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Pollutants affecting Caspian Sea environment

ASTARA,Gilan province, Iran, October 18, 1999, (IRNA) -- Despite being landlocked,  the Caspian Sea has been in a "semi-critical" environmental  situation in recent years due to the flow of various industrial,  agricultural and urban wastes.

However, the dangerous pollution which is mainly caused due to  oil operations, including exploration, drilling and transfer in  addition to heavy metals and substances such as lead and zinc  which constitute part of the industrial waste, are threatening  marine life in this largest lake of the world.

Dr Mohammad Piri, head of the research center for fishery  studies in Gilan province, said although Iran's share in the  pollution of the Caspian Sea is meager, however, efforts are  underway to further prevent flow of any pollutant to the sea.

He said only five percent of the Caspian Sea water is supplied  by Iranian rivers while the remaining 95 percent is flown to the  sea through rivers in the littoral states, including Volga.

The official said that Iran attaches great importance to the  preservation of diversified ecology of the Caspian Sea, adding  that various research projects have been carried out in this  connection so far.

Further elaborating on the issue, director general of the marine  environment of the environment protection organization Mohammad  saeed husseini said a regional project, the Caspian environment  program (CEP), is being formulated to fight environmental  hazards in the region.

He said the program is being prepared by the five littoral  states of Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran.

Meanwhile, U.N. Agencies such as U.N. Environment Program (UNEP)  and U.N. Development Program (UNDP) as well as World Bank and  European Union will cooperate with the plan, Husseini said.

So far, he added, $15 million has been offered by the said  agencies as contribution to the plan which will be completed in  three years time.

He pointed to refining, control and fight against marine  pollution, management of coastal regions, preservation of marine  ecology and study of radioactive pollutants as the main topics  of the program.

Husseini further added that each country concerned will  undertake research works on two or three items of the program,  adding that Iran with the cooperation of the atomic energy  organization will conduct study on radioactive pollutants.

Meanwhile, head of the environment club of Turkmenistan pointed  to the activities of international companies in the Caspian Sea  and said while those companies claim they cause no environmental  damage to the marine environment of the sea, the reality is  quite different.

Another Turkmen environmental official stressed that as long as  littoral states are after their own individual interests in the  Caspian, the sea should not be expected to remain safe and its  environment intact.

He said in his view preservation of the Caspian environment and  formulation of a legal regime for the sea are among urgent needs  in this connection.

Elements causing Caspian pollution are many and, therefore, any  plan to fight the mishap demands collective cooperation of the  littoral states as the sea is a collective regional heritage.

The Caspian Sea with a span of 378 square kilometers is the  largest lake in the world neighboring Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan,  Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.