AsiaCentral AsiaUzbekistan

Hope for life

17hope_for_lifeIt is hard to imagine the Uzbekistan’s fauna without its characteristic species – the saiga antelope. In winter time, these antelopes can be found inhabiting in the southern parts of Ustyurt, while in spring they migrate to the north, to Kazakhstan, where the earth is covered by abundant plants by this time. The saiga antelopes return back to south, to the Ustyurt Plateau, as autumn cold approaches. Nowadays, this plateau is one of the few places on earth where you can find the saiga in the natural environment.

However, the population of these animals has been rapidly decreasing (according to some data, up to 95% over the last 15-20 years), as a result of which the saiga antelope was added to the IUCN Red List as “critically endangered”, and as а “vulnerable / threatened subspecies” in the Red Book of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

According to specialists, such a significant diminishing of saiga antelopes was affected by a broad range of factors, such as:

● Reduction of grasslands as a result of their agricultural development, as well as man-made impact (hydrocarbon production);

● Epidemics of infectious disease (pasteurellosis);

● Poaching, illegal trafficking of saiga horns to China and the South-East Asia where they are highly valued (in particular sources, this negative factor is highlighted as the major impact);

● Building artificial barriers in the way of saigas migration;

● Largescale exploration activities in the oil and gas fields of the Ustyurt Plateau that caused degradation and fragmentation of this geographic area, as well as the loss of native habitat areas.

As a matter of fact, according to scientists, the saiga is the key indicator of the biological balance in the Ustyurt Plateau. Decline in the saiga population may substantially affect the structure and composition of the Plateau’s vegetation, lead to a notable reduction in the population of big-size birds of prey and carnivorous mammals.

One of the measures to protect saiga antelopes and other fauna representatives of the Ustyurt Plateau was creation of the “Saygachiy” wildlife reserve in Uzbekistan in 1991, however, lack of permanent staff and management, at present, does not provide for due protection of animals, majority of which are getting shot during the winter migrations.

The facts presented above clearly speak for the urgency of development and implementation of effective measures for protection and conservation of biodiversity of the Ustyurt Plateau in Uzbekistan. This became one of the key areas of the UNDP “Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Uzbekistan’s Oil and Gas Policies and Operations” Project supported by the State Committee for Nature Protection and the GEF, which has been implemented over the period of 2010-2015.

A number of amendments to the laws of the Republic of Uzbekistan considering the current international experience have been prepared as a result of this project implementation. This package of amendments as a draft of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On making amendments and additions to certain legislative acts of the Republic of Uzbekistan related to conservation of biodiversity” was aligned with 13 ministries and agencies and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministries of Uzbekistan for their consideration and further submission to the Parliament. Moreover, the mentioned law draft was submitted to the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan for their inclusion in the plan of activities of the Committee on the issues of ecology and environment protection for 2015.

In addition, the “Conservation of biodiversity along with the development of oil and gas sector and other industrial and agricultural development of areas” booklet and “Guidance to the methods of conversation of biodiversity in oil and gas sector in arid ecosystems of Uzbekistan” including modern practices, in particular, Australian experience of the “avoid-reduce-remedy-offset” method, have been prepared and published. Released materials provided the basis for seminar trainings for the community employed in the environment protection area and oil and gas industry. More than 100 specialists have been trained during these seminars.

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. It should be also noted that a package of documents required for restructuring of the “Saygachiy” wildlife reserve was prepared and the corresponding draft of the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministries of the Republic of Uzbekistan has been already aligned with five relevant ministries and agencies.

Related posts