Development of Uzbekistan’s oil and gas industry in line with biodiversity conservation principles

Oct 19, 2015

Uzbekistan’s steppes are some of the last temperate grassland biomes in the world. It can be confirmed on the example of the Ustyurt Plateau with its highly valued biodiversity where numerous endangered species of flora and fauna inhabit. In its turn, rich reserves of mineral resources, including hydrocarbons, in this area encourage dynamic growth of the oil and gas industry and cause development of the area. The scaled researches and exploration of hydrocarbon fields in this area being aimed at realization of the key tasks, as to form a sustainable raw base in the oil and gas industry providing energy independence of the republic that also requires extension of the social responsibility for the oil and gas companies which are to provide the ecologic safety, minimizing influence on the environment and biodiversity.

New sustainable decisions and integrated approaches for the oil and gas industry aimed at preservation of the biodiversity and migratory species located on the vulnerable territories were suggested within the joint project of the State Committee for Nature Protection, UNDP in Uzbekistan and the Global Environment Facility “Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Uzbekistan’s Oil and Gas Policies and Operations”, which was initiated in accordance with the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan No.40 dd. 09.03.2010 “On measures to attract to the Republic of Uzbekistan grant aid and technical assistance of international financial and economic institutions, donor countries in 2010”. The specialists faced the challenge to ensure political, legislative and institutional environment to integrate biodiversity conservation principles into the oil and gas sector and to demonstrate the use of biodiversity mainstreaming technologies in the process of exploration of oil and gas fields on the Ustyurt Plateau.

It should be noted that Uzbekistan has gradually ratified the Convention on Biodiversity and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species. Importance of the current project is conditioned by the significant goals on preservation of the national natural biodiversity of the republic.

Based on the “avoid-reduce-remedy-offset” principle, specialists prepared draft amendments to 12 laws of the Republic of Uzbekistan. In addition, a package of documents was prepared to support the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure. This means that, as a result of measures undertaken, the regulatory authorities in the sphere of environment preservation and efficient nature management will be able to perform, in future, more comprehensive assessment of new oil and gas projects for the purpose of their impact on the regional biodiversity.

The educational component was also taken into account both for oil and gas specialists and for parties whose operations may affect the biodiversity. Consequently, a study guide named “Conservation of biodiversity along with the development of oil and gas sector and other industrial and agricultural development of areas” was published taking into consideration the international experience in this field. Consecutively, all cycles of operations of oil and gas companies are described in another release of the project “Guidance to the methods of conversation of biodiversity in oil and gas sector in arid ecosystems of Uzbekistan” in line with the “avoid-reduce-remedy-offset” principle.

Another significant outcome of the project was determining of the baseline for biodiversity on the Ustyurt Plateau and the relevant impact of the oil and gas sector. Besides, the Map dividing the Ustyurt Plateau into zones in GIS format was also developed within the scope of the project. Three zones have been included into this map considering the value of biodiversity, and each zone provides a detailed description of the extent that is acceptable to carry out subsoil operations without a damage to flora and fauna objects.

It should be also noted that, within the scope of the Project, a package of necessary documents was prepared for restructuring of the “Saygachiy” wildlife reserve and special equipment and accessories were purchased. The corresponding draft of the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan has been already aligned with five relevant ministries and agencies.

The results of the work completed and further prospects were among the reporting items during the final meeting of the Project Management Board and Interagency Working Group, which took place in the capital on October 16th, 2015. Representatives of ministries and associated agencies, as well as of the leading oil and gas companies participated in the meeting. As it was mentioned during presentations, it is expected that the experience gained will help to share the knowledge and introduce best practices in order to ensure conservation of biodiversity in other regions of the republic.

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