The Global Ecology Fund is only working in two CIS countries - Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In Kyrgyzstan the fund is supporting ecological initiatives of local communities that earn money along with their nature-protecting activities. Projects currently implemented in Kyrgyzstan's Issyk-Kul province through the Small Grant Program of the Global Ecology Fund prove a simple thing: one can not just sit around twiddling his thumbs when nature is giving the SOS signal.
"There have been many complaints about the merciless felling of still strong and healthy trees around Lake Issyk-Kul," said Alexander Berezovoi, head of the non-governmental organization Populus and a forest guard by trade. "Old people say that in the past forests around the lake were so dense that one could not ride a horse through them. Of course, I can understand local villagers - when they have no fuel to heat their homes in the winter and only wish to get warm, they would not think of ecology. Complaints, however, will not bring green trees to our region. Then we recollected an old saying: the simplest example is always more convincing than the most eloquent sermon. So we have decided to create a poplar plantation. By the way, "populus" means "poplar" in Latin."
The project had no problems with land for plantation. The administration of the Semenovskaya rural community gave 15 hectares of land along River Kichi-Ak-Suu for this noble business. The problem, as ever, was money. Help has come from the Global Ecology Fund. It is not easy to get a grant from this authoritative international organization, one of whose executive agents is the UNDP. Populus has received the money because it is known that Kyrgyzstan has large land areas unfit for agriculture, but planting trees on such territories would improve the ecological situation…
"Unfortunately, the spring has not yet come to the Issyk-Kul region," said Alexander Berezovoi. "During warm days people worked with great pleasure. Villagers came to work voluntarily. They all understand that now we are laying the foundation for our future wellbeing. However, we had to stop planting poplar saplings due to the suddenly cold weather. We will plant more than 3,000 poplars on each hectare..."
The NGO thinks such plantations are the first step towards private forests in Kyrgyzstan. The country, however, still has no laws or regulations on private forests and Populus is going to make such a law to be passed…
When Esenkan Sakiyev, an artist from Karakol (a city on Issyk-Kul's shore), suggested creating an eco-bicycle-park in his city, few people understood the idea. Esenkan patiently explained: the world needs pure air and it is time to switch to ecologically pure transport - i.e. the bicycle. Sakiyev conducted a poll in Karakol and 80% of 500 questioned citizens agreed that the bicycle was indeed a splendid thing.
The Global Ecology Fund has granted more than US $7,000 to Sakiyev's NGO, Kut-Ordo, that has purchased the first batch of Chinese bicycles…
"Our city fathers have already appreciated this idea," said Sakiyev. "We still can not cover the entire city because this would require at least 3,000 bicycles…Some day the bicycle will overtake the automobile (not in terms of speed, of course)… "
"The eco-bicycle-park is an absolutely new thing for Kyrgyzstan, but other cities and villages in the country are already interested in this idea," said Muratbek Koshoyev, national coordinator of the Small Grant Program of the Global Ecology Fund…
Everybody knows that the best currants in Kyrgyzstan grow at Lake Issyk-Kul. But few know that some sorts of this valuable plant are on the brink of extinction. A group of Karakol residents are trying to save a rare sort of currant, Yanchevsky.
"They say that the world is large enough to meet the needs of any person but too small to satisfy human greed," said Aigul Januzakova, the project director. "Just imagine that cuttings of Yanchevsky currant are very rare today. But we have found them anyway. We have rented 1.5 hectares in the Karakol National Park for 10 years and will start planting as soon as the weather is warm."
The currant is not the only plant to be grown here. They also plan to grow hawthorn and medicinal herbs. The Karakol enthusiasts are sure the future generations will appreciate their work. Isn't it worth working hard now?
By Elena Skorodumova,
The Times of Central Asia, May 08, 2003