Sound Environment, Healthy Nation

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February 26, 2014

Sound Environment, Healthy Nation

From the first days of independence Uzbekistan embarked on a rational use of natural resources and the preservation of the environment for present and future generations. In the center of deep reforms implemented in the country are people, protection of their interests and right to healthy, clean environment.

Over the past years, the country has accumulated vast experience in solving environmental problems and overcome their negative effects. And there were many, because the previous era has left independent Uzbekistan a legacy of a number of outstanding global and regional environmental issues, including – the tragedy of the Aral Sea, desertification, land degradation and water resources, deterioration of the gene pool of flora and fauna, loss of biodiversity, education huge amounts of industrial and other waste. Their decision to engage in both state agencies, primarily the State Committee for Nature Protection, and a large number of NGOs, including the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan.

The Aral, our pain spot

In September 2010 at the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, the head of our state urged once again the international community to join efforts to address one of the major environmental issues – the Aral Sea crisis, which is of a global effect, on the scale.

For 45-50 years, we have been witnessing the disappearance of one of the largest reservoirs in the world. Yet there was no case to the eyes of a generation perished whole sea.

Environmental disaster touched the lives of millions of people living in the Aral Sea basin. More than half of the gene pool of flora and fauna were already lost. On the dried part of the sea there vast areas of white salt fields covered with sand have appeared, which had transformed into a new desert – Aralkum with more than five million hectares. From time to time dust and salt storms raging here, carrying hundreds to kilometers millions of tons of salt, dust and sand.

After independence, Uzbekistan has taken enormous efforts to mitigate the environmental disaster. By the President’s initiative, a Charity Fund for the Aral Gene Pool Protection was established. In April 2009, at a meeting of leaders of the parties to the International Fund for Saving the Aral, the head of state proposed a concept of the Program of further activities of IFSA Member-States for 2011-2015 and the greater involvement of the international community in solving the problems of the Aral Sea. International assistance to the region in the last 15-20 years has allowed some easing of environmental disaster, but the problem cannot be solved completely.

Against this background, it is of great concern in recent years the intention of countries upstream of the main rivers of the region to exploit trans-boundary water resources in violation of accepted international norms. This refers to the construction of the Rogun Hydro Power Station in Tajikistan. The emergence of such waterworks exacerbates the already difficult environmental situation in the region and can lead to numerous social and environmental and humanitarian disasters.

Operation “Clean air”

The country has carried out an extensive work on improvement and development of the legislative framework in ecology, monitoring the implementation of state land, mineral resources, water, air, flora and fauna, conduct work to assess the impact on the environment. The implementation of international conventions and other treaties and agreements in ecology was ensured.

The first piece of legislation in this area was the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Environmental Protection”. On its basis, the progressive and staged development of the environmental legislation was implemented. Currently, the country has already taken dozens of major laws, hundreds of bylaws in environmental protection, natural resource management, environmental safety. Among them, the laws “On Protected Areas”, “On Subsoil”, “On Water and Water”, “On the Protection and Use of Flora”, “On the Protection and Use of Animals” and others. Along with the general principles, they anticipate specific principles that reflect the particular features of regulation in this area, they are consistent with international standards and norms.

Especially, last year the State Committee for Nature Protection participated in the development of 12 bills and amendments thereto, regulations and departmental regulations in nature conservation. The Government of the country has approved a new Program of Action for the Protection of the Environment of the Republic of Uzbekistan for the period 2013-2017.

For example, during the Clean Air Operation efforts were exerted to reduce the impact of vehicles on the air through their conversion to more environmentally clean fuel gas. As a result of reduced emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere by more than 21.4 tons. To fulfill the obligations of our country under the Convention on Biodiversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance and other international instruments.

Hotline of movement

Established five years ago to meet challenges of environmental protection and public health, the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan unites citizens who wish to participate actively in the protection of nature.

Within a short period of time a lot of work to integrate the general population was done. A mechanism of cooperation with public authorities, institutions and civil society to engage people in environmental activities was established.

Interacting with more than 200 domestic NGOs working in ecology and healthcare in all regions of the country, the activists of the Ecological Movement regularly hold roundtables, seminars, arrangements involving local people, government environmental agencies, NGOs, the media and other civil society institutions.

There is a parliamentary group of the Ecological Movement within the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis composed of 15 parliamentarians elected in December 2009, on a competitive basis from all regions of the country. Members of the parliamentary group initiated a series of new laws regulating environmental issues, prepared dozens of proposals for improvement of the environmental legislation.

To promote public environmental control there is active “hotline” of the Ecological Movement. More than 1.300 messages from all regions of the country were received regarding violations of environmental and health standards. With the participation of parliamentarians, representatives of ministries and departments, public organizations, 260 raids were conducted aimed at preventing environmental degradation. Up to 70% of environmental problems as a result of the measures taken have found a positive solution.

A key factor in improving the environmental situation and prevent negative impacts on the environment today is to raise the level of environmental awareness, the formation in each person of sense of civic responsibility for caring for the environment, preservation of the unique nature of the country for future generations. In order to make this priority operational, the Movement considers it important to actively participate in shaping public environmental thinking, development of a coherent system of education and training, facilitating the implementation of the head of state proclaimed the principle of “All in the name of the person in the name of his future!”.

Future is with renewable energy

The energy that we use today was prepared mainly from fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas. However, their resources are exhausted. In addition, the burning of fossil fuels leads to environmental pollution and other negative impacts.

That is why the world and Uzbekistan in particular, express a great interest in the use of alternative energy, especially solar energy. Renewable energy is practically inexhaustible and renewable energy, highly accessible, environmentally friendly due to the lack of emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere.

Due to the geographical position and climatic conditions of our country there are exceptionally favorable conditions for the development of solar energy, because we have more than 320 sunny days a year. Significant potential of the scientific and technical personnel, as well as significant experience of design and technological developments was gained. A plant for production of silicon capacity of 12 thousand tons per year was commissioned, and in the territory of Angren Special Industrial Zone a construction of another such company was completed.

The big event was the creation of the International Institute for Solar Energy on the basis of the Physical-Technical Institute of the Fizika-Solntse (Physics-Sun) Scientific-Production Association, Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, designed to become a regional center for scientific and experimental studies on the use of solar energy.

To widespread adoption of solar energy elements in household and housing and private homes is paid an increased attention recently. Full-scale implementation of solar technologies in the coming years will reduce the load on the grid of the country billions of kilowatt-hours, saving energy for hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Solar collectors will be erected in 1,300 secondary schools and colleges, 600 rural medical stations, located mainly in remote areas.

Using renewable energy is crucial for people living in regions located far from centralized sources of energy, and in desert and mountain areas, as well as for those whose activities are related to seasonal work.

In this regard, it is necessary mention the pilot project in collaboration with the ADB for construction of a 100-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant in Samarqand region. Project documentation was already prepared within a short span of time, the lot area of 400 hectares was allocated, all the issues associated with the launch of the construction resolved. This solar power station, first in Central Asia, will give electricity already in 2016.

Building several more large-scale solar power plants on the basis of new high technologies is planned in our country. To this end, together with ADB, in six regions of Uzbekistan were placed most modern, compact, working automatically and unattended weather stations designed to collect data on solar energy.

Preserving biodiversity

The flora and fauna of Uzbekistan are rich and diverse. In particular, the ecosystem of the country has several hundred species of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and more than four thousand wild plants. The country pays a great attention to biodiversity, and one is convinced, having visited the protected natural territories.

For example, it is the Gissar reserve, where one contacts with the unique and wonderful beauty of its native land, is clearly convinced as the natural wealth of the republic are effectively protected, as protected the endangered “our smaller brothers” (animals) and plants. It is located at an altitude of two thousand meters above sea level in the south-western spurs of the Gissar Mountains. It is the largest reserve of the country, with an area greater than 80 hectares, and the length from north to south – more than 200 kilometers. It is home to three species of mammals listed in the Red Book – white-clawed bear, Turkestan lynx, Central Asian otter. If, for example, in 1999 there were no bears for more than a century, however now the population has increased to 180, they can be found not only in junipers, but also throughout the reserve. Another five or six years ago the number of lynx here was 27 birds, and now – more than 90.

Inhabitants of highland rocks, scree and alpine meadows – Siberian goats – are now more than two thousand. There are representatives of fauna listed in the International Red Book – Asian cobra, black vulture, forest dormouse, Central Asian tortoise, small horseshoe and others.

But central to protection of the reserve is snow leopard. This slim, graceful beast, has muscular body, literally consists of nothing but muscle, which makes it absolutely lightning. Snow leopard silently stalks its prey and suddenly jumping on it. It can make jumps of up to 10 meters in length. Not catching prey, it stops chase after a few jumps. Despite their power, leopard is not an aggressive animal. He will not kill for no reason, and attacks on humans are rare. In almost all countries, including Uzbekistan, it is listed in the Red Book. Today in the world there are about 2,000 individuals of this beautiful predator. If in the seventies in Hissar reserve inhabited in total four individuals, in 1991 – ten, now there are four snow leopard families living freely here, and the total number of these elegant animals reached 25. The survival of this rare cat in the world is extremely difficult, so maintaining viable populations of snow leopards in the reserve demonstrates the effectiveness of its habitat and measures for their protection in our country.

In the past year I could visit Qiziltepa district of Navoi region, where there was the first release into the wild of Macqueen’s bustards (Chlamydotis) – unique and rare birds listed in the Red Book and grown in a local nursery located at Urtachul area. The sight was just unforgettable: birds, resembling a cage cute chickens, soaring in the sky, have become the proud winged creatures.

Now at kennel cages there are more than two thousand birds. By 2017, it is planning to produce annually into the wild in 2.500 Macqueen’s bustards. At the same time, apart from the environmental component, I would draw attention to the economic component of this ambitious project: today at the nursery about 30 local experts are employed, but in a few years that number will increase to three hundred, that is will create hundreds of new jobs.

…Activity on environmental protection covers a wide range of environmental issues – water, earth, air, biodiversity, protection of nature reserves and others. And much has been done to all the people of our country were actively involved in the preservation of an amazing and unique nature of his native land.

“Uzbekistan today” newspaper