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Caspian Littoral States Sign Environment Protocol for the Sea

Photo: United Nations Environment Programme

Shailaja A. Lakshmi

Littoral countries to the Caspian Sea have made a groundbreaking commitment to evaluate the likely impact that development projects will have on the environment in each other's states.

High-level representatives from Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan today signed the Environment Impact Assessment Protocol under the Tehran Convention.

Under the Protocol, countries must follow a set of harmonized practical procedures for assessing the impact that a project will have on the environment in another state.

Impacts on human health, fauna, water and soil are among factors to be accounted for when installing oil refineries, building major power plants or undertaking major deforestation, for example.

Countries that stand to be affected by a project will have the opportunity to comment on plans underway. They will then be entitled to receive an explanation as to how these comments were taken into account if the development goes ahead.

"It's fantastic to see the Caspian Sea's littoral states come together and commit to the future well-being of this jewel of the region and unique ecosystem. I'm convinced this will be a big win for the region's environment, economy and long-term security," said UN Environment Head Erik Solheim. "It also sends a strong message around the world that sustainable development is one issue that we can all get behind together."

UN Environment hosts the interim Secretariat of the Tehran Convention. The treaty aims to protect and preserve the Caspian Sea and its natural resources and is the only international environmental treaty signed between the Sea's littoral countries.

The Caspian Sea's varied levels of salinity between north and south means it hosts a unique ecosystem. Yet this is also highly threatened, with oil and gas production being one of the main factors taking a heavy toll on the environment. The Sea's fossil fuel reserves are estimated to be one of the planet's largest - underlining the importance of the Environment Impact Assessment Protocol. The Sea is still the source of the majority of the world's caviar, but its sturgeon population has steadily declined, while the Caspian seal is listed as endangered.

Today's signing took place in the margins of an extraordinary Conference of the Parties to the Tehran Convention. The Protocol will enter into force three months after being ratified by the signatory countries' parliaments.

Jul 22, 2018

 

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