Uzbekistan: New Approaches to Protect the Environment

May 31, 2017

On 31 May, the Press Club held a launch meeting for Ecoweek 2017 in Uzbekistan. The meeting featured panel speakers Uktam Utayev, Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Environmental Protection, Boriy Alikhanov, Vice Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis, and Farid Garakhanov, UNDP Resident Representative a.i. It was also attended by deputies of the Parliament’s Legislative Chamber, representatives from various government ministries and institutions, NGOs, and national and international media accredited in Uzbekistan.

The World Environment Day marked on 5th June since its endorsement by the UN General Assembly Resolution in 1972 has become a become a landmark and mobilizing event in the international ecological calendar. It contributes to a deeper understanding of the ways to preserve and improve the environment, and pursue large-scale environmental campaigns at national policy levels. The slogan of the World Environment Day 2017 is “I am with the Nature”.

Traditionally, the State Committee for Environmental Protection jointly with UNDP in Uzbekistan organize series of Ecoweek events to celebrate this important environmental date. This year, the events program includes meetings, site clean-up initiatives, and other activities in Tashkent and the regions. All these seek to raise the awareness of the country’s people – especially young people – and encourage their interest and action for environmental protection, efficient use and reproduction of biological resources, and waste management.

The speakers at the meeting highlighted Uzbekistan’s closer involvement in the global environmental policy by enforcing international declarations, conventions and other UN treaties on the environment.

Adhering to the international norms of sustainable development and the key principles of its Constitution, Uzbekistan has carried out judicial reforms to produce new and improve the current regulatory tools for environmental protection consistent with international standards.

The country has adopted and implemented strategic documents such as the national program to protect the environment, conserve biodiversity and phase out ozone depleting substances along with a series of climate initiatives.

Uzbekistan’s law on environmental control has introduced an important stage in advancing the country’s environmental regulations by providing strong regulatory frameworks enabling a productive involvement of specialized civil society institutions in addressing environmental challenges in the country. Additionally, given the important role of NGOs in solving environmental issues, a social dialogue has been established to carry out State-ordered and grant projects that seek to improve the environment in the regions.

The country has taken measures to reduce air pollution, improve key water canals, expand the protected area networks thereby achieving general betterments in nature use practices and environmental protection.

Following President Mirziyoyev’s Decree, the State Committee for Nature Protection has been reformed into the State Committee for Environmental Protection in order to reorganize the country’s environmental regulation system. The new Committee’s key functions include state regulation and coordination of the efficient use of natural resources and inter-agency cooperation in environmental protection.

The speakers also highlighted the adoption of the presidential decrees on advancement of the state environmental regulation system, on measures to ensure the operation of the Committee for Environmental Protection, and on measures to radically enhance the country’s waste management system for 2017-2021 which seek to ensure environmental security, develop social infrastructures, improve the nation’s living standards, and achieve other goals as set by the National Development Action Strategy on Five Focus Areas.

Furthermore, one of the key tasks of the new Committee will be to establish an effectual system for household waste collection, transportation, processing, disposal and burying.

The speakers also discussed occasional breaches of environmental regulations that need further elaboration towards stronger accountability and higher fines for law violations.

In 2016, the Committee detected 18,269 violations of the administrative code on the environment of which 7,187 or around 40% involved environmental pollution by littering. This situation resulted from poor administrative measures and sanctions for breaches of environmental, sanitary and waste management regulations. Therefore, the Code of Administrative Responsibility is expected to see new amendments that will strengthen environmental accountability.

Besides, the environmental experts at the meeting called for a stronger public involvement, hence a better public oversight of the use of the nation’s natural resources. Some priority measures should include stronger practices of reporting on any poaching or illegal tree cutting cases to prevent further violations.

At its closure, the meeting stressed that Ecoweek 2017 should seek to sensitize environmental issues and encourage the interest and involvement of each citizen in addressing environmental protection challenges.