In November 2020, the EastFruit team published a high-profile article about the problems greenhouses in Uzbekistan face when connecting to gas supply. Too complicated, bureaucratic and non-transparent connection procedures or the inability to obtain gas caused numerous complaints from farmers. For those of them who managed to connect to the gas network, the gas supplier did not guarantee its uninterrupted supply. Moreover, the gas was very often turned off, which in some cases led to the loss of the entire harvest. Natural gas is the main export commodity of Uzbekistan, although in our material we showed in figures that the exports of greenhouse vegetables grown using natural gas is much more profitable for the country.
The most common alternative to gas is coal. However, the generation of heat using coal significantly increases the cost of production in comparison with the usage of gas. In addition, burning coal leads to much more severe environmental pollution, harms the health of people and reduces the transparency of the film or glass of greenhouses. But besides heat, plants need light. Moreover, the lack of sunlight in winter is one of the main problems for greenhouse complexes in Uzbekistan. Therefore, coal is far from the best alternative.
Therefore, investors who have invested millions of dollars in their enterprises are forced to look for some way out. For example, the greenhouses of the Tutzor mahalla in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan have found a very “innovative” way to reduce the production cost in the context of complicated connection to gas and interruptions in its supply to greenhouse complexes. They decided to use household waste, a mixture of sawdust, coal and dung (dung is dried or processed manure used as fuel for burning in a kiln, EastFruit note) as fuel for heat greenhouses.
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Obviously, the consequence of this “innovation” is the fetid smell of burning, which constantly spreads across the entire residential area in autumn-winter in recent years. In other words, this method of reducing the cost of greenhouse vegetables and greens production in the cold season has created a local environmental problem for people living both in the Tutzor makhalla and in nearby settlements. As you know, air pollution is one of the main causes of deteriorating health and reducing the life expectancy of the global population.
A group of residents of the Yunusabad district of the city of Tashkent and the Tutzor mahalla of the Tashkent region contacted the editorial office of the Academy of Sciences Podrobno.uz because of the air poisoning by greenhouse complexes. The media outlet published this appeal, below we give it in an abbreviated form:
“We, the undersigned, residents of the Yunusabad district of Tashkent and residents of the Tutzor mahalla of the Tashkent region, inform that every day over the past several years in the autumn-winter period on the territory of the Yunusabad district (Tashkent city) and the Tutzor mahalla (Tashkent region), there is a fetid smell of burning from the evening until the morning hours of the next day. We cannot open the windows of apartments and houses, whole neighborhoods are smothered in acrid fetid smoke… Because of this, the life of residents of Yunusabad region and the Tutzor mahalla turned into a real nightmare.
… Residents revealed that the source of air pollution are the greenhouse complexes located behind the Tashkent ring road… One of these greenhouses was visited by residents, where they discovered that all waste is used to heat greenhouses – plastic, lamps, and so on, as well as a mixture of sawdust, coal, dung and other unidentified elements.
… This is not a horror film, but the current realities of the Yunusabad district that used to be one of the cleanest districts of Tashkent… Only after the publication of the photo and video on the Facebook social network, the inspectors of the State Committee for Ecology of the Tashkent District arrived at the scene and drew up a protocol on an administrative violation not against the owners of the greenhouse, but against a handyman. The penalty was only 270 thousand UZS (at the current exchange rate – $25).
The owners of the greenhouse assured that this would not happen again, and henceforth they would be heating exclusively with coal. But, a few days later, residents of Yunusabad again began to breathe a pungent smell of burning … the systematic poisoning of people continues to this day…”.
In their appeal, residents of the Yunusabad district of Tashkent and the Tutzor mahalla of the Tashkent region call on the local authorities to conduct a survey of all greenhouse farms located in the Tashkent district of the Tashkent region and impose a ban on the operation of greenhouses that systematically poison the air, as well as hold guilty officials of greenhouses polluting the air.
Obviously, the problem of uninterrupted gas supply to the greenhouse sector in Uzbekistan is still not resolved. The most high-tech branch of agriculture in the country, which one could be proud of, is forced to survive as best it can. Meanwhile, the greenhouse business in neighboring Turkmenistan gets natural gas at an incredibly low price without interruption, which allows it to develop rapidly. In just a few years, Turkmenistan almost caught up with Uzbekistan in terms of supplies of greenhouse tomatoes to Russia, the main export position of Uzbek vegetable growing.
According to our estimates, the volume of supplies of greenhouse vegetables from Turkmenistan to Russia in 2022 may exceed the volume of exports from Uzbekistan. Of course, it will happen unless the state makes a strategic decision on increasing the added value in the country and creating new jobs in high-tech segments of agriculture, without damage to the environment. Both the population and the promising and important industry, generating multimillion-dollar export earnings, are suffering now. Thus, in addition to direct economic losses from the slowdown in the development of the greenhouse industry and uncreated new jobs, Uzbekistan also incurs in additional costs for the health care system.
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