From the first days of its independence, Uzbekistan has embarked on rational use of natural resources and conservation of the environment for present and future generations. On the threshold of the upcoming World Environment Day, it is noteworthy that humans, protection of their interests and rights to a healthy, clean environment, have been a priority of deep ongoing transformations in the country.
THE INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC HAS INHERITED a range of unsolved global and regional environmental problems from the previous epoch, including the Aral Sea tragedy, degradation of land and water resources, deterioration of the gene pool of flora and fauna. Meanwhile, as a result of scaled environmental activities in the past 20 years, the bigger part of our country has been demonstrating the improvement in the environmental situation. Backed by best international practices and achievements of modern science, Uzbekistan has built an effective system of environmental protection and ecological safety. The formation of the market economy has been combined with the non-admission of predatory attitude towards nature, environmental damage and environmental degradation.
The republic has a strong legal framework of environmental protection and effective use of natural resources. Adopted in 1992, the Law ‘On Environmental Protection’ was the first integrated legislative act on environment, which is aimed at ensuring the protection of ecosystems, natural complexes and separate objects, balanced and harmonious development of relationships between humans and nature. It paved the way for the gradual and consistent shaping of environmental legislation. In recent years, Uzbekistan has approved more than 30 major laws, hundreds of subordinate acts on environmental protection, including the laws on protected natural areas, on natural resources, on water and water use, on protection and use of fauna, and many others. All of them comply with international standards and norms.
Adopted in late 2013, the Law ‘On Environmental Control’ is worth of special mention. Its draft was developed under the ‘Concept of intensifying democratic reforms and building up a civil society in the country’, and published in the media for public discussion. Non-governmental non-profit and public organizations and other civil society institutions, factions of political parties in the Legislative Chamber received over three thousand proposals on its improvement, many of which were taken into account in the final version.
The law stipulates that along with state structures, the process of environment protection involves self-government bodies, NGOs and citizens.
In 2015, it is planned to draft new acts on renewable energy, sanitary and epidemiological welfare of the population, streamline the existing laws ‘On Waste’, ‘On the Protection and Use of Flora’, and others.
THE ECOLOGY MOVEMENT OF UZBEKISTAN was entrusted with environmental and public health protection. It has united the enthusiasts willing to actively protect nature under the slogan ‘Healthy Environment Begets Healthy People’.
Since its inception more than six years ago, the Ecology Movement has sought to mobilize all society forces to further enhance the ongoing reforms in the country aimed at the observance of the rights of present and future generations to live in a healthy environment, improvement of public health, protection and rational use of natural resources. Within a short period of time the organization has done much to unite different population strata. It has established a mechanism of cooperation with public authorities, and civil society institutions to involve the public in environmental protection activities.
Interacting with over 200 domestic NGOs in environment and health in all regions of the country, the team of the Ecology Movement holds regular panel discussions, workshops, and environmental rallies that involve the local population, related government agencies, NGOs, the media, and other civil society institutions.
The Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis has a Deputy Group of the Ecology Movement made up of 15 parliamentarians, who are elected on a competitive basis from all regions of the country. Members of the parliamentary group have initiated several new laws regulating environmental issues and come up with dozens of proposals to improve environmental laws.
Improved environment is among the remarkable outcomes of Uzbekistan’s environmental policy. In recent years, air pollutant emissions and wastewater discharge into water bodies have decreased several times. Transition to biological methods of plant protection has reduced the use of pesticides by more than five times. There is a tendency of growing share of grain and leguminous crops, vegetables, melons and potatoes in the structure of cultivated areas, and the area under cotton crops have been significantly reduced.
Uzbekistan has shifted to the basic principle of water resources management, is widely introducing water saving technologies, and strictly limits water consumption. Much has been done on the amelioration of irrigated lands, creation of local water reservoirs in the Amudarya River delta, development and strengthening of the network of protected areas. Development of national reserves, parks, wildlife sanctuaries and ecocentres is in progress.
FOR INSTANCE, THE HISSAR NATIONAL RESERVE gives a chance to get in touch with the unique and amazing beauty of the native land, to see how effectively the country’s natural resources, the wildlife and endangered plants have been protected.
It is located at an altitude of two thousand meters above sea level in the south-western spurs of Hissar Mountains. It is the country’s largest reserve, with an area exceeding 80,000 hectares, stretching more than 200 km from south to north.
Snow leopards have been studied and observed there for many years. Almost all countries, including Uzbekistan, have listed the animal in the Red Book. To date, there are less then two thousand species of this predator in the world. Only four species lived in Hissar Reserve in the 70s of the last century. In 1991 it was home to ten species, and today several families of snow leopards live there freely. The total number of the graceful animals has exceeded 25.
The survival of this rare wildcat in the world is extremely difficult, so the maintenance of viable populations of snow leopards in the reserve demonstrates the effectiveness of its habitat and the measures taken for its protection in our country.
The unique natural reserve, with the diversity of ecosystems of the mountainous region, has preserved many other rare species of flora and fauna, whose numbers have stabilized or even increased.
It is home to three more species of mammals included in the Red Book, - white-clawed bear, Turkestan lynx, the Central Asian otter. For instance, in 1999 there were no more than 100 bears, while today their population has increased to 180, and they can be found not only in the juniper forests, but also on the entire territory of the reserve. The number of inhabitants of mountainous rocks, scree debris and alpine meadows - Siberian goats – has now exceeded two thousands.
Let’s add a few other representatives of fauna designated as endangered species: the Central Asian cobra, black vulture, forest dormouse, Central Asian tortoise, lesser horseshoe-nosed bat, and others. These rare wildlife species feel at home in the reserve.
One can talk about rich flora and fauna of the reserve for hours, but we would like to draw your attention to two unique sites of cultural heritage. A place of pilgrimage to the Muslim saint Khodja Daud is located in the northern part of the reserve on the slopes of Hazrat Sultan Mountain; and the world famous cave of Amir Temur with the country’s largest underground lake is situated to the south of the reserve – in the Kalasay River delta.
Located some 42 km from Bukhara, the Jeyran Ecocenter represents a unique and mysterious world of the Kyzyl-Kum desert. In the ‘70s of the last century several republics, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan that are inhabited by gazelles, decided to set up 13 specialized nurseries for their breeding. The project aimed at saving gazelles from extinction. Years later, only one nursery was left in the Bukhara region. The Jeyran Ecocenter survived and turned into a unique natural reserve that has no counterparts. Its biodiversity is just striking: it is home to many threatened animals, plants, fish and birds.
Forty-two species of gazelle were brought to the nursery at the beginning, while in 1989 their population exceeded 1,200. It was a true breakthrough, a result of the dedicated work of the ecocenter’s staff and profound research.
Throughout the years since the establishment of the nursery, newborn gazelles are caught, placed in the aviary complex and fed from a bottle. This way, the center has been growing the animals that do not resemble their wild relatives, adapted to conditions of captivity, and most importantly, able to reproduce there. Specialists have developed a strategy for returning these animals back to nature, so gazelles are affranchised and start their ‘adult’ life. Such an innovative approach has helped to save them, to bring their numbers up to the level at which the risk of extinction has disappeared.
These examples demonstrate the process of development of protected areas in Uzbekistan.
UZBEKISTAN HAS SHOWN A GREAT INTEREST in alternative energy sources, especially solar energy, in recent years. The geographical location and climatic conditions of Uzbekistan are highly favorable when it comes to the capacity and prospects of alternative energy development. The republic is superior to many regions of the world in the number of sunny days a year (more than 320). Its gross capacity exceeds 51 billion tons of oil equivalent.
Research in solar energy was very popular in Uzbekistan in the 80s of the last century. It was the time when the Asia’s unique Physics-Sun Research and Experimental Center was built. Its products were known far beyond the country.
Physics-Sun was the platform for the establishment of the International Institute of Solar Energy in cooperation with the ADB in 2013 in Tashkent. It was designed to be a regional center for scientific and experimental research, the results of which might be used as promising solar technologies.
There is a pilot project on the construction of 100 MW solar photovoltaic power plant in the Samarkand region.
In the future it is planned to build several high-performance solar power plants. To this end, modern measuring stations for data collection and development of detailed projects have been established in various regions of Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan has rich reserves of raw materials for the production of photovoltaic modules and other equipment for solar industry. For instance, a manufacture of photovoltaic panels was established on the territory of Navoi Free Industrial Economic Zone with the participation of large foreign companies. A company on the production of solar thermal collectors is operating in Jizzakh Special Industrial Zone.
Great importance has been attached to the widespread introduction of elements of solar energy in housing conditions, in private households, and creation of appropriate production and service capacities.
AIR POLLUTION FROM MOTOR VEHICLES has been a global challenge in the modern world. A ‘Pure Air’ rally is annually held throughout the country to prevent environmental pollution, inform the car owners of responsibility for violations of environmental laws. Its first phase has been recently completed.
Hundreds of thousands of cars are subject to environmental screening. Administrative measures are applied to the owners in case of violations.
Studies show that today about 60-70% of harmful emissions into the environment, which include a variety of chemicals, account for vehicles. In view of the rapid development of the automotive industry of the country, the data points out to the relevance of the targeted measures for air protection. There are road patrol service posts equipped with gas-analyzing devices in all regions of the country to control the technical parameters of vehicles with petrol engines for gas content. There are also mobile units of ecological control that analyze vehicle emissions of the enterprises specializing in the maintenance and repair of motor vehicles.
Environmental education is of special importance when it comes to ensuring the purity of air. Advocacy groups work on that everywhere. They involve teachers of sciences, university students, representatives of the Ecology Movement. They give lectures on environmental issues at schools, colleges, local communities, enterprises and organizations, speak through the pages of the local press, on regional radio and television. Such an approach ultimately enhances the responsibility of citizens for a cleaner environment.
THE STATE COMMITTEE FOR NATURE PROTECTION, the Ecology Movement and other civil society organizations do a scaled job on raising environmental awareness and development of environmental education.
For instance, the State Committee for Nature Protection alone, together with partner organizations, holds hundreds of conferences, meetings, competitions and workshops. The Committee co-organized the fourteenth festival of ecological journalism, contests for the best idea on adaptation to climate change, ‘New Look - Yangi Nigoh’ - for the best video of protected areas.
Media representatives were invited to media tours in order to see the resource-saving and low-waste innovative technologies introduced at various enterprises across the country. For instance, journalists visited farms and organizations that have introduced drip irrigation and renewable energy technologies, established modern processable equipment to prevent the discharge of waste water into the environment.
More than 200 representatives of local communities and businesses took part in training workshops on the introduction of renewable energy sources and their advantages, which were initiated in Bukhara, Karshi, Urgench, and Fergana jointly with local authorities.
Hundreds of events have been held in the framework of the Concept of Education for Sustainable Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan at higher and secondary special educational institutions, secondary schools, pre-school educational institutions to implement the principles of environmental protection and respect for nature.
The agenda of competitions on ‘Nature Through the Eyes of Children’, and ‘Environment of the Hometown’ included master classes, exhibitions and open classes at secondary schools in various cities of the country.
In its urge for making the protection of native wildlife a matter of everyone’s concern, the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan has held numerous rallies aimed at environmental enlightenment of the population with the focus on young people.
… The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once wrote: «I tore the leaf from a tree, and he wilted in my hand, I caught a butterfly, and she died. I realized that nature can be loved with the heart only.»
It is obvious that Uzbekistan, attaching special importance to the all-inclusive development of the younger generation and cultivating love for nature from an early age, has been doing much to shape a reverent attitude to the environment and the need for its conservation.