It was in 2011 that UNDP and the UN office in Uzbekistan joined its national partners in organising the first EcoWeek, an event that commemorated World Environment Day on the 5th of June, and helped government officials, business owners and members of the public to understand that they themselves can play a direct, constructive role in sustaining their nation’s environment.
Three years later, EcoWeek 2013 has had the greatest impact yet on rural and urban citizens throughout Uzbekistan. Through exhibitions, conferences, competitions and development initiatives held from the 28th of May to the 5th of June, this year’s inspirational programme has focused on showing how managing natural resources and improving livelihoods go hand in hand - that a healthier environment means a better future.
Like its previous incarnations, this year’s campaign began in Uzbekistan’s capital of Tashkent with an exhibition and opening ceremony hosted by UNDP and other UN agencies, the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Nature Protection, other national partners in the environmental field, and the UN Information Office.
On EcoWeek 2013’s opening day, representatives of joint national initiatives exhibited work undertaken in the last year to bring better manage natural resources, to promote efficient energy use, to mitigate the impacts of climate change, and to ensure Uzbekistan’s unique wildlife and landscapes are carefully maintained. Members of the press and the greater public were invited to view these presentations, and to witness the renewal of commitments to balance environmental management and economic growth.
In the following days EcoWeek 2013 hit the road, with events held in regional Uzbekistan to demonstrate how various projects and initiatives have helped maintain the nation’s diverse landscapes and environments, and how these efforts can be continued by local residents in the future.
From the 29th to the 30th of May a group of journalists visited the ancient city of Samarkand and its surrounding areas, including the Zarafshan Reserve, to learn how the use of recycled water has been utilised in both agriculture and in the regional automobile industry.
Also on the 30th of May a team of journalists visited the school №39 in Andijan, which as a beneficiary of the joint UNDP, GEF and Gosarkhitektstroy project ‘Improving Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings in Uzbekistan’, has been outfitted with technologies and design features intended to ensure comfortable conditions while minimising its energy usage.
The following week saw government and business representatives joining respected academics in Navoi, to attend the ‘Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development’ forum held on Monday the 3rd of June. This important event saw a lively exchange of views and opinions from vital stakeholders in the environmental debate, and paved the way for future cooperation and coordination between the attending partners.
Day four of EcoWeek 2013, the 4th of June, saw local government representatives, neighbouring residents and journalists visit the Aralovul village in Uzbekistan’s dry Kashkadarya region, to help maintain and witness the benefits of the Ayrum Canal in improving agricultural irrigation.
The participants also visited the ‘Resource and Information Centre for Climate Risk Management’ to congratulate the winners of a student ecological competition, while elsewhere a seminar was held to educate rural women farmers and school teachers about the best methods of irrigating small gardens and vegetable plots.
The 5th of June saw the closing ceremony of EcoWeek 2013, which was hosted by the Nature Committee Chair Nariman Umarov and the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative Jaco Cilliers, who reemphasised the importance of the week’s events and their wide-reaching impact. The closing ceremony also announced the winners of an eco-painting contest arranged for school children, and by creative children’s performance groups in Tashkent.
EcoWeek 2013 has set a new precedent for future awareness-raising campaigns, drawing together stakeholders from throughout Uzbekistan to discuss how they can combine their skills, abilities and efforts to create a future where sustainable development remains a national priority. It is expected that the lessons learnt and experiences gained will be applied by participants in the coming year.
The organizers of EcoWeek 2013 have included the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Nature Protection, UNDP, the UN Office in Uzbekistan, the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility (GEF SGP), and the Office of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC).
Information support was provided by the UNO Tashkent.