Biodiversity Preservation and Integrated River Basin Development in the Syrdaria River Valley

The five-year project “Biodiversity Preservation and integrated River Basin Development  in the Syrdaria River Valley of Kazakhstan”, funded by WWF/MFA Norway is completed in June 2012.

The Project aims to conserve and restore the biodiversity of flood plain habitats (Tugai) along the middle course of the Syrdaria River  and of the adjacent steppes and forests of the Karatau Mountains

Overall Goal:  Provide a model for sustainable development in the middle stretches of the Syrdaria Valley by integrating nature conservation with sustainable use of natural resources for the benefits of nature and the local population.

There were four main modules (specific objectives) of the project:

  • Establish of a system of protected areas with core zones, corridors and buffer zones, where conservation of nature and sustainable use of natural resources are integrated with each other.
  • Promote sustainable use of water, wise management and use of rangelands and conservation and restoration of forests in the Syrdaria flood plain and in the Karatau Mountains.
  • Conservation and restoration of Bukhara deer and Karatau argali.
  • Strengthening the civil society through supporting NGOs, training, education and awareness raising.

Some intermediate results of the project are presented in our publications: “Econet – web for life” First half a year 2008., Second half of 2008,  2009

From the very beginning, information about the project was briefly described in a leaflet Riparian forests of Syr-Darya river and Karatau mountains – unique nature complexes of the Planetwhich was widely distributed in the region and helped to raise awareness on the problems of the region and suggested ways to solve them.

In order to facilitate socio-economic development of local communities and restoration of ecosystems, a range of measures were required, in particular mobilizing back-up from decision makers at different levels, support from the local population, establishing working groups to identify core zones and corridors for the protected area system, agreeing on land-use options for buffer zones and corridors with stakeholders, developing land-use alternatives and communicating these to stakeholders and promoting their acceptance through training, education and awareness.

The project was operating in a stable political environment. The countries economy is well developed and the government is committed to the “Green Development Program”, this implies increased attention to and funding for nature conservation and sustainable land-use. The governmental authority directly responcible for  rare species conservation and protected areas system development - Forest and Hunting  Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture was stable, so  5 rotations of the Minister of Environment Conservation had no impact on the project execution.

The choice of project area had beed very lucky - there had been no PAs in the riparian forests of Kazakhstan, while the moden vision of the government is to protect  practically all important riparian forests (because of their water saving role, in vision of climate change and aridisation and thanks to abundunce of fertile agricultural lands in steppes of Kazakhstan which allows to limit agrricaltural use of river valleys - an important difference from othe countries of the Central Asian Region).Quick economical development of the country and of the project region in particular made capacity building component so impotant, involvement of local communities- very efficient. High level of local scientific expertise (e.g.Turkestanskii University) was also an important encouredgement.