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Sustainability in Central Asia

By Dave Armstrong - 02 Mar 2016 13:10:0 GMT
Sustainability in Central Asia

The moving stars above ancient Khiva, on the Silk Road, point to a better future for Uzbekistan as the GDP continues to improve and sustainability of resources is given priority.

Ancient Khiva image; Credit: © Shutterstock

While we concern ourselves with sustainability generally, it is rarely that a whole nation can be considered. Given our contacts with Uzbekistan, it is possible to consider how such a former Soviet satellite can cope with great environmental problems when new developments are prioritised. The Uzbeks have been panned by certain media for repressive actions. With the free re-election of President Islam Karimov last year, however, there is a palpable popular feeling for the long-term government and a growing potential for privatisation as a method of combatting inefficiencies in the system.

We first approached Central Asia with a look at the loss of the Aral Sea, and observed how wildlife reacts to desert heat and the cold of winter. Water for cotton crops is now being restricted, with farmers encouraged to expand into new crops as well as familiar vegetable-growing to aid sustainability. President Karimov announced at a 15th January Cabinet meeting that he is dedicating the democracy to youth and further privatisation. His early governments also encouraged some privatisation of the monolithic Soviet era state industries. Now we see small businesses (SMBs) encouraged to set up and be supported in all ways possible. A 3-month pilot program with start-up ideas and mentor availability is launched this year in 15 Tashkent colleges and universities, with this website contributing (unfortunately only in Russian.) English in fact is now being taught throughout the country, but Uzbek and several other languages are spoken as many countries have exported their universities to Uzbekistan. There is even a historic and very interesting connection with South Korea, which is exceptionally encouraging for the IT field of education.

With the Aral Sea, there is a continuing health problem from wind-borne dust, as well as high pollution levels crossing the border from Tajikistan’s creakingly ancient TALCO aluminium plant. Health-promoting sport is always seen as a viable solution to children’s problems, and in that respect President Karimov has ensured the training of coaches, especially women, to combat any bias towards males in the system.

The President held up the nation’s 2015 record of economic and social development at the meeting in January and examined the main priorities for 2016. While people enjoy reforms designed to develop the democracy, the long term nature of governmental programs provides much that is promising. Fossil fuel extraction and mining and several strategic enterprises are kept under state control. Some inefficient enterprises have even been liquidated. Significantly, unlawful interference of law enforcement and similar distractions for business owners look to cut accusations of corruption.

Solar farms have joined new agricultural entities in the appropriate scorching desert areas of Uzbekistan. Given the enterprising Afrosiyob hi-speed train, now reaching Karshi, electricity generation could well become much more environmental in some regions. Modern technology has ensured agricultural (and processing/cold storage) success with accelerated production in many crops. It is commendable that the profitable cotton crop has been reduced by 350,000 metric tons, so as to encourage water conservation and extra fruit and vegetable production.

To conclude the sustainability argument, we note that the GDP growth rate in Uzbekistan is 7th in the world, despite concentrating job creation in rural areas. The target for 2016 is a 7.8% growth in GDP, much of it in service industries. The water shortage and salinization problems that persist have been well studied, while international partners have contributed much to The Aral Sea projects and the much-drained river, the Amu Darya. We trust that the powerful Ecological Party of Uzbekistan contribute their ideas on sustainability to wildlife conservation, tourism and the protection of very delicate habitats in desert and riverside locations. The nation celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2016: we wish them every continued success in this great enterprise with which they are continuing, since their President began progressive development in 1991.