Tajikistan: OSCE Centre in Dushanbe opens Aarhus Centre in Khujand

DUSHANBE, 5 July 2005 - Helping the public participate in decision-making and offering access to information on environmental matters are the aims of an Aarhus Centre that opened today in Khujand in the Sughd region of Tajikistan.

The Centre has been established by the OSCE Field Office in Khujand and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as by central and local environmental authorities, under a project financed by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNDP and the OSCE Environment and Security Initiative.

The Centre will perform a broad range of activities related to the implementation of the Aarhus Convention, including on environmental issues identified as threats to security.

The Convention, ratified by Tajikistan in 2001, promotes a dialogue between civil society and authorities.

"The opening of the new Aarhus Centre is an important event in the Sughd region," said Abduvohid Karimov, Chairman of Tajikistan's State Committee on Environment and Forestry. "It will be an important tool for ecological awareness-raising and for advancing the process of democratization in the region."

"The Sughd region is the only place in Tajikistan that has been contaminated by radioactive waste," said Saulius Smalys, Environmental Officer at the Centre in Dushanbe.

"Because this was kept secret during the Soviet times, the local population has had little knowledge of the dangers involved. It is now a major task for the Aarhus Centre to lift the iron curtain surrounding this issue."

Another Aarhus Centre recently opened in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.