During the Workshop the participants from UNEP, Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IGRAS) and Moscow State University (MSU) presented the project concept and timeline, in particular methodology of developing an e-Atlas on “Environmental Changes in Central Asia Countries”, technological aspects of access to its content, announced a cycle of training workshops for interested stakeholders from the project partner-countries on collecting and processing thematic geospatial data on the basis of the IGRAS.
The importance of the project was stressed to be connected with the existing issues on collecting, updating and processing of geospatial information on the state of environment in the Kyrgyz Republic. As of today, in the Republic there is no unified methodology for collecting and representing basic and spatial thematic data. According to UNECE (2013) Assessment of Assessments report availability of the environmental data and information is an issue for Kyrgyzstan, because of limited narrow environmental monitoring base, covering only some parts of the country. Websites of the national institutions normally required data is very limited as compared the databases of international organizations and not enough for producing comprehensive reports. There is an official procedure of written official requests, if required information is not accessible on-line. But usually as data are not available, requested governmental agency or national institution either provides roughly estimated data or does not provide requested information at all. For delivering estimated data, there is a need in additional time and resources to employ experts to produce these data. In some cases, when data is kept in hard copies, it takes time for responsible agency to provide soft copies of it. There is a legal requirement to exchange data and information among governmental agencies for reporting purposes to MEAs, which is also not effective because of the above mentioned issues with data availability.
Opening session of the meeting was started with welcome words of Ms. Dinara Kutmanova, Chair of the State Committee on Ecology and Climate of the Kyrgyz Republic. Mr. Adnan Quereshi, FAO Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, Officer in Charge of the UN Resident Coordinator in the Kyrgyz Republic in his an opening statement stressed importance of monitoring and improving data quality of national environmental policy. Mr. Artem Romanov, Head of the Foreign Policy Team, Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Kyrgyz Republic also made an opening statement also stressing the importance of this project contributing to environmental management and protection and to support building back better. Mr. Matthew Billot, a representative of UNEP division responsible for implementation of the project showed that this project was also fully aligned with UNEP medium term strategy which focused on climate change, pollution and waste, as well as our digital transformation process. He thanked the Russian Federation for their financial support.
The main session moderated by Mr. Mars Amanaliev (the State Committee on Ecology and Climate of the Kyrgyz Republic) presented the meeting objective and provide a project overview, it also introduced the project partners (Moscow State and the Institute of Geography, Russian National Academy of Sciences) and set out the key benefits and opportunities from the project for Kyrgyz Republic and present technical capacity, roles and responsibilities. Mr. Baatyrbek Sekiev (State Committee on Ecology and Climate of the Kyrgyz Republic) and several other experts provided an overview of relevant policies, monitoring, and national capacities and ongoing activities (Challenges and opportunities) relevant to the project. The session also focused on understanding the national priorities that this project can address and stocktaking of national capacities, data availability and data gaps. Prior the meeting, a survey was conducted, in which 15 specialists from different departments of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan took part. Moreover, the results of the survey were compared with the answers of experts of Uzbekistan, obtained earlier. When asked about the most significant environmental problems, Kyrgyz experts highlighted the problems of climate change and adaptation to it, sustainable management of natural resources and integral management of water resources. The lowest ratings were given to problems such as waste, plastics and chemicals, and the circular (green) economy. A comparison of these survey results with the responses of Uzbek experts showed general agreement on the highest priority issues. The greatest differences are related to the assessment of the importance of the problems of biodiversity protection and water pollution, which received much lower assessments from the experts of Kyrgyzstan. When asked about the most significant areas of environmental policy, Experts of Kyrgyzstan highlighted reforestation, the supply of safe drinking water and the development of drip irrigation. This coincides with the opinions of Uzbek experts. At the same time, Uzbek experts assessed the problems of controlling invasive species and reducing the use of chemicals in irrigation much higher than their Kyrgyz colleagues. Earthquakes, droughts and floods were identified by experts of the both countries as the most dangerous natural disasters. The biggest differences in estimates were related to dust storms, which are indeed much more pronounced in Uzbekistan. Most experts from Kyrgyzstan believe that international and national projects aimed at preventing natural disasters are not being implemented in the republic. When asked about the practical use of geo-information methods, the majority (90%) of experts from Kyrgyzstan answered in the affirmative. Among Uzbek specialists, only 57% of respondents gave positive answers.