13 December 2012: The five countries surrounding the Caspian Sea - Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan - have adopted a legally-binding agreement on protecting the Sea from land-based sources of pollution.
The agreement was adopted and signed at the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 4) of the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea ("Tehran Convention"), which took place from 10-12 December 2012, in Moscow, Russia.
The Protocol for the Protection of the Caspian Sea against Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBSA Protocol) calls for contracting parties to adopt, inter alia: regional and national programmes or plans of action based on pollution source control; emission controls, including emission limits for substances listed in an annex, such as biocides, fluorides, heavy metals, non-biodegradable detergents, and organohalogen, organophosphorus and organotin compounds; common guidelines, standards and criteria on such matters as sea water quality and the control and progressive replacement of products, installations and industrial and other processes causing significant pollution of the marine environment and coastal areas; all necessary measures to substantially reduce pollution from agricultural activities; appropriate measures to reduce and reverse deforestation and land degradation in coastal areas; and cooperation on transboundary impacts caused by watercourse discharges into the Caspian Sea.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which provides secretariat services for the Convention, said the signing of the Protocol is an important step that will protect coasts and waters from "the detrimental effects of pollution from land-based sources such as agriculture, industry and urban settlements." In addition to adopting and signing the LBSA Protocol, COP 4 also agreed on steps for implementing an environmental monitoring and reporting programme for the Caspian Sea.
The Tehran Convention was signed in 2003 and entered into force in August 2006. The first ancillary Protocol to the Convention, the Protocol Concerning Regional Preparedness, Response and Cooperation in Combating Oil Pollution Incidents (Aktau Protocol) was adopted and signed at COP 3 in Aktau, Kazakhstan in 2011. Two other protocols are still under development, one on biodiversity conservation, and the other on environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context.