthquakes, landslides and avalanches not only cause serious damage to the economy of mountainous regions, but also kill thousands of people annually. On the other hand, mountains provide superb opportunities for the development of tourism, skiing, mountain climbing and hunting.
The government of the Kyrgyz Republic attaches great importance to questions of ecology. The development of natural resources is the major focus of national strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for sustainable human development. In November, 1995 we adopted a National Plan for environmental protection.
Mountains cover 90% of the territory of Kyrgyzstan. Glaciers high above the Pamir and Tien-Shan peaks nourish the rivers of the Amu Darya and the Sir Darya, which are the major water sources for the Aral Sea. With its enormous water and renewable hydroenergy resources, Kyrgyzstan is truly the ecological center of Central Asia. For that heart to keep on beating, however, its health must be carefully monitored.
The law of the Kyrgyz Republic on environmental protection stipulates the responsibility of industrial enterprises for environmental pollution resulting from emissions into the atmosphere, sewage runoff into reservoirs, and of solid waste disposal. This provision is also applicable to chemical and radioactive toxic substances. Currently work is underway on a law of the Kyrgyz Republic on radiation safety for the population.
The last five years have been marked by a deterioration of the global environment and the depletion of natural resources. Popular wisdom has it that «He who climbs the mountain will reach his journey’s end.» Only a brave and determined person can conquer mountain peaks. Only the persistent joint efforts and resources of governments, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, international, subregional, and regional organizations and initiatives will lead to the implementation of the farsighted goals of the agenda for the 21st century — and we are now standing on its threshold.