Botanical Garden should be revived in Kyrgyzstan, ecologists say

BISHKEK (TCA) — The Bishkek City Administration plans to use part of the Bishkek Botanical Garden for construction of a new road. The project has already been submitted to the Government. If the project is implemented, the areas with flowers and rare plants, the Arboretum Reserve, and, most importantly, the irrigation system of the Botanical Garden will be affected. According to scientists of the Garden, 227 trees and shrubs of 18 species would be cut down.

The Arboretum Reserve was classified as a monument of history, culture and architecture, and is under state protection. In accordance with the Law “On Specially Protected Natural Areas,” the land under botanical gardens is public property and under state protection. The law prohibits any action aimed at quality deterioration and depletion of natural resources and objects located in protected areas.

No public hearing and no assessment of the road construction project’s impact on the environment has been carried out. The project, designed to improve the urban road network, in fact pursues the specific interests of a private developer, the Botanical Garden staff say.

It is not the first time that authorities expand the transport network at the expense of green areas. The green city of Frunze (now Bishkek) once had 23 square meters of greenery per each inhabitant, compared to less than 5 square meters now. According to ecological standards, the green area should not be less than 21 square meters per inhabitant to maintain a healthy atmosphere and protect citizens from noise, dust and chemical contaminants.

The Botanical Garden staff sent a letter to Bishkek’s Mayor urging him not to implement the project. So far, there is no response from the Mayor’s Office, and environmentalists fear for the fate of the Garden.

The city administration said they would only move the fence of the Botanical Garden and not take the land. The city is expanding, the number of vehicles is increasing, and there are transportation problems including traffic congestion. So, the city administration suggested its concept to develop the city road network.

The only one in Kyrgyzstan, the Botanical Garden in Bishkek has a total area of 157 hectares and is the largest in Central Asia. It has the best plant collection in the region including more than 5.5 thousand species and varieties of trees, shrubs, medicinal and ornamental plants, and flowers.

Since May, environmental activists, together with the staff of the Botanical Garden, and with the support of international organizations, have been trying to revive the Botanical Garden in order to open it to the public in September.

Recently, there was a festival dedicated to the revival of the Botanical Garden. Before the event many volunteers from public organizations, business associations and universities helped to clean the garden area.

Hundreds of families took part in the festival. They visited an exhibition and sale of plants, herbs and organic products. The festival organizers told the citizens about the value of greenery for the quality of their life, and urged to revive the Botanical Garden as a center of education, a source of ecological landscaping in Kyrgyzstan, and “green lungs” of Bishkek.

The festival also drew public attention to the problems of the garden. Part of its irrigation system was ruined, and it is now being restored with the assistance of a public foundation to restore the garden. There was a problem with payment for watering but after applying to the Government it was revealed that there are benefits to the botanical gardens and parks. As a result, costs have been cut almost threefold. The saved money has been directed at the garden’s development.

The Botanical Garden also has the status of a research institute, which is a protected natural area.

According to scientist Emil Shukurov, first of all it is necessary to rehabilitate the Garden’s infrastructure as it should be watered and cared for.

In the long term, the ecologists plan to raise the Bishkek Botanical Garden up to international level. In the mountainous areas of Central Asia, they will find species of trees, shrubs and flowers for adaptation and urban greening of the region. It would take much time and efforts, but the revival of the Botanical Garden is an achievable goal, the environmentalists believe.