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One Health Nature Conservation Project Launches in Central Asia

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its international partners have launched the One Health Central Asia project, aiming to mitigate the risk of zoonoses – diseases that are naturally transmissible from animals to humans – in Central Asia. The new initiative was announced on February 13th at the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP14) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.  The risk of zoonotic diseases in Central Asia is exacerbated by biodiversity loss and changes in human-wildlife interactions. As part of the new initiative, IUCN and national and international partners, including all five Central Asian countries, will implement actions to prevent the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases, IUCN reported on its website.  The experts will work to consolidate a fair and effective regional network of protected and conserved areas, strengthen conservation measures and wildlife management for disease risk mitigation, and promote the latest advancements in zoonosis research and technology.  Speaking at the launch ceremony, IUCN’s director general, Dr Grethel Aguilar, said that nature conservation can contribute to mitigating the risk of zoonotic disease outbreaks, and this important new initiative will strengthen the resilience of Central Asian landscapes, bringing numerous benefits to communities. “We will continue to support the governments here to build regional capacity to apply IUCN's tools and standards, including the IUCN Green List, best practices in species management, and the latest advancements in zoonosis research.”  Aziz Abdukhakimov, the minister of ecology, environmental protection, and climate change of Uzbekistan, commented that: “Over the past few years we have observed how the spread of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 can have a global impact. This has resulted in entire countries being demobilized, transportation connections being disrupted, an increase in food security issues, and massive socio-economic consequences. We are committed to expanding regional cooperation for sustainable management of protected natural areas, preserving unique biological diversity, and contributing to the environmental balance in the Central Asian region, which will receive a significant boost through this project on One Health in nature conservation.”  Supported by a €11m contribution from the German Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection via the International Climate Initiative, this major regional initiative will spearhead the One Health approach in Central Asia over the next six years. The initiative, entitled Enhancing landscape resilience to zoonotic disease emergence by consolidating nature conservation systems in Central Asia, will focus on the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. "Obstacles to migration reduce the habitat available to migratory species. This phenomenon has been observed across Central Asia with species such as the Saiga, Wild Ass, and even those with relatively small ranges, like the Bukhara Deer,” said Amy Fraenkel, the executive secretary of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), one of the international partners of the One Health Central Asia initiative. “In the diminished and fragmented habitats, migratory species of wild animals often find themselves in contact and competition with livestock for pasture and water...

Earthquakes Rekindle Fears Over Lake Sarez

On the evening of January 30th, an earthquake struck in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province on the border between Tajikistan and Xinjiang. Though this instance only had a magnitude of 4.4, it comes in the wake of the magnitude 7 quake which pounded the China-Kyrgyzstan border on January 23rd, shaking buildings in Almaty. As recently as February 2023, a series of earthquakes, the largest measuring 6.8, hit forty miles west of Murgab on the border between Tajikistan and China’s Xinjiang province. This was the eighteenth such instance measuring 6.5 or more over the course of the last century, and serves to focus attention on extremely remote Lake Sarez in Tajikistan. [/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14212" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Plan of Lake Sarez and the Usoi Dam, 1913 At five-hundred-meters deep and 47 miles long, mountainous Lake Sarez contains more than 3.85 cubic miles of water. It was formed in 1911, when a 2.2 billion cubic meter landslide caused by an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 6.5-7.0 blocked the Bartang River’s path. The sound of the quake was recorded over 2,350 miles away at the Pulkovo seismic station near St. Petersburg. Thus, the tallest natural dam in the world, the three-mile long, 567-meter high Usoi Dam was formed, whilst the villages of Usoi and Sarez were buried beneath the landslide and the lake, respectively, killing 302 people. According to the two survivors, the dust clouds cleared only after some days to reveal a mountain where the village of Usoi used to stand. The lake has been a potential disaster waiting to happen ever since. In 1968, a landslide caused two-meter-tall waves to rock the lake, and with glacial melting causing water levels to rise by eight inches a year, pressure on the natural dam is building. As early as the 1970s, plans were hatched to harness the lake as a hydroelectric power station, but technical issues and its far-flung location saw the scheme come to nothing. In 2018, a deal was signed with Hong Kong-based Heaven Springs Harvest Group to sell the lake’s “blue gold” as drinking water, but inaccessibility again largely scuppered the project.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="13414" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Murgab Bazaar, Gorno-Badakhshan - Photo: Times of Central Asia Back in 1997, a gathering of experts in Dushanbe concluded that the Usoi Dam was unstable. Their findings suggested that a powerful earthquake could precipitate a collapse of the dam. However, a study conducted by the World Bank in 2004 contradicted these conclusions, arguing that the dam was, in fact, stable. Nevertheless, the main threat identified was not the dam's general stability but a specific geological feature - a partially detached mass of rock, approximately 0.72 cubic miles in size. There are concerns that this precarious massive rock formation could detach and plunge into the lake. This event could trigger a catastrophic flood, and, as such, while the dam itself may be stable, the potential for disaster still looms large. In this earthquake-prone environment, were the dam to be breached a tidal...

Ambitious Program to Plant 65 Million Trees and Shrubs Launched

As part of the National Program, "Green Country," Tajikistan intends to plant 65 million trees and shrubs on an area spanning over 4,000 hectares by 2025.  Special attention will be paid to the planting of fruit trees, rosehip and pine. This ambitious initiative is designed to improve the state of the environment, which has been suffering in recent years due to both natural and human impacts. The program is also aimed at combating global climate change and developing green energy, which will improve the quality of the environment and public health. It is reported that financing in the amount of 129,875,000, somoni ($11.8 million) is to be provided for the implementation of the Green Country program, which will comprise two stages: the first will executed from 2023 to 2025, and the second from 2026 to 2027.

Tajikistan to Achieve Energy Independence and Become Green Country

In 2023, Tajikistan’s GDP increased by 8.3% compared to the previous year, and over the past seven years the country’s GDP has grown 1.5-fold while the national economy has developed at an average pace of 7.5%, the President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon stated addressing parliament on December 28th. The President said that prioritizing the prevention of potential risks to the national economy, making efficient use of available resources, industrialization and creating jobs have been the main priorities of the government in recent years. Among Tajikistan’s main concerns, the President said, are the establishment of a “green economy,” accelerating the economy’s digitization, developing human resources, raising the competitiveness of domestically produced goods, bolstering exports, and enhancing the standards of social services. Rahmon said that given the abundance of hydropower resources in Tajikistan, the high production capacity of "green energy" and its export, the Government is making confident steps towards achieving its strategic goal of energy independence. In 2023, Tajikistan’s energy capacity exceeded 6,000 megawatts, and electricity production amounted 22 billion kilowatt-hours, which is 4.8 billion kilowatt-hours or 28% more than in 2017. Rahmon said that Tajikistan will take urgent measures over the next seven years to increase energy exports up to 10 billion kilowatt-hours taking into account the implementation of CAЅA-1000 power transmission line project and re-connection to the Central Asia energy system. The country will also construct power plants using renewable energy sources and increase the "green energy" production capacity up to 1,000 megawatts by 2030. With the implementation of these measures, the President said, by 2032 electricity production in the country will be entirely from renewable sources, that is, 100% will be provided by “green energy, and Tajikistan will truly become a green country,” President Rahmon said.

Tajikistan: Atlas and Adras Weaving Included in UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

A nomination from Tajikistan for the art of atlas and adras weaving was included in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan reported. This decision was made within the framework of the 18th session of the Interstate Committee on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO, which began on December 4th in the city of Kasane (Botswana), where representatives of the countries for the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage are taking part. Meetings will continue until December 9th. Tajikistan has a particularly proud history of national clothing culture, and the secrets of weavers are passed down from generation to generation. In the Sughd region, the Atlas Khujand enterprise operates and enjoys benefits and constant support from President Emomali Rahmon. The company's silks, satin and adras - which combines both silk and cotton - are in great demand globally. Their production, which comprises many stages, requires special skills and training. Traditionally, national costumes for performances and wedding dresses are made of satin. The republic annually celebrates the holiday, “Tajik Atlas and Adras.”

CAREC Countries Endorse New Vision to Fight Climate Change Together

Member countries of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program committed to working together to cut greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to climate change. “We endorse the Regional Action on Climate Change: A Vision for CAREC to help countries implement their commitments under the Paris Agreement”, said a joint ministerial statement issued at the 22nd CAREC Ministerial Conference held on November 30th in Tbilisi. The statement was endorsed by ministers and high-level officials from Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. “I am confident this shared Vision will enhance the CAREC program’s impact on this most critical climate challenge facing the subregion”, said Asian Development Bank (ADB) President, Masatsugu Asakawa. “I look forward to concrete progress on bringing forward more climate projects - including in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, efficient water use, economic diversification, and strengthening supply chains - to improve the region’s climate resilience and adaptation”. The Vision emphasizes the importance of energy transition and the improved use of renewable energy sources, strengthening the regional electricity trade, deploying innovative financing solutions, and investing in climate-resilient infrastructure and policies. It calls for strengthened collaboration and coordination with the program’s development partners in supporting the region’s climate agenda. A scoping study published earlier this year showed climate change is expected to have severe impacts in the CAREC region, including higher-than-average temperature rises, water scarcity, expanded desertification, and glacial melting. To address water issues in the region, CAREC will support countries to improve their expertise and capacities in transboundary water management, water productivity, and to invest in more efficient irrigation systems to boost agricultural productivity. CAREC will also support efforts to decarbonize transport and continue deepening regional connectivity with efficient transport technologies and infrastructure. Other priority areas include developing climate-smart cities with electrified mass transit systems and promoting climate and disaster resilience through regional risk management and financing initiatives. The CAREC program is a partnership of countries and development partners working together to promote sustainable development, accelerate economic growth, and reduce poverty. The ADB hosts the CAREC secretariat.

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