• KGS/USD = 0.01118 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00222 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09131 0%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%
  • KGS/USD = 0.01118 0%
  • KZT/USD = 0.00222 0%
  • TJS/USD = 0.09131 0%
  • UZS/USD = 0.00008 0%

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Afghan Canal Will Divert Water from Uzbekistan

Afghanistan has begun construction of the second phase of the Qosh Tepa Canal, which will divert water from the Amu Darya River and may have an adverse effect on agriculture in downstream Uzbekistan. The Taliban announced that construction work on the second phase, which stretches from Dawlat Abad District of Balkh Province to Andkhoi District of Faryab Province, began on February 20th, Afghan broadcaster TOLOnews reported, adding that the 198-km first phase of the canal is now complete and construction of the 177-km second phase will take 12 months. The canal is expected to convert 550,000 hectares of desert into farmland in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban-led government of Afghanistan has made the Qosh Tepa Canal a priority project and its construction started in early 2022. However, neighboring Uzbekistan, the main downstream country in the Amu Darya basin, has expressed concerns that the canal will have an adverse effect on its agriculture. In September 2023, Uzbekistan’s President Mirziyoyev stated that the canal could “radically change the water regime and balance in Central Asia.” Speaking at a meeting of the Council of Heads of the Founder States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, Mirziyoyev warned that a “new participant in the water use process has appeared in our region.” Mirziyoyev proposed the formation of a joint working group to study all aspects of the Qosh Tepa Canal and its impact on the water regime of the Amu Darya River with the involvement of research institutes of the Central Asian countries. A Eurasian Development Bank’s (EDB) study, “Efficient Irrigation and Water Conservation in Central Asia,” released in November 2023, emphasized the need to mitigate the anticipated decrease in the flow of the Amu Darya River from Afghanistan. EDB analysts forecast that by 2028, the combined effects of climate change, low-water periods and the commissioning of Qosh Tepa Canal in Afghanistan will result in acute water shortages in Central Asia, estimated to be between 5 and 12 km3. With the launch of the canal provisionally set for 2028, its expected water intake from the Amu Darya will be up to 10 cubic kilometers. A reduction in the Amu Darya flow will have an impact on the entire Aral Sea basin. As a result, from 2028, Central Asia will face a chronic water shortage, Evgeny Vinokurov, chief economist of the EDB warned.

Artificial Intelligence in Central Asia: Applications and Regulation

The debate on the need for worldwide regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining momentum, given that over the past year AI has become a key tool for millions of people. With a growing number of organizations applying AI in various fields, including medicine, politics and judicial decisions, the urgent question is how to integrate AI into legislation. In Central Asia, in 2020 the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan authorized remote identification of individuals at banks using AI, machine learning and other predictive algorithms to process customer biometric data. Bishkek also introduced a facial recognition system based on artificial intelligence which allows data about wanted persons to be entered, and cameras to automatically identify them and transmit information to law enforcement. Artificial intelligence has also found its application in the political process. In 2020, the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan Party used a digital bot farm during the elections which generated approximately 150 profiles a day, automatically wrote comments and then self-liquidated. In Tajikistan, where the use of AI is not widespread, MegaFon stands out for its introduction of the Dono chatbot in 2019. This artificial interlocutor interacts with around 14,000 subscribers per day, freeing humans from routine tasks and allowing them to deal with more complex issues. In Uzbekistan, meanwhile, the government is taking active measures to stimulate the development of AI technologies. A presidential decree has established comprehensive steps towards the digitization of the economy and the social sphere. Digitization of government data in various sectors, such as justice, communications, finance, education and healthcare are becoming an integral part of the development strategy. The application of AI technologies, starting with image recognition and navigation systems, has already become a tangible part of task-solving in large enterprises, and the country is actively working to create an enabling environment to further expand the use of AI. In Kazakhstan, AI is being actively introduced in the judicial system, and over the past two years AI systems have been used to analyze court cases and predict their outcomes. The authorities believe that this approach helps minimize errors and improves the quality of justice. In the field of healthcare, since 2022 Kazakhstan has been successfully operating the PneumoNet program based on artificial intelligence. This program makes it possible to detect 17 of the most pathogenic lung diseases, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, and cancer. Currently, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan do not have specific laws regulating the creation and use of AI. Despite this, the Strategy for the Development of Artificial Intelligence in the Republic of Tajikistan until 2040 notes that during the implementation of the first and second stages of said strategy, legal, institutional and infrastructural frameworks will be developed, and the necessary specialists will be trained. Unlike its neighbors, Uzbekistan adopted a presidential decree "On measures to create conditions for the accelerated introduction of artificial intelligence technologies" as early as 2021. This document has become the legal foundation for the further development of AI in the country, defining its main directions. The resolution emphasizes the need to develop...

Uzbekistan’s Lake Julturbas Added to List Of Vital Wetlands

Lake Julturbas in Uzbekistan’s northwestern Karakalpakstan region has been added to the List of Wetlands of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands – the intergovernmental treaty that governs the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. This was announced on February 12th during the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP14), which is taking place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan this week.  Lake Julturbas was once part of a bay of the Aral Sea, the fourth-largest lake in the world until around 1960, along with the nearby Sudochye Lake System, which is also a Wetland of International Importance.  Since the severe reduction in the Aral Sea area, Lake Julturbas has become an important stopover for many birds migrating along the Central Asian and African-Eurasian flyways. It supports about 25,000 waterbirds annually, and 1% of the regional populations of at least seven bird species, including ferruginous duck, red-crested pochard, and white-headed duck.  There are 15 species of fish, and five of them are endemic to the Aral Sea region, including two critically endangered species – the dwarf sturgeon and the Amu Darya sturgeon. There are also some land animals living around the periphery of the lake, such as the vulnerable goitered gazelle.  Activities such as cattle grazing, reed harvesting, fishing and hunting are allowed for the local communities living around the lake. 

Farmers in Uzbekistan to Receive 60,000 Hectares of Land

A February 12th meeting chaired by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev focused on the topic of increasing fruit and vegetable production and exports in Uzbekistan, and an additional 60,000 hectares of land will be given to the local farmers with this goal in mind. Government data indicate that an extra $200m can be made in exports on an additional 1.5 million tons of agricultural products from such a move. The meeting also underlined the significance of teaching young people how to farm and keeping them employed across the farms of Uzbekistan. It was also noted that an extra $1bn worth of goods could be produced by introducing industry and collaboration to the farmsteads and land plots that the local population is being awarded. Credit resources worth one trillion som will be allotted for this. These loans are provided for cooperating to produce goods, purchase machinery, and fund working capital up to 100 million sum ($8,100) without collateral, or up to 150 million sum ($12,100) with 50% loan collateral. Ten thousand machines will be leased to farmers and farm laborers for a total of 10 years, with an additional three-year grace period. The three-year customs privilege will be extended for mini tractors and imported/leased cultivators. At the meeting, further steps were taken to encourage the production of fruits and vegetables in greenhouses. Officials mandated a revision to the crediting system for greenhouse farms. Mirziyoyev assigned the task of constructing up to 200 compact greenhouses measuring 10 square meters each, which must be handed over to farmers for use, after endorsing the experience of constructing fuel-free, small greenhouses. Unsecured loans up to 100 million sum ($8,100) will be made available for those greenhouses under the Family Business farm-credit program.

Harnessing Social Media for Social Change: An Interview with Tashkent-based Eco-Blogger Mutabar Khushvaktova

More and more people in Uzbekistan are paying attention to environmental issues and aspiring to make a real change in their country. One such campaigner is Mutabar Khushvaktova, an eco-blogger who has used her platform to draw attention to environmental issues and inspire others to take action. The Times of Central Asia spoke to Khushvaktova. What is it like to be an environmental activist in Uzbekistan, and when did you first become so involved in environmental issues? After my daughter was born, I began thinking about the future and what I could do to provide her with a favorable environment in which to live. I decided to start blogging and talking about the environment to raise awareness about these issues. I realized that the media plays an important role in shaping public opinion, so I resolved to use this tool. One of my main accomplishments was to create a popular blog about environmentalism and opportunities to change our situation. I try to use my blog for educational outreach and to bring attention to these issues. I base my content solely on source-verified information, including global statistics. This allows me to create content that’s truthful and credible. Next year, I plan to enroll in a European Master's program to get a specialized education in the field of ecology. I would like to create books for kindergartners, school children and students. From my childhood, I was very much in love with nature - animals, plants, everything related to nature. It was a passion my parents also shared. Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and a great motivator. I see every child as if they were my own; this generation is very exciting to me, and I want them to have a good future.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="13505" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]You’ve been involved in eco-activism in Uzbekistan for some time, now; have you noticed any improvement? Yes, I have. After all, in the almost three years I’ve been involved in this field, I’ve witnessed the emergence and development of various eco-initiatives. Compared to when I first started addressing this issue, the situation today has changed considerably. Back then, people had no idea about environmental issues at all, especially on social media. But even at that time, I felt that people were ready to learn more. They were very interested, and asked me a lot of questions. Nowadays, because there are more and more pressing environmental issues, people are paying more attention to this topic. It is worth saying that the whole idea of environmental awareness has become very popular in our society. For example, I notice that people no longer just send me direct messages with questions, but also actively discuss the issues in the comments section. They share their successes, tell me that they have started sorting garbage for recycling, started their own eco-friendly businesses, and even stopped using plastic bags.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14067" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Recently, there have been stories in the news about the deteriorating air quality in...

Uzbekistan’s “Plant 100 Saplings” Initiative: A Green Response to Illegal Tree-Felling

In a bid to counter the alarming rate of illegal tree-felling, the president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has given the green light to an innovative ecological program. Launched by the Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change on January 29th, the initiative involves planting 100 saplings for every tree unlawfully cut down. This move comes as air pollution in Tashkent has reached alarming levels, with PM2.5 pollution recently surpassing the World Health Organization's recommended limit by 23.2 times. Tashkent regularly features as one of the worst cities globally for air pollution due to factors like increasing emissions from coal-burning heat, power plants and motor vehicles, unauthorized construction, and illegal tree-felling.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14150" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Approximately 2,427 instances of illegal tree-felling were recorded in the first nine months of 2023 alone - including 714 bushels of precious trees - contributing to the shrinking of wildlife reproduction areas and natural reserves. The situation is particularly dire in the country's “Red Book” areas, which are home to endangered flora and fauna. One significant casualty has been the Tajik kavragi, a naturally occurring medicinal plant. Between July and September, 11,550 bushes were illegally harvested in the Surkhandarya Region’s Bobotog State Forestry, resulting in environmental damage totaling 5.7 billion som ($462,000). At the January 29th meeting it was announced that 22,000 new industrial enterprises have been launched in the country since 2020, and industry and transport together now emit more than two million tons of pollutants into the atmosphere a year. In many cases, construction projects are implemented without environmental assessment. To reverse this trend, the government is planning substantial green efforts over the next five years. These include creating at least 3,000 hectares of green belt and 200 hectares of “green parks” encircling the city of Tashkent and its surrounding districts. Additionally, "green gardens" will be established on former garbage landfills, covering 23 hectares in Ohangaron and 37 hectares in Yangiyol in the Tashkent region.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14168" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]As part of this ambitious project, the Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change has created a digital map, pinpointing the coordinates of more than 254 million trees. Each tree in the city of Tashkent will be registered and given a 'passport' on the Green Space electronic platform. This will reflect crucial information, such as the tree's type, age, height, condition, and location. Trees older than five years covering all regions and districts of Uzbekistan were accounted for during the survey. This comprehensive registration process was made possible through the use of satellite imagery, remote sensing, geo-information systems, and artificial intelligence technologies. The initiative also drew on the experiences of several countries, including the U.S., Canada, China, India, Australia, Russia, and Germany. Uzbekistan's "Plant 100 Saplings" initiative marks a significant step towards environmental conservation. By leveraging technology and international experiences, the country is taking steps to protect its flora and fauna, demonstrating a commitment to sustainable development and environmental stewardship.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image="14148" img_size="full" el_class="scond-image" parallax_scroll="no" woodmart_inline="no"][vc_column_text woodmart_inline="no" text_larger="no"]Other measures currently...

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