Environmental degradation and migration: stimulation of policy debate and raising awareness in Kyrgyzstan

12 September 2013

On September 13, 2013, the Tian Shan Policy Center at the American University of Central Asia (TSPC@AUCA, https://www.auca.kg/en/tspc/) held a roundtable on "Environmental degradation and migration: establishing a dialogue and awareness building in Kyrgyzstan". The event was held as part of UNESCO's activities on Global Environmental Change within the Social and Human Sciences Sector. The roundtable brought together experts and practitioners from government, non-government, international and research organizations working in the field of environment and migration in Kyrgyzstan, to increase awareness, identify problem areas in the field of environmental migration in this country and develop recommendations.

UNESCO's pilot research and survey on Environmental Migration in the Aral Sea region, conducted in mid-2013, was presented and discussed at the roundtable, given its relevance for the Central Asian region.


Workshop participants ©UNESCO Almaty

The territory of Kyrgyzstan is the most dangerous area in Central Asia in geological terms and has more than 20 types of hazardous natural processes that cause natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, rockfalls, avalanches, etc. According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic, of all disasters in the country, floods account for 30%, landslides - 16%, technogeneous disasters - 10%, earthquakes - 9%, and other meteorological situations - 9%. Annually, seismologists record about 3,000 earthquakes in the territory of Kyrgyzstan, dozens of them, as a rule, being destructive to homes and buildings. More than a half of the country's territory is subject to the descent of snow avalanches that create emergency situations on the mountain roads. More than 5,000 landslides are considered to be active in Kyrgyzstan today. About 509 settlements have been or may be affected by the landslides and more than 10,000 families live in the houses under high risk.

Of the 10.7mn hectares of agricultural land, more than 88% have been recognized, according to the State Agency for Environment Protection and Forestry under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, as degraded and susceptible to desertification. Three-quarters of the country's arable land fund has been subjected to soil salinization, and more than half of it has been exposed to the processes of water and wind erosion. Almost half of the pasture lands have been classified as degraded in terms of vegetation and soil condition.

Experts increasingly recognize that environmental disasters may lead to displacement of people who find themselves trapped in economically conditions. Thus, migration processes in Kyrgyzstan have a strong environmental factor, since environmental issues affect migration, and the movement of large groups of people adversely affects the lives of local communities. The uniqueness of the environmental migration is in that, quite often, it is not by choice, but forced, when social networks that have been built over the years get destroyed, livelihood strategies that have been accumulated throughout generations become meaningless, and the culture that has been built on tribal identity and unity disappears.

Organizers of the round table attempted to raise these and other environmental migration issues during the Roundtable discussion. International experts made their presentations on the situation in other Central Asian countries and practices addressing environmental migration issues in countries throughout the world.

For more information on this Roundtable, please contact Ainura Asamidinova, Program Manager for Migration and Social Protection of TSPC/AAUCA, by calling: office - (0132) 664598 ext. 276, mobile - 0777 869186, 0556 869187, or by e-mail:asamidinova_a@mail.auca.kg

Related link

Permanent link: http://en.unesco.kz/environmental-degradation-and-migration-stimulation-of-policy-debate-and-raising