Establishment of the Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve as a model for biodiversity conservation – Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan 12.10.2015 Ecosystem: Mountainous, Semi-arid


Uzbekistan – Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve as a model for biodiversity conservation

Background Story


Desertification is a result of many factors; the development of a model for biodiversity conservation in Uzbekistan is one strategy for combating desertification. UNDP and (Global Environment Facility) GEF recently completed their six year project for establishing the Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve as a model for biodiversity conservation. Rural development threatens biodiversity conservation resulting in land degradation, resource exploitation, intensive agriculture, and worsening socio-economic conditions. Even though the biosphere has yet to be implemented due to political constraints, all activities lead to success by increasing knowledge about legal, political, village-level, long-term planning, and land use planning inputs necessary for a large-scale biosphere reserve. Such a project is a fine example of a needs assessment and actions for biodiversity conservation and combating desertification in Central Asia.

The project was located in Tashkent city and Yangikishlak village of Djizak province. The Executing Agency for the project was the State Biological Control Service (Gosbiocontrol), a body under the state Committee for Nature Protection.

Biodiversity conservation and rural development in Uzbekistan often confront with each other. Major threats to biodiversity in the country include: a) direct destruction of the flora and fauna; b) unsustainable natural resource use resulting from past inappropriate development policies and current socio-economic difficulties; and c) expansion of agriculture-occupied land at the expense of wildlife habitat.

These threats result in degradation of the natural habitat and ecosystems. Unique ecosystems are the Nuratau Mountains with adjacent Kyzylkum desert and one of the largest water reservoirs in the country – Aidar-Arnasai system of lakes. Urgent measures to improve the situation and stop loss of the habitat and wildlife need to be taken. Taking into account the increasing threats, the Government of Uzbekistan with support of the members of NABU, had been working on research in this field since 1993. The preparation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) project proposal started in 1998 and approval was received in 2000.

Local family in Nuratau mountain

 Local family in the Nuratau mountains

Farish region wind pump

Farish region: local people in Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve need groundwater for domestic animals. With project support they constructed this wind pump which will help the cattlemen to access water for sheep and cows. 


The objective of the project was to develop a new, more durable approach to biodiversity conservation in Uzbekistan by directly linking wildlife conservation with rural development. The project should have resulted in the establishment of the first biosphere reserve in Uzbekistan. Due to political constraints the biosphere has yet to be fully implemented. Nevertheless, many actions during the project period resulted in successful activities.

The following project activities have been implemented:

  • The project has prepared all grounds for the legal establishment of the Biosphere Reserve, by determining zoning and boundaries, and preparing all necessary documents. Once officially established, the Biosphere Reserve would add 10,751 km2 to the total protected areas in Uzbekistan, which would significantly increase the total coverage from 20,520 km2 (4.6% of the country) to 31,271 km2 (7%);

  • The new law on protected areas, which the project helped to redraft, was approved by the Parliament and signed by President. It provides the specific legal basis for the future establishment of Biosphere Reserves in the country;

  • The project assisted in creation of the legal basis for long term leasing of forestry land to  the local population for appropriate forestry use. This “joint management” approach between the local state forestry bodies and local population brings a fundamental change in managing the issue;

  • A number of awareness-raising activities, including the establishment of six methodological centers for school teachers and school children, and the informational center to be established in Yangikishlak village;

  • The project has undertaken a number of pilot demonstration activities aimed at improving sustainable methods of livelihoods within the area. These include: improved livestock and natural pasture management, joint forest management, and sustainable tourism;

  • The project has initiated a new sub-project supported by UNDP and German Development Service (DED) ‘Development of communities and sustainable livelihoods’ aimed at the sustainable use of the nature resources and improving living conditions of the local population.


Funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNDP TRAC, and German Society for Nature Protection NABU, State Biological Control Service (Gosbiocontrol), a body under the state Committee for Nature Protection, Government of Uzbekistan, local village, local authorities.


The project had five outcomes:

  1. The unique national and global biodiversity value and the mosaic of natural and cultural landscapes in the project area conserved;

  2. Local authorities and communities have a better awareness and valuation of biodiversity resources and services and an understanding of the principles of sustainable development;

  3. The capacity of local authorities and communities to play an active role in the planning and management of natural resources and development of sustainable livelihoods in place;

  4. Types of land use reduced within the project area with negative effects on ecosystems and the basis established for the long-term sustainable development of the area in place;

  5. New “inclusive” and sustainable human development-oriented approaches to the conservation of biodiversity in Uzbekistan developed and tested.


The following lessons to be learnt have been identified:

  • The design of projects involving the achievement of critical milestones such as a new Law or a new institution should better take into account the time needed for the political process to go through;

  • A project involving a change of the legislation and/or policy framework should not be shorter than five years. The time it takes to change a Law or a policy is often underestimated and the overall project duration too short to develop the full necessary capacity to make the change sustainable;

  • In a complex socio-economic-political context such as Uzbekistan, the design of projects should emphasize assessments focusing on policies, legislation and institutions, including capacity assessments, and a thorough assumptions and risks assessment;

  • Within the context of a project focusing on legislation and institution development, the implementation of sub-projects demonstrating and testing new approaches is vital for these projects. It provides good examples of sustainable use of the natural resources to improve the local livelihood; and also conserving the local biodiversity at the same time;

  • The management of a biosphere reserve area which includes many rural communities and few small towns is a complex area to manage that is much more difficult to manage than a more traditional protected area. The management approach needs to be much more participatory and be inclusive of all the population living in the area; particularly the land users;

  • Accurate and relevant information and communication are important components of the management framework of a biosphere reserve. Good and accessible information is key for good decision-making but also to keep people abreast of new developments, to offer information on the best practices, etc.


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