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Uzbekistan: Tashkent, a green city. Or not?

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Uzbekistan, Environment, History, Protest

Old trees are cut down in the center of Tashkent – the shocking news was spread in the city within a day.

Photo by goricvet [1]

Planetrees, or platanus, planted at the end of the 19th century, were cut down in the public garden [2] named after Amir Temur [3] (Tamerlane) in Tashkent last week. As officials say [4], the felling was carried out according to the plan of sanitary actions to be held in the city. However, it was visible that the trees were in good condition and well-attended.

Moreover, two old buildings located next to the public garden are being demolished. The first one is the recently renovated hotel “Poytakht” [5] (“Capital” in Uzbek), which was built in the middle of the last century. The second one is the former Russian Orthodox Church that was erected for the Tashkent Teachers Seminary [6] in 1898. A new administrative building is planned to be constructed there.

Joendax [7] writes [8] (rus):

I never worried about tress so much before. But on that day and several days after, I couldn’t believe it’s true. When I recall these memories I start crying, because I can not change anything.

How this can be explained? Many consider that the main reason of these actions is the new Forum Palace, built next to the public garden earlier this year. This was the subject of wide speculation among Uzbekistan bloggers.

So UNKNOWN [9] wrote [10]:

[…] there was a command on urgent dismantling of the central and the oldest telephone station in Tashkent, built in 1932. This was a surprise for the most of its workers and subscribers. At the same time they demolished the central bus station located near the telephone station. A new Forum Palace is planned to be built on this territory.

However, the Palace still provokes many questions among the public, especially concerning the expediency of such spending, the use of foreign labor force on the construction site against the background of wide unemployment in the country and other issues, including the ban on taking pictures of the building.

Now the Palace’s victims are old trees in front of it.

Some suppose that the monument to Amir Temur, located in the middle of the public garden, was the main reason for elimination of trees:

nashingyou [11] comments with a bitter sarcasm [12] (rus):

[…] Tashkent must always be young and fresh! What does it need the old tall and thick trees for? What does it need the old architectural monuments for? This is the past! For example, the public garden has been recently exterminated, so now tourists can see the horse of Amir Temur from afar.

On November 21 young activists held a protest [13] against this vandalism.

They laid flowers and candles to the public garden’s fence, next to the Forum Palace. The action was to be held inside the garden, but entrance was closed by the police, while bulldozers were working there. Shortly after the action began, the police came to blew out candles and threw away flowers.

Blogger roost [14] reports [15] (rus):

Protest near the Amir Temur Square was held on Saturday. On the one hand, it was good, because it brought together a sufficient number of people. […] On the other hand, it was not successful, because most candles stood there only for a minute or so. As far as I know, nobody was detained.