Uzbekistan’s president has said he intends to impose a moratorium on new construction in the capital pending the creation of an urban development plan better equipped to handle the pressures of a fast-growing population.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s announcement on February 8 follows years of complaints and protests from the public and nongovernmental groups over what many consider the unbridled pace of development in Tashkent. It has not yet been stated when the moratorium will come into effect.
This planned order on halting new building also comes quick on the heels of a cataclysmic earthquake in Syria and Turkey, where the scale of the fatalities has been blamed in part on shoddy construction standards. Numerous developers of new high-rise buildings in Tashkent are also from Turkey.
Tashkent has undergone a significant and highly visible transformation in recent years – a trend that only accelerated following Mirziyoyev’s ascent to power in 2016. Champions of this process have hailed Tashkent’s evolution as an emerging hub for business. The quality in the provision of household utilities and public transport has not always met the demands of a fast-expanding population, which is believed to have reached the 3 million mark, however.
In issuing his diktat, Mirziyoyev criticized the fact that construction permits are often granted without consideration for the capacity of existing urban infrastructure, much of which was installed in Soviet times. The president has attacked this issue before. In October, Mirziyoyev spoke about the fragility of the city’s infrastructure after being presented with a master plan for the development for Tashkent through 2045.
“We must think about the future and clearly define a strategy, otherwise life in the city is going to become very complicated within the next decade,” he said.
Another clue to the likelihood that this moratorium may have been a snap decision is reflected in the fact that many details are still unclear. It is not known definitively when the building ban will come into effect or whether it will affect all construction or just residential blocks.
If the latter is the case, the effect on the property market may be dramatic. Rising prices will make housing even more unaffordable for low-income families, which may in turn prompt the government to undertake more deficit spending in the form of subsidies.
Something like this has been looming for a while. During the 2021 presidential election campaign, Mirziyoyev pledged to slow down the rate of construction in Tashkent.
“It’s enough. If we continue like this, the sewerage system won’t take it, the people won’t put up with it, and there will be no green areas. Everything will turn into concrete,” he was quoted as saying by news website Gazeta.uz.
Little has happened to uphold that pledge since that time.
Another ugly side of the construction boom in Tashkent and many other cities in Uzbekistan is that developers in a hurry have often resorted to legally dubious means to dispossess people of their dwellings. Thousands have over the years complained of being cast from their homes without proper compensation.
In some cases, the damage has been cultural.
In 2017, UNESCO weighed whether to revoke the city of Shahrisabz’s coveted World Heritage status in response to often indiscriminate manner in which entire swathes of the historic center were bulldozed to the ground as part of a would-be exercise in beautification. Many cities in Uzbekistan, including some considered to be the country’s main touristic draws, have endured similarly heavy-handed treatment.
Source : Eurasianet