State of Environment
Uzbekistan is part of the Ancient Mediterranean biogeographical region. Its high mountain ranges, wide steppes, deserts, riparian forests, artificial and drainage lakes, and the Aral Sea, create a diversity of habitats that are globally and regionally important. Deserts and semi-deserts now occupy 80 percent of the territory. The biodiversity of Uzbekistan includes more than 27,000 species, with animals representing over 15,000 species, and plants, fungi and algae totalling about 11,000 species. The flora of Uzbekistan includes 4,800 species of vascular plants which belong to 650 genera and 115 families. Specific endemicity is relatively low at around 8 % (or about 400 species) of the total number of species. Relict endemic species include 10-12 % of all endemics.
Uzbekistan's biological resources, in common with other Central Asian States, have undergone a drastic reduction in the past 30-40 years resulting in the total destruction of some ecosystems, the serious endangerment of others, and a threat to the overall continued ecological stability of the Republic. The main feature of Uzbekistan's past development has been its inherently unbalanced approach, with too much emphasis on production sectors and insufficient inputs to control and protection sectors. This has resulted in the "mining" of natural resources rather than their renewable use. A contributing factor has been the historic highly centralized planning/management approach.
In the Republic of Uzbekistan issues of desertification control now hold high priority in ensuring its sustainable development. About 10 million hectares of rangelands require a radical improvement. Overgrazing and cutting of forests for firewood and other purposes have led to a considerable reduction in the arboreal-shrub vegetation in the desert zone. The area of woodlands has decreased by half as compared to 1965. Shifting sands occupy approximately one million hectares, and of this area 200,000 ha. have developed recently along the margins of irrigated lands, posing a new threat of desertification. Desertification in mountain areas is increasingly prevalent.
Land degradation is also taking place in irrigated territories involved in agricultural production. Secondary salinisation has affected 35% of irrigated areas and water erosion is rampant on over one million hectares of plough lands. The Aral Sea, 50% of which was in Uzbekistan, is one of the world's most well known environmental disasters. Following intensive use for irrigation, the water horizon of this major land-locked water body dropped by 17 metres, its surface area shrinking by more than half, leaving behind a salt and sand desert with an area of over 30,000 square kilometres. Changes to the local climate, landscape, fauna and flora, as well as intensification of salt and dust transport in the territories surrounding the sea, have intensified desertification processes in the region and have had a major impact on the quality of life and the health of 35 million people living in the Aral Sea basin.
Only 27% of Uzbekistan's territory meets national environmental standards for the quality of ambient air, water and soil. There are environmental problems in every oblast of the country, although the areas with the greatest environmental concerns are usually localised. The Republic of Karakalpakstan, Khoresm oblast, Fergana oblast, and Navoi oblast are experiencing the most significant pressures on the environment and natural resource base.
A high rate of growth in the amount of vehicles, together with yearly increases in municipal emissions and use of toxic substances in agriculture, are leading to serious increases in air pollution, with the areas containing the largest industrial units being the zones of highest pollution. The pollution is compounded by the fact that most large industrial units are located in narrow mountain valleys (Chirchik, Tashkent, Jangyjul, Namangan, Andijan, Fergana, Bekabad, Angren, Ahangaran, Nurabad, Almalic), where the local highland-valley circulation has resulted in air interchange of emission products between cities and settlements.
The State of the Environment Report gives the key environmental problems in Uzbekistan as:
• an insufficient supply of safe drinking water;
• scarcity and pollution of water resources;
• salinization and degradation of land;
• air pollution in the largest cities and industrial centres;
• accumulation of solid wastes;
• contamination of food products;
• desertification and loss of biodiversity
• trans-boundary pollution.
The continuation of the current production systems will not meet Uzbekistan's future development needs as the systems are environmentally unsustainable, and have already reached close to their maximum potential with the full use of limited resources such as water. Recognising the importance of a more sustainable approach, the Republic of Uzbekistan has established a number of strategic aims towards achieving more sustainable development:
• To ensure a healthy and fruitful life for every resident of Uzbekistan;
• To achieve a steady and stable socio-economic growth and the spiritual development of the nation;
• To complete structural and institutional reforms;
• To establish a democratic state and a socially-oriented market economy;
• To improve the environmental situation and overcome the repercussions of the Aral Sea disaster;
• To achieve and maintain a wise and effective use of land, water and other natural resources;
• To combat desertification and improve the environment.