Grasping the Scope of Environmental Crises

by Mark Neuzil & Eric Freedman

English walnut fruit

English walnut fruit. Photo: Utah State University.

Emil Shukurov remembers what the great walnut forest of Central Asia was like. His first memory dates back to shortly after World War II, when expansion plans of the centralized Soviet economy had only barely touched remote valleys in southern Kyrgyzstan where tens of thousands of acres of walnut trees grew. It was—and is—a complex ecosystem that also hosts apple, pear and plum trees—130 species overall—and wild boars, deer, bears, owls, hawks and other wildlife, as well as farmers, herders and nomads descended from people who roamed the region for centuries. Continue reading

Recent floods highlight the Tajik Pamirs’ entanglements with the outside world

by Carolin Maertens and Martin Saxer

On 16 July 2015, a large mudslide buried parts of the village of Barsem, located in the Ghunt Valley sixteen kilometres east of the town of Khorugh in Tajikistan’s mountainous Pamir region. The mud dammed up the Ghunt river and a sizeable lake formed, interrupting the Pamir Highway that leads along the river. The mudslide at Barsem was triggered by a period of heavy rainfall and exceptionally high temperatures that caused glaciers and snow to melt more rapidly than usual. Accordingly, the Barsem case was only one of many flood related incidents in the Pamirs. Thus, for instance, several bridges along the Pamir Highway were washed away. While the disaster found some coverage in the media, little has since been written about its wider socio-economic significance. Continue reading

Involving Communities in Pasture Management: The Challenge of Pasture Committees in Kyrgyzstan

by Irène Mestre

Irene MestreWhen I arrived in Kyrgyzstan to investigate pasture management in July 2010, the new Law “On Pastures” had been in place for only just over a year (it was released on January 29, 2009). During summer 2010, the content of the new pastoral regulation was hardly known by pasture users, or by governmental and local self-governance employees (ayil okmotu, equivalent to municipalities). That was only a few months after the 2010 protests which overthrew President Bakiev and tensions around this so-called “Bakiev’s Law” were perceptible. After years of centralized management, the law aimed at implementing a community-based management of pastures. At the village level (ayil ayimak), all pasture users are members of the Pasture Users Association (PUA) and elect the Pasture Committee (PC). This is the executive body in charge of managing, allocating and monitoring pastures. It collects pasture use fees and manages its own budget. Part of it, the land tax, is transferred to the central budget as pastures are state property. The new law carries environmental, economic, and social expectations: the degradation of pastures underpinned the promotion of this model and made sustainable management essential. The law also intended to improve social equity by ensuring equal access to all pasture users and to foster long term economic benefits by preserving resources for livestock production. Continue reading