In the past years, Central Asia has been facing major climate-change related challenges – drought, floods, desertification, sandstorms, extreme cold and heat spells – and many more. Not only have these affected rural areas, but cities have been suffering, too. Accentuated by increased traffic volumes, economic growth and pressures from competing sectors such as real estate, cities have not always been able to align green goals with reality.
While recent years have seen massive new planting initiatives in Central Asia, there is room for improvement and coordinated opportunities to invest in trees and forests in the urban environment. To advance this work, UNECE with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Uzbekistan, recently organized a dedicated training on “Future-proof green cities make future-proof countries - Building urban und peri-urban tree and forest resilience” for experts from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
With the support of the City of Budapest, leading experts and practitioners from Hungary, Italy, Romania and UNECE provided participants with state-of-the-art knowledge on planning, establishing, managing, and monitoring urban and peri-urban forests. Much emphasis was placed on educating future generations, including citizens in green space planning and aligning economic, environmental and social agendas across various city departments. In-the-field training demonstrations on forest and tree management solutions developed and applied by the City of Budapest showed clearly that bringing nature back to Central Asian cities and integrating trees and green spaces into cityscapes will require a connection between various ecosystems, and a strong nexus among the related sectors.
The continuous challenges for urban forests in Central Asia are linking rural and urban greening efforts, planning and establishing tree inventories, choosing future-proof tree species and securing their long-term survival and even economic benefit through adequate irrigation and other care, and dedicated financial means for sufficient maintenance.
The workshop gave participants the chance to see first-hand that solutions for these challenges existed and that remote sensing and other technologies were available, but a buy-in from all sectors of society and city authorities was fundamental to success. While expert trainers emphasized the critical role of forests in maintaining and protecting biodiversity, they also stressed that trees added variety and beauty to cityscapes and help address the urgent clean air challenge in Central Asia. Ultimately, it is the combined efforts and integrated solutions, coordinated at city and national levels, that will bring lasting benefits to Central Asian cities, their trees and their inhabitants.