U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Jonathan Henick and USAID Mission Director David Hoffman shared their views on the poor air quality in Tashkent at a meeting with journalists on Wednesday, as reported by a correspondent of Gazeta.uz.

In response to a comment on malfunctioning of the air quality sensor on the territory of the U.S. embassy since Tuesday, the ambassador commented, “Let me check” and opened his phone. Later that day, the sensor was functional.

Jonathan Henick.Jonathan Henick.

“Of course, from time to time our equipment needs to be maintained and occasionally there are problems. But we are committed to providing independent air quality monitoring. And we would welcome partnering with the government of Uzbekistan to monitor air quality throughout the country and to partner with media, civil society,” stated Ambassador Jonathan Henick.

“This is a difficult problem for all governments to deal with,” he continued. “It's a problem that requires government action, cooperation from private sector, civil society and media. I think, working together, this is an area where I hope that we can see air quality improvements in the coming years.”

The most important thing at this stage, according to the ambassador, “is to develop a better understanding and awareness of what are the sources of air pollution and what measures and investments are needed to be taken to solve that problem.” “I think more can be done to study the problem,” he noted.

“But this is the problem that the government can’t solve alone,” the ambassador continued. “I would encourage all the citizens of Uzbekistan to take a personal interest as this is the problem which affects them, their family and their children. So take a personal interest in air quality and encourage the government to study the problem and make the necessary investments,” Ambassador Henick outlined.

David Hoffman, Mission Director of the USAID office in Uzbekistan, agreed that both government and civil society efforts are needed to improve the situation.

“I live in Tashkent and I have small children. So, like many people in Tashkent, I follow the situation with air quality closely and try to take measures both myself and in my family to actively contribute to cleaner air. I try to use public transportation where possible” shared the Mission Director.

David Hoffman.David Hoffman.

“Of course, I support any measures to help clean the air in Tashkent. For example, by looking at the government regulations at increasing use of public transportation. If we have a choice between walking to some place and driving in our car, my family and I, we try to walk, just to do our small part to help with the air quality. Of course, as we see from objective sources such as IQAir, there is a lot of work remaining to be done in Tashkent,” noted David Hoffman.

In addition to increasing access to public transportation and investing in the development of this area, the authorities should pay attention to regulation and planning, particularly in the areas of business and industry, he noted. “I'm not an expert on air quality, I’m a citizen and consumer of air like everyone else, but some of the practices we’ve seen from around the world, of course, include increased access and convenience of public transportation,” he commented.

“This is also something that has been a big issue in my country, in cities like Los Angeles. Terrible-terrible smog in the 1970s and 1980s. The combination of both government but also civil society activities that has resulted in (the situation) that is not perfect, but it’s much better now than it was 20−30 years ago. There’s no reason that similar actions can’t be taken in Tashkent as well,” finished David Hoffman.