Aral Sea: left 2014 and right 2000, 1960 extent black line

Environmental situation Troubled legacy of decades of exploitation

Although Uzbekistan faces many environmental problems, there is still little public awareness of the issues.

For example, agriculture, one of the most important sectors of the country's economy, was for a long time limited mainly to the monocropping of cotton. These cotton plantations required massive amounts of water, most of which was diverted from the country's rivers, primarily the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. Both rivers flow into the Aral Sea. Formerly the fourth largest body of inland water in the world, it is now almost completely salinised and desiccated.

The intensive use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers is also contaminating the soil and drinking water in many regions. Furthermore, the increased demand for food, generated by Uzbekistan's rapid population growth, is leading to overgrazing, soil degradation and uncontrolled deforestation.

Lax controls of pollutant emissions caused by industry and traffic, and inadequate treatment of sewage and refuse, are all having a very detrimental environmental impact on Uzbekistan's cities.

Moving towards more sustainability

The issue of environmental sustainability is beginning to attract more political attention in Uzbekistan. The government is planning, among other things, to invest more in the use of renewable energies and, in particular, to make better use of the potential for generating solar power.

The country has also started diversifying its agriculture and taking steps to prevent land degradation. These steps include making better use of available water resources, replanting forests and managing pastureland more sustainably. Uzbekistan has formed a knowledge network with its neighbours Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan to share successful solutions in this area.