Wednesday, April 7, 2010

UN's Ban Ki-moon calls Aral Sea "shocking disaster"

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the drying up of the Aral Sea is one of the planet's most shocking disasters and is calling on Central Asian leaders to step up cooperation in solving the environmental problems.

Once the world's fourth-largest lake, the sea has shrunk by 90 percent since the rivers that feed it were largely diverted in Soviet times in an effort to boost cotton production in the arid region.

Ban toured the sea by helicopter as part of a visit to the five countries of former Soviet Central Asia.

His trip included a touchdown in Muynak, Uzbekistan, a town once on the shore where a pier stretches eerily over gray desert and camels stand near the hulks of stranded ships.

"On the pier, I wasn't seeing anything, I could see only a graveyard of ships," Ban told reporters after arriving in Nukus, the nearest sizable city and capital of the autonomous Karakalpak region.

"It is clearly one of the worst disasters, environmental disasters of the world. I was so shocked," he said.

"I urge all the leaders ... to sit down together and try to find the solutions," he said, promising United Nations support.

Ship Graveyard - Muynak Source: AP

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