Five nations bordering the Caspian Sea have reached an agreement to safeguard the waterbody and also pave the way for an equitable sharing of its resources. The treaty, called the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, came into force on August 12, 2006, following a meeting in Tehran, Iran.
The accord binds Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and mirrors the agreements for the Mediterranean Sea and the Baltic Sea. It aims to reduce industrial pollution, restore the marine environment, protect indigenous wildlife such as the sturgeon, use the sea's resources in a sustainable way and work out a joint response to any emergency.
The landlocked Caspian is rich in biodiversity and boasts 400 endemic species.Of late, the five nations bordering the sea have been involved in disputes over its oil and natural gas deposits (experts estimate that the sea holds around three per cent of the world's energy supplies), and fishing rights. Besides, concern has been raised over the growing network of transport routes and pipelines, particularly the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline that opened in July this year to supply Caspian oil to world markets. Construction of numerous dams and hydroelectric plants on the river Volga, which discharges into the Caspian, has also fragmented habitats and harmed many vulnerable species.
"The Caspian Sea's fragile environment is vulnerable to the region's current boom in oil and gas exploration. Climate extremes and economic and political challenges also put pressure on the Caspian's natural resources," says Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which was part of the negotiation process. "Restoring the Caspian's fisheries and unique habitats to health will boost the well-being of millions of people living in this beautiful but troubled region," adds Steiner.