Written by Sarvarbek Abdullaev

Image source: www.gazeta.uz

In recent years, the development of urbanization and the construction of new objects seem to have turned into a struggle against nature. Undoubtedly, the construction of social infrastructure and new buildings will always be relevant, but the free area for such constructions should not appear through the destruction of trees. Despite the announcement of a moratorium on cutting down trees in recent years in Uzbekistan and the fact that this issue has been highlighted at the level of the head of state, contractors and builders are not afraid of cutting down trees. This blogpost will discuss logging moratoriums against destroying trees and the reason why developers are not afraid of it.


If we look to the world rating, we can see that Uzbekistan is one of the top countries with air pollution. Tashkent is also “increasing” its rate year by year among capital cities with air pollution. In addition to global warming, this is caused by cutting down trees, damage to nature, and ecological problems caused by human factors. Instead of drawing conclusions from such global ratings, real estate developers are incessantly engaged in destroying the blessings that nature has given us.

Prohibition of tree cutting

 As a first step, in 2019, the President signed a decree “On approval of the concept of environmental protection of the Republic of Uzbekistan until 2030”. According to the decree, a moratorium on cutting trees was introduced in Uzbekistan from November 1 of 2019 until December 31, 2020. Clause 4 of the above decree states:

“Ministry and agencies, as well as economic management and local executive authorities are at the stage of selecting and allocating land areas for the construction and design of facilities, as well as engineering and communication infrastructure (electricity, gas and water supply, sewerage, railway and highways and others) strictly ensure their preservation during establishment, including through the practice of transplanting trees and shrubs.”

Later, the moratorium was extended until 2024, and it was noted that the amount of fines applied in the field of ecology will be increased by five times, and the compensation for the damage will be increased by two times. Not long after that, on September 9, 2021, Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced the introduction of an indefinite moratorium on cutting down trees.

From April 1 of 2022, citizens who send photos and videos depicting violations related to ecology will be encouraged in the same amount as the basic amount of calculation. This increased the activity of the population in a certain sense.

A moratorium that does not work in practice

 Even though the moratorium reduced the damage caused to the environment in a certain sense, it could not entirely eliminate the problem. Almost every year, with the beginning of the construction season, it is common to hear that valuable and “old” trees are being cut down in some areas.

Unfortunately, the execution of the decree was not fully ensured in practice. In particular, it was noted that the cutting of trees and bushes in the first three months of 2020, despite the introduction of a moratorium, increased by 27% compared to the corresponding period of 2019. As of November 2020, the number of illegal cutting of trees and bushes was 3,897 and a total amount of damage was 9.7 billion soums. In the first half of 2021, 316,000 valuable trees were saved as a result of the moratorium, however 2,800 valuable and almost 2,000  less valuable trees were cut down illegally.

More precisely, On February 21, 2020, inspectors of the Tashkent City Department of Ecology and Environmental Protection found that 81 trees were cut down in Yakkasaroy district of Tashkent. Two days later, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tashkent city informed about the situation and enlightened that the construction organization caused 630.4 million soums worth of damage to nature as a result of cutting perennial trees on the land allocated to it. Although criminal charges were brought against the officials of this construction company, they were released from restriction of and deprivation of freedom by paying three times the amount of damages.

Even state universities are not left out of the tree cutting “trend”. In January of this year, 38 trees were cut down on the territory of Karshi State University, although the application of the university to cut trees down was rejected by the regional ecology department. The damage was estimated at 267 million soums. Moreover, the cutting down of more than 10 trees in the maternity hospital in Andijan, more than 100 trees in 2 arboretums in Chilonzor and Uchtepa, and the cutting down of trees in the recreational park in Gulistan showed that this problem cannot be solved only with a moratorium.

What are the causes of this problem?

 The fact is that according to part 4 of Article 198 of the Criminal Code, if the environmental damage is covered in three times, the punishment in the form of restriction and deprivation of freedom is not applied.

This is a norm that serves as a “loophole” in the legislation for many construction companies, contractors and entrepreneurs. They can avoid a heavier punishment by paying the times the prescribed fine. In fact, they will be fined for infringement and will be prosecuted. However, punishments such as restriction and deprivation of freedom are not applied.

Unfortunately, perennial trees and shrubs that have been pruned do not revitalize. Even if another tree is planted in its place, it will take several decades to replace the previous tree. We must understand that no amount of fines can replace the damage done to nature. It is not money, but trees that clear oxygen for humanity. 

In addition, despite the fact that from August 1, 2020, in accordance with the Presidential Decree, many of the powers to distribute land have been taken away from district and city governments, they are still violating the laws and allocating land for the construction of real estate. For example, the governor of Asaka district in Andijan region illegally allocated 2390 hectares of land with 56 decisions in just two years (2021-22). Thus, governors are not interested in preserving trees and plants when allocating lands, so the businesspersons are “successfully” using the above-mentioned loophole in the law to cut trees down.

Alternative solutions

Firstly, in my opinion, the last part of Article 198 of the Criminal Code should be repealed from the legislation: 
“If the environmental damage is compensated in three times, the punishment in the form of restriction of liberty and deprivation of liberty shall not be applied.” 

If we do not fight aggressively against crimes in the field of ecology and if these issues are resolved only by paying fines, after 10 years we will look back and realize that we made a huge mistake. The reason is that it takes at least 25-30 years for old and strong trees to be replaced by “young” plants. Even with any amount of money, a person who illegally cuts down trees should not be able to avoid a harsh sentence.

Builders and entrepreneurs pay three times the amount of damage caused to the environment and cover this cost by selling the object under construction at a higher price. Because the price of houses and any type of real estate in the capital city is increasing year by year. A more lenient punishment in the form of paying three times the amount of damage caused will only end up working to our detriment, not to the construction entrepreneur.

Secondly, the powers of district and city mayors in this regard should be limited not only on paper, but in the practice as well. The governor of the region should take a comprehensive approach to lease or private ownership of lands with ancient trees. In fact, the question of whether trees and clean air are of high importance to the population or multi-stored residential buildings must be answered before a decision can be made. Therefore, systematically the state decisions of governors on land allocation distribution must be verified through environmental compliance. In this regard, the regional branches of the Ministry of Justice that are responsible for the legal examination of the regional governor’s decision on land allocation and the Ecology Committee should start working more efficiently and independently.

Finally, it is also necessary to broadcast videos on environmental law violations in the media and on television. Citizens need to understand that thinking only about today and cutting trees and shrubs for the construction of new buildings is actually dangerous for the future. Quality and effective videos, cartoons for children about the need to protect the environment and other types of materials, in a word, propaganda, can influence the consciousness of the population on this issue.


Since businessmen and companies put their interests above those of society and continue to cut down perennial trees in Tashkent and other cities which are under a serious environmental situation, the state and government must take both reasonable and drastic measures on this issue.   And most importantly, the punishment in this case should be inevitable, as for any other crime.                   

Sarvarbek Abdullaev, “Unending environmental violations of Uzbekistan: real causes and alternative solutions”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 20.10.2022.