Public participation and environmental monitoring compared
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Among the Central Asian nations, few have quite as many concerns about conservation, health and other effects of pollution and the environmental legislation necessary to sustain both human and natural ecology as Uzbekistan The socio-economic needs in areas such as the province of Surxondarya come first, with areas such as nature reserves coming quite far down the list. More of the natural communities such as threatened bird populations are mentioned in a Central Asian fauna and flora article here .
Nevertheless, the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan, with a unique guarantee of 10% of parliamentary seats, set up an International Round Table Discussion on 27th March to involve worldwide experts in their problems and to try and find solutions. Pierre-Emmanuel Dupont of the University of Paris explained much of the relevant aspects of international law. Public participation is becoming a rather obvious accessory to NGO and national legal actions for restraining unwanted development and pollution. With the recent refusal of the World Bank to allow changes in the hydroelectric schemes known as CASA 1000, his comments were illuminating as to how further action could be possible to prevent this project becoming disastrous for the environment.
Vittorio Giorgio (Chairman of Union of the Historic Regions of Europe) was one speaker who showed the significance of advertising tragic incidents. As a lawyer, it was his photography of the TALCO aluminium pollutions from Tajikistan that produced a wider outcry about such drastic effects of public health in another country (Uzbekistan.) The deformations of children and the suffering of all ages from the hydrofluoric acid and other wastes of the aging ex-Soviet aluminium plant were the cause of several changes in trans-boundary laws. International cooperation is often difficult to achieve in such cases as this ongoing Surxondarya problem.
The 3rd international speaker was Michael Edelstein who has inspired us for many years with his campaigns on behalf of the New York State environmental organisation, Orange Environmental Inc., in Goshen. As a professor at Ramapo College NJ, he has first-hand experience of involving people in the fight to prevent unwanted and unthinking development. Basically a NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) approach has been encouraged, but the use of NGOs, state laws and constant pressures from all those involved can prevent the further influence of contaminated sites like TALCO. Such actions can improve water quality for Uzbek people and everywhere else, control urban sprawl where neighbours are heavily affected or illegally inconvenienced. The only problems are in getting the laws in place and then ensuring the authorities will act on them. Not an easy task!
With such heavyweights in the arena, several conclusions were made at the Round Table. The ECU (Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan) have moved to raise environmental awareness, and develop proposals within both national laws and international legal standards. A study of the modus operandi for public participation in law enforcement in the field of environmental protection sounds awfully complex. With the strikingly-cooperative participation of the speakers however, there does seem a strong possibility that not only these recommendations, but very many other actions will be seen as possible and practicable in the future.