Aral Sea “catastrophe” a lesson for the planet: UN Secretary-General

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A view of rusted, abandoned ships in Muynak, Uzebkistan, a former port city whose population has declined precipitously with the rapid recession of the Aral Sea. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The Aral Sea “tragedy” serves as a symbol of how humanity can destroy the planet, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said following a visit there on Saturday.

Once the world’s fourth largest lake, the Aral Sea, which is located in Uzbekistan, has shrunk by more than 70 per cent in recent decades as its tributary rivers were diverted for irrigation projects.

Dianne Penn reports.

The UN chief described the Aral Sea as "probably the biggest ecological catastrophe of our time."

He recalled that its disappearance was not the result of climate change but rather due to mismanagement of water resources.

However, speaking in relation to climate change, he warned that such a "tragedy" could be repeated elsewhere if action is not taken.

"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’ve seen in Uzbekistan will not be repeated."

The Paris Agreement on climate change, agreed by world leaders in the French capital in December 2015, seeks to limit global temperature rises to below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’10

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