HUMANS AND NATURE: WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO ACHIEVE A BALANCE?
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On May 22, Uzbekistan has marked the International Day for Biological Diversity. Another remarkable ecology-related date – the World Environment Day – is on the footsteps. This is a good reason to review the state of environment protection and rational use of natural resources.
Intensive anthropological economic activity with inappropriate attention to the capacity of nature and the laws of its evolution has entailed many conflicts - desertification, soil erosion, depletion of water resources, lack of quality drinking water, air pollution, decrease of biodiversity and ozone layer.
In the context of global climate change and destruction of the ecosystem, a tendency of increasing frequency of abnormal natural disasters, which, coupled with the effects of human activity, cause technogenic catastrophes of unprecedented scale, has become an uncontested truth.
The issues of regulating the human impact on the ecosystem, maintaining a favorable environment, achieving a balance in the ‘humans-nature’ relationship, have been gaining relevance in the conditions of rapid globalization and changes in the geopolitical structure of the world.
We have to keep in mind that the violation of environmental imperatives and postulates entails problems and disasters, whose tragic consequences fail to be eliminated for decades. The ecological disaster of the Aral Sea is a dramatic example, which led to the loss of specific species of flora and fauna, degradation of water and land resources, and the growing threat of desertification.
The history of civilization knows no case when a whole sea disappears in the eyes of one generation. Today, the Aral Sea disaster has outgrown the borders of the region, turning into a global problem, and requiring close attention of international organizations, politicians, scientists and experts from around the world.
During the years of independence, Uzbekistan has created an up-to-date fundamental legal and regulatory framework for environmental protection and use of natural resources. The Government approved more than 15 laws that directly regulate relations in nature protection and rational use of natural resources, over 30 legislative acts that define the mechanisms and conditions for the use of certain types of natural resources, as well as the procedure of implementation of state environmental expertise, formation of various categories of protected natural areas, establishment of specific terms in them, and other issues.
Remarkable quality changes have taken place in the agricultural policy and in the agrarian sector of the country. Huge funds have been invested in the implementation of practical measures to optimize and diversify agriculture, improve land reclamation. They have laid a strong foundation for ensuring environmental and food security, created decent living conditions for the population and personal fulfillment.
The Action Strategy for Five Development Priority Areas for 2017-2021, put forward by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev and adopted after a broad public discussion, has become a remarkable step in the radical enhancement of effectiveness of the ongoing reforms, ensuring integrated development of the country, implementation of priority areas for its modernization. The third priority area of the Action Strategy envisages the modernization and intensive development of agriculture.
First of all, it implies intensification of structural reforms and dynamic development of agricultural production, the further strengthening of the country’s food security, expansion of production of green products, a significant increase in the export capacity of the agricultural sector, as well as the further reduction in the acreage for cotton and grain crops through their replacement with potatoes, vegetables, fodder and oilseeds, establishment of new intensive gardens and vineyards. The goal is to gradually reduce the production and government procurement of raw cotton to 3 million tons by 2020. These measures should release 170,500 hectares of irrigated lands, which later on will be efficiently used in agricultural production.
It is planned to create favorable conditions for the development of farms, primarily diversified farms, which would specialize in the production of agricultural products, as well as processing, harvesting, storage, marketing, construction and services. Investment projects will envisage the construction of new, reconstruction and modernization of existing processing enterprises and equipping them with the latest options of high-tech equipment for enhanced processing of agricultural products, production of semi-finished and finished food products, as well as packaging products. It is also planned to expand the infrastructure for storage, transportation and marketing of agricultural products, provision of agrochemical, financial and other modern market services.
There are plans afoot to improve the reclamation state of irrigated lands, broadly introduce intensive technologies into agricultural production, primarily latest water and resource saving agrotechnologies, as well as mitigate the negative impact of global climate change and the drying up of the Aral Sea on the development of agriculture and livelihoods of the population. The national program the ‘Year of Dialogue with the People and Human Interests’ is seen as a guarantor of fulfillment of the tasks and achievement of the goals for 2017-2021. The program envisages taking certain measures on modernization and intensive development of agriculture.
In order to ensure rational use of land and water resources, it is planned to reduce cotton areas by 49,000 hectares and grain crops by 10,000 hectares. The areas released from grain crops and cotton will be occupied by vegetables, fodder, oilseeds, as well as potatoes, intensive gardens and vineyards. Reconstruction of over 24,000 hectares of gardens and vineyards will help to increase the production of fruit and vegetable products that are highly marketable in foreign markets.
It is planned to gradually introduce drip irrigation systems on 5,700 hectares of intensive gardens and vineyards annually. Achievement of sustainable production of agricultural products will be ensured through rational and careful use of water resources, improvement of reclamation state of irrigated lands, development of reclamation and irrigation facilities, ensuring their safe and sustainable operation. Prevention of sharp scale-ups in prices for agricultural products on the domestic market and provision of food security is of particular attention.
By taking these measures, our country will ensure the sustainable development of social, economic and environmental sectors, the essence of which comes to consolidation of the principles of the right of every citizen for favorable environment, satisfaction of the needs of the present generation without affecting the posterity, and reasonable and careful attitude to natural resources.
At the same time, the analysis of the current system of public administration and control over environmental protection has revealed certain shortcomings and problematic issues.
In particular, there is a lack of a vertical management and a unified state body to control waste management processes, inadequate interagency cooperation and low efficiency in solving environmental problems, inadequate measures of administrative punishment for violations of environmental and health standards and requirements, provided by the law.
In this regard, in order to successfully meet the goals of the Action Strategy, the President approved a Decree ‘On streamlining the public administration system in ecology and environmental protection’. It provides for the transformation of the State Committee for Nature Protection into the State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection, subordinate and accountable to the Cabinet of Ministers.
The State Committee for Ecology is entrusted with state management in ecology, environmental protection, rational use and reproduction of natural resources, establishment of an efficient system for collecting, transporting, recycling and disposal of domestic waste, ensuring a favorable ecological state of the environment, protection of ecological systems, natural complexes and certain facilities, improvement of the environmental situation, state environmental control over compliance with the laws on protection and use of land, mineral resources, water, forests, protected natural areas, flora and fauna, protection of atmospheric air, waste management, organization of ecological education, advocacy and enlightenment, as well as retraining and advanced training of specialists in ecology and environmental protection.
The Decree ahs paved the way to the creation of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Waste Management Fund on the basis of the republican and territorial nature protection funds. Its funds will primarily be channeled to finance activities in waste management, conservation and reproduction of bioresources, scientific research.
Based on the experience of foreign countries in the establishment of ecology and environmental authorities, it is envisaged to introduce amendments and additions to the legislation of the republic that provides for the accountability of the State Committee for Ecology to the Cabinet of Ministers.
Amendments and additions will also be introduced to the Administrative Responsibility Code, which stipulates the enhancement of liability of individuals and officials by increasing penalties for violations of legislation in waste management, in the laws ‘On nature protection’ and ‘On subsoil’ in part of strengthening of the liability of legal entities and individuals for violations of the established procedure for the extraction of common mineral resources.
The adoption of the document would advance the level of public administration and control bodies in the field of environmental protection and rational nature management, ensure effective interdepartmental interaction in this area, create conditions for a favorable ecological state of the environment, protection of ecological systems, natural complexes and certain objects.
A Presidential Decree ‘On Measures for Fundamental Improvement and Development of the Waste Management System for 2017-2021’ is another important document in this area.
The State Committee for Ecology reported on ongoing system-based work to comply with the objectives outlined in the resolution.
“Prevention of the negative impact of waste on the environment and human health ranks among the problems that require a global solution,” said Nu’mon Shokirov, Deputy Head of the Headquarters of the State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection. “To date, over 5 billion tons of waste has accumulated on our planet. Only 30% of them are recycled. More than 100 million tons of industrial and about 5 million tons of household waste accumulate in our country annually.”
Waste recycling would push economic development. For example, getting paper from waste paper allows not just preserving forests, but also reducing the consumption of other resources. When recycling waste paper and producing one ton of paper from it, half the volume of water needed to make it from wood is saved.
This is the reason why developed countries of the world have been improving their waste processing systems. Japan, for instance, produces 34% of rubber and cable, 43% of glass, 54% of paper and paperboard through recycling, the Chinese - 33% of aluminum, iron, copper, 34% of wool, silk, leather goods.
The authorities of Uzbekistan have also been taking serious measures on waste processing. More than 300 enterprises specialize on this area. Its development is seen as an important requirement of the present time.
Aiming to improve the sanitary-epidemiological and ecological state, Uzbekistan developed a plan of measures to streamline the system of collection, storage, utilization and recycling of waste in 2017-2021. Investment projects totaling $161 million will be implemented for this purpose in Tashkent, Samarkand, Andijan and Namangan. The construction of waste recycling enterprises is scheduled in Nukus and in all regional centers.
To do this, the collection of household waste will be expanded. To ensure effective implementation of the objectives, it is planned to establish state unitary enterprises ‘Toza Hudud’ under the State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection and its territorial structures. Previously, the work on collection of domestic garbage was carried out solely in urban areas. From now and on, it will be undertaken all over the country, including remote villages.
It is planned to redouble attention to the collection and processing of electronic waste. The State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection, together with Toshrangmetzavod Company, has been actively involved in this process under a joint program. Last year, the company recycled 180 tons of electronic waste.
The performance has been improving this year. A well-equipped limited liability company Toshrangmetzavod Recycling was established with this purpose. Its team established cooperation with trading complexes of Media Park. They have opened specialized points for waste collection, and introduced incentive discounts for waste. It is planned to open similar points in all regions of our country by the end of the year.
On the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity, members of the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan came together for a seminar with participation of members of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, environmental scientists, teachers, students of Tashkent universities.
Biodiversity is a common heritage, which is of great value for present and future generations, the participants noted. Scaled work has been done over the last decade for its preservation. For example, the ecological center Jeyran has been expanded to 16,500 hectares, and in the future it will grow by 4,500 hectares.
Two state reserves - Kumsulton and Hadicha, natural monuments Paikent and Varakhsha in Bukhara region, Lower Amudarya State Biosphere Reserve - a new type of protected natural territories, Durmon National Garden have been created to preserve, increase the number and rationally use rare and valuable plants. 51 ornithological territories were classified and included into an inventory.
Formation of an ecological culture of the population is an equally important issue. It is necessary that people realized that changes in the ecosystem can lead to catastrophic consequences.
The rallies held by the Ecology Movement on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity help to draw public attention to the problems of environmental protection, cultivate ecoculture in the youth, and actively involve them in environmental activities. For example, last year they organized an excursion to the zoo, handing vitamins and vaccines over for its inhabitants. Every spring, activists create ecogardens, plant fruit and ornamental trees together with representatives of NGOs. Last summer, the eco-gardens produced a rich harvest of apples, which was handed over to the children of the Mehribonlik mercy homes in the capital.
... Conservation of nature requires permanent attention. The ongoing work in this direction is an important platform for the preservation of a healthy natural environment for the posterity.
(As part of the social order of the Oliy Majlis Public Fund for the Support of NGOs and Other Civil Society Institutions)
A Green Territory
Vice Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis:
In order to meet the objectives in ecology sector, as envisaged in the Action Strategy, the Eco-movement’s MP group, jointly with the State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection, has scheduled various campaigns and rallies to identify problems on the ground.
In particular, our enthusiasts prepared proposals on the creation of an ecologically favorable region in Tashkent. As a pilot project, it is proposed to gradually turn one of the capital’s districts into a ‘green area’ with the most favorable conditions for living, labor and recreation.
There are plans afoot to build a production facility for waste recycling equipment of the latest generation meeting the European quality standards on the basis of a technopark of the selected district.
It is also envisaged to lay parks, gardens, green alleys in communities, educational institutions, bicycle paths, playgrounds, equip recreational areas for the elderly in citizens’ assemblies, open ecology clubs and ’green patrols’, nature protection corners in nursery and general schools, lyceums and colleges in districts.
The expertise will be used as a model for the expansion of ‘green areas’ throughout the country.
In All Regions of the Country
Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Central Council of the Ecology Movement of Uzbekistan:
The Ecology Movement has held events on the occasion of the International Day of Biodiversity not only in the capital, but in all regions of the republic. For instance, the Children’s Music and Art School of the Khanka district hosted the conference ‘Lat’s Save Biodiversity of Birds and Mammals in Khorezm Oasis’.
At the event, the participants were introduced into nature conservation activities in the republic and in the district in particular, and into the course of fulfillment of the obligations under the Convention on Biodiversity Conservation.
We have held the conference in the framework of our work on improvement of the environmental culture of the population, the development of the system of environmental education and upbringing. Jointly with civil society institutions, representatives of state authorities and administration, enterprises and educational institutions, NGOs and communities, we hold mass cultural and educational events and campaigns that spotlight the issues of environmental protection and public health, and ways of solution of environmental problems in all corners of the country.
Building up Environmental Knowledge
Department Head at State Committee for Nature Protection:
The Presidential Decree on streamlining public administration in the field of ecology and environmental protection entrusts the State Committee for Ecology with organizing ecological education, advocacy and enlightenment, as well as staff retraining and advanced training. The committee has been doing much in this direction.
Aiming to raise public awareness and widely disseminate environmental knowledge, ecological education and training, we supported the production of 3,540 radio and television programs, 2,362 printed publications, including more than 672 online publications in online editions and social networks last year on the issues of environmental protection and rational use of natural resources. In the current year, we intend to remarkably intensify this work.
The Future Lies with Renewable Energy Sources
Director, Ecoenergy Innovation and Research Center:
The issues of searching and enhancement of efficiency of alternative energy sources, the use of solar, wind energy, wave energy and other renewable sources have been increasingly gaining relevance throughout the world. This is entailed by the growing energy needs in the global economy. Moreover, it is getting difficult to develop new sources of traditional natural resources such as natural gas, oil and coal, whose reserves are rapidly declining. It’s obvious that a state that possesses energy resources, not just makes good profits, but also raises its authority in the international arena.
Uzbekistan has accumulated solid experience in the field of renewable energy. Specialists conduct important scientific research in the field of thermodynamic transformation of solar energy, solar power devices and water pumps that are based on it, solar photo-electric and solar-thermal power stations.
The gross potential of solar energy in Uzbekistan exceeds 51 billion tons of oil equivalent. Such resources might generate electricity 40 times higher than the annual power consumption in our country. A range of large-scale projects have been implemented in this direction over the years. For instance, a solar photoelectric power station with a capacity of 130 kilowatts was put into operation in the Pap district of Namangan region. The construction of a similar station with a capacity of 100 megawatts is currently underway in the Samarkand region. The major raw material, polycrystalline silicon, is produced in the Navoi Free Economic Zone. It is expected that by 2020, Uzbekistan will commission three additional solar power stations with a capacity of 100 megawatts each.