• KGS/USD = 0.01138 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09358 1.08%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01138 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09358 1.08%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01138 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09358 1.08%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01138 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09358 1.08%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01138 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09358 1.08%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01138 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09358 1.08%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01138 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09358 1.08%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01138 -0.87%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00221 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09358 1.08%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%

Viewing results 1 - 6 of 58

The Aral Sea: Addressing Water Issues, Crisis, and Striving for a Better Life in Central Asia

By Arindam Banik and Muhtor Nasirov   The world is currently grappling with the devastating impact of climate change, as rising temperatures have become an undeniable reality. In January 2024, the global temperature exceeded normal levels for the second consecutive month, pushing the global average temperature over the 1.5-degree threshold for the first time. Many human activities, such as unplanned water use, excessive groundwater extraction, and climate change, are thought to be contributing to this situation. One poignant example is the case of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. This once breathtaking and teeming endorheic lake, nestled between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was not just a body of water. It was a symbol of life, a testament to the beauty and resilience of nature. Its azure waters and diverse marine life were a source of sustenance and livelihood for the region's people. It was a vibrant ecosystem, nourished by the almost entire flow of the two main rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, in the upstream region of Central Asia. Interestingly, the Amu Darya River used to flow into the Caspian Sea through Uzboy Channel. However, a significant shift occurred during human settlement when the flow of these rivers was redirected into the Aral Sea, marking a crucial turning point in the region's hydrological history. Despite its former glory as the third-largest lake in the world, covering an area of 68,000 km2 (26,300 sq miles), the Aral Sea began shrinking in the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted to support large-scale irrigation for cotton production intended for export. The irrigated area in the Aral Sea Basin has now expanded to eight million hectares. By 2007, it had decreased to only 10 percent of its original size, dividing into four lakes. By 2009, the southeastern lake had vanished, and the southwestern lake had shrunk to a thin strip at the western edge of the former southern sea. In the following years, occasional water flows partially replenished the southeastern lake. In August 2014, NASA satellite images revealed that the eastern basin of the Aral Sea had completely dried up, leading to the formation of the Aralkum Desert. This dramatic change has severely impacted the ecology, risking the survival of numerous fish subspecies and three endemic sturgeon species. The loss of these species disrupts the natural balance and affects the livelihoods of the local communities that depend on fishing. The herring, sand smelt, and gobies were the first planktivorous fish in the lake, and their decline led to the lake's zooplankton population collapse. Consequently, the herring and sand-smelt populations have not recovered. Except for the carp, snakehead, and possibly the pipefish, all introduced species survived the lake’s shrinkage and increased salinity. In an attempt to revive fisheries, the European flounder was introduced. This situation is urgent as the delicate balance of this ecosystem is on the verge of collapse. The region's once-prosperous fishing industry has been devastated, leading to unemployment and economic hardship. Additionally, the diverted Syr Darya River...

Renewable Energy “Key” for Uzbekistan: Interview with IFC Regional Manager

Neil McKain, the IFC regional manager for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, says renewable energy sources are helping Uzbekistan reduce natural gas consumption. The country can become a regional leader in renewable energy sources, he told The Times of Central Asia in an interview.   ТСА: To begin, could you give us an overview of the current state of renewable energy in Uzbekistan? Neil McKain: Uzbekistan has significant renewable energy potential — primarily solar and wind — and is well equipped to fulfill its growing energy needs and transition to a clean energy economy. Renewable energy can help diversify the energy mix and reduce the country’s heavy reliance on natural gas. The government is focused on increasing the share of renewables in power production by up to 25 GW, or 40% of the country’s overall electricity consumption, by 2030. These efforts support the country's clean energy transition and address the increasing demand for energy in Uzbekistan’s economy and among its citizens. In this context, the World Bank Group is helping Uzbekistan develop 1,000 MW of solar and 500 MW of wind energy by attracting private sector investments.   ТСА: With these developments, what challenges does Uzbekistan face in transitioning to renewable energy? McKain: Like many countries, Uzbekistan faces many challenges as it transitions. The government has substantial natural gas reserves, and the economy relies heavily on fossil fuels. Transitioning away from these energy sources can be economically and politically challenging. It requires building public support and raising awareness of the many benefits of renewable energy. In addition, building the necessary infrastructure, such as solar farms, wind turbines, and an updated electrical grid, requires significant investment, time, and technical expertise. As renewable energy sources are intermittent, developing efficient energy storage solutions will be vital to ensuring a stable energy supply. Also, securing the required capital can take time, as it often involves enormous upfront costs and long-term investment before seeing returns. Addressing these multifaceted challenges will require coordinated efforts from the government, private sector, and international partners.   ТСА: What is the IFC's involvement in renewable energy projects in Uzbekistan? McKain: The IFC is deeply committed to supporting renewable energy in emerging markets, and Uzbekistan is a key country. We've been involved in several initiatives, including advising on and financing solar power projects. One of our first projects is a solar plant in the Navoi region, which provides electricity to 31,000 homes. This project was established through a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Uzbek government and Masdar, the United Arab Emirates’ flagship renewable energy company. IFC assisted the government as a transaction adviser in designing and tendering the PPP under its Scaling Solar Program. It is now a significant milestone in the country's renewable energy journey. In collaborationwith other lenders, IFC also provided a financing package to support the construction of a 500-megawatt wind farm in the Navoi region, which Masdar is also building. Capable of powering 500,000 homes, it will be the largest facility in Central Asia—and, incidentally, the largest wind farm IFC has ever sponsored. Together with our state and...

Nuclear Power in Uzbekistan Has a Political Aspect – Economist Behzod Hoshimov

A Russian-built and managed nuclear power plant (NPP) is under construction in Uzbekistan's Jizzakh region. However, some experts are not convinced about the project's feasibility. One of them is Uzbek economist Behzod Hoshimov, who has been speaking recently about the economic and political aspects of Rosatom's foray into Uzbekistan. According to Hoshimov, the problem is not the lack of reform in the electricity and energy sectors, but rather poor policy and management. “Even now, without any nuclear power plants, we can import electricity or fuel for its production, and we can attract companies that produce solar energy at fairly normal prices. Therefore, the problem of "lack of electricity" results from artificially created, mismanaged, and wrongly constructed electricity policy. The construction of NPP is not a technological problem that can be solved,” the economist writes on his Telegram channel. He raises questions such as whether the decision to build a nuclear power plant was economically feasible, and how much money the Uzbek government will spend on its construction. “Will it be financed from other financial sources, including the state debt, and most importantly, if the state is building, how much will it cost the people of Uzbekistan?" The amounts intended to be used from all state and non-state financial sources must be fully and completely disclosed. This fiscal requirement is also defined in our constitution,” Hoshimov adds. “But more importantly, there are other conditions in the deal, which are more important than the station's price. We need to talk about them. It is very important who manages the station and at what price electricity is sold. In Turkey, Russia has built entirely at its own expense and made a deal for 12.5 cents per 1 kilowatt hour of energy. There is a reasonable question about whether we should take it under the same conditions. Today, if there are cheaper generation sources in Uzbekistan, how much more expensive nuclear energy is necessary?” Hoshimov has noted that there are also political aspects to the issue: “The second thing that applies to all state expenditures, especially large and important ones, is choosing a contractor. Did companies other than "Rosatom" participate in the tender? Countries like France and Japan have highly developed atomic energy, and they also build excellent stations. What did their companies offer to our government? Why "Rosatom?" The reason I ask this question is, of course, that there is no place for politics in such a thing. Europe has almost completely abandoned Russian energy – the reason for this was the full-fledged war in Europe. Once upon a time, Germany decided that Russian energy was cheap, not considering political calculations but relying only on economic calculations, and this decision cost a lot. But for a much smaller country like ours, the fact that the main contractor in the NPP is the Russian state and a state-owned enterprise should be a very big question.” He also points out: "If the Japanese and the Russians offer the same price, I would say that the Japanese should be...

The Power of Kindness: Psychologist Kamilla Turakhodjaeva Promotes the Value of Volunteering in Tashkent

In an ever-challenging world, volunteering is becoming a powerful tool to help and support people facing difficulties. In Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, this activity has become increasingly important, uniting people who care about making the world a better place. Kamilla Turakhodjaeva, a psychologist at the first children's hospice in Uzbekistan and head of the volunteer initiative, Power of Kindness, shares her experience of the challenges faced by volunteers, the qualities required for such work, and how the state supports their noble efforts.   TCA: How long have you been volunteering in Tashkent, and what prompted you to engage in this activity? Working as a psychologist at the first children's oncology hospice in Tashkent since it opened in August 2022, I have long been attracted to the activities of various hospices elsewhere and realized that volunteers play a key role in the life of such institutions. These people give their time and energy to make the patients' stay more comfortable and enjoyable. They provide a variety of recreational and educational activities, help celebrate holidays, and provide support to both the patients and their families. Thanks to volunteers, a hospice provides not only medical care, but also mental support and a place where patients can safely voice their concerns. However, because many of us are intimidated by words such as hospice and cancer, it is not always clear how best to support and communicate with people facing such difficult situations. The importance of good practice at a time when people are afraid and in need of attention spurred the organization of ‘Training in Hospice and Hospital Care.’ To date, four streams of volunteers who participated in the course have either stayed with the hospice or are offering their help to cancer hospitals and societies for people with disabilities. The course covers important topics including skills in communicating with patients, the organization of workshops and how volunteers can take care of themselves to avoid ‘burning out.’ "The Power of Good" came about by chance, out of a desire to help improve our country’s treatment of those less fortunate than ourselves. All volunteers engaged in this initiative have completed a training course and are ready to offer their support in a way that will harm neither themselves nor others.   TCA: What areas or issues in the community have you chosen to volunteer in, and why are they important to you? Our first task was offering help to medical facilities, but over time, we realized that we have the resources to help in other areas as well. We hold various educational workshops at the Millennium Society for people with disabilities. Many of the adult members are unfortunately, unable to secure official employment and earn a decent living. All the Millennium children are very talented and hardworking, and our task is to channel their abilities in the right direction. The girls knit toys, make jewelry and handmade soap, which we sell at Teplomarket fairs. Volunteers have now developed a course especially for them, aimed...

Higher Education in Central Asia: Leaders and Outsiders

In June, it will be three years since the signing of a declaration at a forum held in the city of Turkestan between the heads of the Ministries of Education of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan. According to the document, the Central Asian states agreed to expand cooperation and unite the scientific, intellectual, and creative potential of higher education institutions throughout the region. However, only Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have made progress in terms of synergy during this time. The reason for this is the serious gaps between the Central Asian states in the level of provision of higher education for their citizens.   The pace of reform In the 1990s, the reform of education in Central Asia occurred at different rates. Although the Central Asian republics had similar problems at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, they began to address them depending on the degree of influence of global trends. For example, Kazakhstan signed the Bologna Declaration and joined the European Higher Education Area in 2010, while Turkmenistan switched to two-stage higher education under the "Bachelor's - Master's" system only in 2013. Some started organizing English-language curricula at their universities as soon as the early 1990s, such as Kazakhstan's KIMEP University or the University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan, on the other hand, only came around to the idea of the need for English-language education in the noughties. In the 2000s, universities established jointly with foreign partners, such as the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University and the Kazakh-British Technical University, began to open in the region. Uzbekistan was again somewhat late to the trend, first opening the International Westminster University (a branch of the University of London) and a branch of Turin Polytechnic University. In 2014, the first university established jointly with foreign partners from South Korea - Inha University, specializing in the training of IT specialists - appeared. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are currently implementing reforms in the recognition of diplomas and attracting foreign employees and students, while Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are experiencing problems of a different nature related to low levels of enrollment in higher education.   Kazakhstan Kazakhstan has been the most successful nation in reforming higher education. Degrees have been reduced to four years, and the Unified National Testing (UNT) and credit system of education appeared, creating favorable conditions for accession to the Bologna Process in 2010. By 2016, almost every second Kazakhstani was studying at a higher education institution. Now, Kazakhstan has more than 120 universities. There are more than 600,000 students, and about 40% of Kazakhstanis are certified specialists. Kazakhstan's supremacy in this arena is confirmed by international rankings. For example, the international organization, Times Higher Education included four Kazakhstani universities in its rating for 2024: the Eurasian National University named after L.N. Gumilev; Satpayev University; the Kazakh National University named after Al-Farabi; Nazarbayev University (NU). Participating in these rankings for the first time, the latter was recognized as the best in Central Asia. NU is the first university of its...

Educating Uzbekistan: QR Codes, Quizzes and Some Critical Thought

The Times of Central Asia visited a school in Uzbekistan and talked to students and teachers for a report about the government's push to reform education. --- Break time at a school in Uzbekistan. Clusters of students in uniform – white shirt and dark trousers or skirts - chatter in a classroom. Two stand at the world map on the wall, figuring out where historical events happened. As soon as history teacher Dilobar Yodgorova enters, they form groups and sit at round tables. The students play “Zakovat,” a quiz designed to increase class participation. The game is based on a Russian show called “What? Where? When?” that later inspired a similar American show. “Catherine II, the Queen of Russia who lived in the 18th century, sentenced Nikolay Novikov, a famous Russian historian of that time, to 15 years in prison on August 1, 1792, for criticizing her,” Yodgorova says. She goes on: “But for a natural reason, Novikov was released after 4 years. What was the reason for that?” The students frantically debate the answer within their groups. They only have one minute to respond to the teacher in writing. The answer? Catherine II died in 1796. Pavel I, who succeeded her, freed Novikov. --- “Zakovat” is the Uzbek word for “ingenuity,” and the game reflects Uzbekistan’s ambitious plans to overhaul a public education system that was poorly equipped to sustain a growing number of children in Central Asia’s most populous country (about 35 million people). Transforming the education system is critical to shaping a nimble workforce and fostering economic prosperity. Many new school textbooks aim to get students to analyze and assess. The old ones were about memorizing lots of facts. Many Uzbeks can’t afford private schooling. For more than two decades, children in the state system, which is free of charge, studied at primary and secondary school for 9 years, and colleges or lyceums for the last 3 years of their undergraduate education. In 2019, the system changed. Now most students go through 11 years of streamlined education in the same school. The idea was to provide continuity for students by keeping them in the same environment in the critical last few years of undergraduate schooling. "In the upper grades, children are formed as individuals and as a team," Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said in 2017. Uzbekistan is also improving teaching methods, renovating decrepit school buildings and introducing up-to-date technology and new textbooks that encourage critical thinking even if there are constraints on unfettered investigation and free expression in the wider society. In the last few years, a working group of more than 240 experts has been working on the plan. It has included representatives of international organizations such as the United Nations and USAID. UNESCO conducted a training program for dozens of Uzbek teachers last week. Higher education remains a weak point. If they have the resources, many Uzbeks go abroad for university. Uzbekistan is among countries with the highest number of students studying at tertiary institutions...

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