To address escalating environmental problems, Uzbekistan transformed the Ministry of Natural Resources into the Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change (unofficial translation). The decree on it was signed by the President Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The minister of a newly reorganized state body in an interview with Gazeta.uz said the inattentiveness of the heads of regions, environmental and internal affairs authorities led to serious environmental problems. A part of the problem is limited powers given to local authorities on nature protection.
“Trees and green areas under concrete, billboards on the trees, light bulbs handing on trees. Why all this is happening? We analyzed the problems and came to conclusion that it is linked with absence of monitoring and lack inspecting officers. As a result, they either become associates of violation or indulge,” said Mr. Abduhakimov.
Although Uzbekistan’s ranking in economic activity, peoples' welfare and tourism is raising, according to well-being index the environmental situation in the country is one of the worst in the world, notes the minister.
The decree signed by the president stipulates degrading problems with air pollution, especially in big cities. The systemic work on reducing the load of emissions into the atmosphere needs improvement.
Over 44 thousand trees and shrubs amounting 36 billion soums were illegally logged. Of this number, 9,500 rare ones cut down during moratorium.
“Allergies is one way environmental situation impacts people, says Mr. Aziz Abduhakimov.” “This is a serious problem. We see that environment does not forgive peoples' mistakes. It comes back at us. The situation is very difficult, but we are laying the groundwork for fixing environmental problems in the country.”
Increased cases of animal cruelty is yet another problem highlighted in the decree. Victims include pets and homeless animals. There is no contemporary system of identification, vaccination, sterilization, and injecting necessary chips.
“Growing cases of uncontrolled and unsystematic livestock gazing in protected areas, the use of groundwater without scientific justification leads to disruption of ecosystems, increased degradation and desertification of large areas of land. As a result of a climate change, there is a threat to human life and health,” it reads.
In 2022 only 27 facts of environmental crimes led to crime cases with further prosecution, according to official data. But they got away with light financial penalties.
Landfills continue to fail meeting environmental and sanitary requirements. Introduction of recycling and waste management technologies delays. In future it might escalate to the levels of environmental disaster.
As the decree says, the newly transformed ministry in collaboration with General Prosecutor’s office and Ministry of Internal Affairs have to file drafts on increasing penalties for environmental violations and cruelty to animals. Documents have to foresee:
- qualification of crimes related to damage to the environment, flora and fauna as criminal offenses;
- ten times increase fines for illegal hunting of red-listed animals; five times increase for the destruction of plants or damage to their growth;
- tenfold increase for cruel treatment of animals. Persons who have committed these violations will be deprived of the right to keep animals;
- administrative fines for violation of environmental requirements for handling various wastes with a tenfold increase. At the same time financial penalties in the amount of 100−300 base calculating amounts will be applied to legal entities for these violations.
State Inspectorate for Environmental Control (unofficial name) is being formed under the ministry. Guards of forestry and forests-hunting farms will be handed to the newly formed organization. Inspectorate’s head will gain a status of deputy minister.
The republican bodies of executive power, law enforcement and supervisory bodies will assist the inspectorate in performing its duties. The Inspectorate is allowed to carry out environmental monitoring of territories belonging to business entities without the consent of officials and government agencies (including the business ombudsman).
Previously, inspection of enterprises was equated with the inspection of entrepreneurial activity. It had to be approved with officials and state bodies. This measure was introduced in 2018 to give businesses more freedom. As a result, however, employees of the environmental system often could not enter the territory of businesses to check compliance with environmental and conservation laws. This allowed businesses to violate the law with impunity.
Moreover, “Public environmental inspector” (unofficial translation) system will come into force starting July 1. Mr. Abdukhakimov says anyone who cares for environment can become a part of the system. Inspectors will be issued a special uniform and ID. When encountered with environmental violation, they will be able to file them into a special platform. Inspectors will be able to earn free education and build capacity to advance their professional activity.
The decree foresees the introduction of General Prosecutor deputy whose responsibilities will include implementation of the law in the area of ecology, environment protection and forestry. GP Office will have a Department. It will comprise 77 staff members, streamlined after the transformation of Ministry of Environment.