Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Uzbekistan`s Oil-and-Gas Sector Policies and Operations
Uzbekistan’s steppes are the one of the last remaining samples of the globally threatened dry temperate grassland biomes. The primary threat facing the Uzbek steppes is the increasing oil-and-gas exploration in the area. In 1960-1970 deep ground digging for gas-pipelines was unanimously found by scientists to be one of the key reasons for direct mass loss of Saigas during migration, while densely placed tall barriers disrupt migration. Secondly, current practices employed in laying gas and oil pipelines and developing access roads result in the fragmentation of habitat. Thirdly, exploratory drilling is currently proposed to take place in several breeding areas for Saiga, and/or nesting and feeding sites of threatened birds-of-prey, forcing them to abandon their current habitats and move to less suitable areas. Fourthly, the currently planned placement and size of oil-and-gas fields will destroy much of the unique steppe vegetation and bring about changes in soil structure.
Recognizing the importance of its biodiversity, Uzbekistan has ratified the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS). It has in place a network of protected areas that currently includes four basic categories: State Reserves, State National Parks, Special State Reserves, and State Natural Memorials. While the network of protected areas forms a corner stone of national efforts for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, it cannot provide security to the vast swathes of steppes that continue to lie outside the network. As a result, biodiversity outside protected areas is still threatened by habitat destruction and conversion, driven by oil-and-gas operations in the wider landscape.
The project objective is to mainstream biodiversity conservation into Uzbekistan’s oil-and-gas policies and operations by demonstrating this in the Ustyurt Plateau. The project will remove systemic, regulatory and knowledge barriers which will be achieved through two outcomes: i) Enabling policy, legislative, and institutional environment for mainstreaming biodiversity conservation considerations in the oil-and-gas sector, and ii) Demonstrating biodiversity mainstreaming technologies in oil-and-gas operations on the Ustyurt Plateau. The immediate global benefits include mainstreaming of biodiversity into the oil-and-gas sector at project sites having a positive impact on an area more than 2 million hectares. This will ensure population stability of a number of threatened species, including Houbara bustard, Caracal, Goitered gazelle, Ustyurt urial and the Saiga antelope.
Achievements & expected results
The long-term goal to which the project will contribute is that all ongoing and future oil-and-gas operations in Uzbekistan minimize their adverse impacts on biodiversity so that the conservation prospects of the affected ecosystems are greatly improved.
• Activities at the systemic level (making additions and changes to the present legislation on nature conservation) will help to ensure that the enabling environment is in place for progressive mainstreaming actions even after the project completion.
• Activities at the pilot site level will enable stakeholders to “ground truth” the new legal and policy frameworks, and test and develop new tools for mainstreaming.
• 7 environmental laws have been analyzed and preliminary proposals for introducing the amendments into these laws are prepared. These include "avoid-reduce-remedy-offset" principles for integrating the principles of biodiversity conservation in oil and gas sector.
• Analysis of the current status of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) methodologies was conducted and amendments to the norms are being prepared, including thorough review of the proposed oil and gas projects impact on biodiversity in the process of executing the required State Environmental Examination. First version of the Ecological audit procedure is prepared.
• To ensure effective interaction between stakeholders and support project implementation, the Interagency Working Group (IWG) was established. The IWG consists of representatives from 19 ministries, departments, companies and organizations.
• On the basis of signed Memorandum of Understanding between UNDP and Flora & Fauna International active works are being carried out on the implementation of project activities. Karakalpakstan
• A basis level of biodiversity on project territories was determined.
• GIS map of project territories is being developed including layer map and data on fauna and flora, land cadastre, infrastructure, etc.
• The socio-economic analysis of project territory (Muynak and Kungrad districts of the Republic of Karakalpakstan) has been conducted.