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Opening Asia for Russia

27.08.2021 37 просмотров

In 2050, almost half of the world's population will not be able to get enough fresh water for a normal life - such a forecast, referring to the UN, is given by Alexander Timchenko, Director General of the International Association of Lake Regions (IAOR). 

The Association was founded in 2017 and works not only to preserve the numerous lakes of Asia and Europe, but also to improve the quality of life in the lakeside areas. In an interview with the Big Asia TV channel, Alexander Timchenko told what is happening with freshwater resources today and what role IAOR plays in saving the environment.

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- How follows from the name of the Association, lakes are at the center of its work. Why does this source of fresh water need special attention?

- We often talk about the importance of rivers, but to a lesser extent we talk and hear about lakes. But, in fact, only 0.3% of all fresh water on the Earth is on the surface, and from this small part of the lake they make up as much as 87%. Mankind has a consumer attitude to such a valuable resource: uncontrolled water intake and fishing, accumulation of garbage, lack or poor performance of treatment systems - all this leads to the death of water bodies. Think about it: according to the UN, by 2050, 40% of the world's population will live in conditions of acute shortage of fresh water. And now it's 2021 - we have very little time left to prevent the tragedy.

In Russia, which has the second largest freshwater reserves in the world, this problem is still invisible, it seems to us that everything is fine. But if one Russian has 30,000 cubic meters of water, then, for example, for a resident of Kuwait - only 6 cubic meters. The consequence of this uneven distribution of resources and the lack of common principles of international cooperation in the water sector are conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. Therefore, along with environmental issues, the work of the Association also includes the topic of water diplomacy. Thus, we have already participated in two UN Environment Assemblies - the largest events where the environmental agenda of the entire Earth is determined; in 2019, MAOR was a member of the official Russian delegation.

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- Are there any similar foreign projects whose experience you use?

 - A successful example of lake cooperation - Association of Five Great Lakes on the US-Canada border. This is the synergy of the two states, which, having united, were able to develop effective principles for managing the Great Lakes, as well as attract such large business companies as IBM, Coca-Cola and others to the project. The association of these reservoirs solves global issues: is it possible to build hydroelectric power stations, is it possible to build highways near lakes. Such an approach shows precisely the high level of cooperation and responsibility that we strive for.

Let me give you one more illustrative example. 70 years ago, Lake Geneva was one of the most polluted lakes in Europe, but now the picture has changed a lot. Two countries, France and Switzerland, were able to agree on the control of wastewater treatment plants, developed principles for managing the lake, and now it is a beautiful and healthy body of water. Promoting the dialogue of states, municipalities on transboundary lake cooperation is also one of the tasks of the IAOR.

Also, lake associations, whose work is very useful and effective, exist in Africa and Japan. But on the Eurasian continent, our organization with such a rich range of tasks that contribute to the sustainable development of lake regions is still unique. 

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- Yes, the breadth of its activities is reflected in its official name: Commonwealth Associations lake regions on environmental safety, innovative technologies, science, art and education. Why do you think it is important that IAOR deal with topics that are not always directly related to the environment?

- The well-being of the population and the well-being of lakes are very interrelated. Therefore, we must not only work in the scientific field, as our partners, limnological centers and institutes, do, but also help the development of the lake regions as a whole: support their cultural ties, ecotourism, and promote regional business. On the one hand, I would be glad if, for example, in Altai there were many places untouched by civilization. On the other hand, I am in favor of taking all the best world solutions and, adapting to local laws, without causing any harm to nature, we would develop both the lake and its environs in a single system.

So, on the shores of Lake Baikal , Lake Teletskoye, Karelian reservoirs, the issue of developing centers of cultural studies, rehabilitation, and sanatorium treatment is very relevant. Therefore, IAOR proposed an initiative in which local employees will be able to learn from the representatives of the oldest clinics and rehabilitation centers in Switzerland, France and Italy. Thanks to this project, modern health facilities will appear in the lake regions, rehabilitation and ecological tourism will improve.

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- What ideas of the Association have already been implemented?

- Of the latest, we can name the creation of a collection of scientific articles "Water drama in the context of global transformations" in Russian and English. Its presentation took place in June of this year in Geneva, and in November, during our future conference, jointly with the Geneva Aquatic Center, we plan to present the collection already in Russia. The "Water Drama..." includes works by international experts on the topics of water management, transboundary cooperation and water diplomacy. All articles are of practical importance, so we want to distribute copies of the book among partner universities, as well as in government agencies that deal with the issues covered in the collection.

In addition, this year we once again held an international campaign “ Pure Shores of Eurasia” and received record figures. For example, in 2019, 32 regions took part in the event, and in 2021 - already 50. In general, these are more than 100 locations from Sakhalin to Lake Geneva, from the Arctic territories to Issyk-Kul. On June 5, International Environment Day, tens of thousands of people joined the Clean Shores of Eurasia. And, when the participants in the Far East were already going to bed, the inhabitants of the European regions only went to the shores of lakes and rivers to clean them of plastic and other waste. Together we collected tons of garbage. And in 2019, the office of the UN Environment Program recognized our environmental action as the best in Eurasia. In 2020, the All-Russian Society for Conservation of Nature, led by the UN Goodwill Ambassador Vyacheslav Fetisov, became a partner of the IAOR. 

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- In your opinion, what factors, on the contrary, hinder the work of IAOR?

- One of the main problems affecting the efficiency of our work is personnel. Unfortunately, many officials who make key decisions in the field of water management do not have special training. They do not have a sufficient level of understanding of how treatment systems, hydraulic structures work, how valuable and vulnerable sources of fresh water are. And this leads to the emergence of projects that are completely out of touch with reality.

To change the situation, IAOR launches, jointly with the RANEPA, advanced training courses necessary for people holding such positions. The courses include programs on water management, work in the regions of the Arctic and help to give a strong educational base to those who are somehow connected with the water sector.

In addition, we develop educational projects for students and schoolchildren. For example, as part of the EcoGeneration game, aimed at school-age children, we try to involve its participants in environmental issues through quizzes and other interesting activities. Also in 2018, the Association implemented the Floating University project. Then young employees from the LIN SB RAS, studying lakes, went to Italy and exchanged scientific experience with limnologists of the Insubria University in the city of Como, where the lake of the same name is located. Now we are waiting for Italian specialists at Baikal.

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- How do you see the further development of the Association and the lake theme in general?

- I think that just educational projects have a very large potential. Refresher courses are a struggle with an already rooted misunderstanding, with the current situation. And work with schoolchildren and students, in my opinion, is very promising, because this is the prevention of incompetent personnel. Such a measure allows one to form a correct ecological outlook from an early age, and a correct view of the protection of nature is now extremely important.

Over the past century, a huge number of lakes have disappeared from the face of the Earth, a striking example is the lost Aral Sea. According to the UN, over the entire period of human existence, we have lost more than half of the plant and animal species of the planet. This is no longer just a wake-up call, it is a horn that calls us (especially the younger generation) to think about how to live on. And our Association strives to make sure that the call is heard.


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