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Renovation in Uzbekistan: to Evict and Demolish

Demolition of ramshackle houses in Uzbekistan has led to the demolition of not only ramshackle houses, but also historical buildings. Violations of law, corruption and people’s anger have been increasingly reported. According to experts, renovation programme should involve not only officials and businesses, but also general public. 

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The Tashkent-based house No. 45 located on Amir Temur Avenue, built back in 1927, is at risk of being demolished. It was designed by architect Georgy Svarichevsky, who designed many historical buildings in the capital of Uzbekistan. Moreover, it is located in the buffer zone of the ancient settlement of Ming Urik.  

The façade of house No. 45 located on Amir Temir Avenue in Tashkent. Photo courtesy of V.Zamanov

One and a half years ago, according to residents, different strangers visited the house and scrutinised it. That was also when they were told the house would be demolished according to a plan.  However, later on, the hokimiyat of Mirabad district told the residents they didn’t plan to demolish it.

“An architect of our district was invited to the meeting and he said nothing could be built within 30 metres of Ming Urik. We were satisfied and left the meeting because our house was 6 metres away from Ming Urik,” a resident of house No. 45, Vlad Zamanov, said.

One of entries of house No. 45 located on Amir Temur Avenue in Tashkent. Photo courtesy of V.Zamanov

However, in January 2018 some people who said to be officers of the Bureau on Technical Inventory notified the residents that the building would be demolished and a seven-storey house with underground parking and utilities store on the ground floor would be built instead. As compensation, the residents would be provided with apartments in another district of Tashkent, in the territory of mahalla Bainalminal, where two seven-storey houses are planned to be built.

Last July, one of the house residents filed a suit to Mirabad District Court for cancellation of the demolition resolution. The suit was joined by 36 residents. The trial is still on-going.  

Total Demolition

A massive demolition of buildings in Uzbekistan started last year in Samarkand. Construction works were performed in the vicinity of the UNESCO-protected historical part of the city. Multiple violations and disregard of orders by developers have been reported.

Soon after the story sparked public outcry, prime minister Abdulla Aripov got involved with the issue. The khokim of Samarkand region, Turobjon Jurayev, and his deputy on construction matters, Utkir Abdullayev, were removed from office. They were detained on suspicion of taking bribes to grant land development permits.

In early January 2019, a massive demolition of buildings reached Fergana. In the city centre, a range of houses built back in 1946-47 by Japanese prisoners of war were demolished, and residents were evicted by force and moved to the outskirts. Investors from South Korea planned to build a 100 million dollar hotel on this site.

House No. 78 on the embankment of Ankhor Canal, Tashkent. Photo: gazeta.uz

In February, the wave reached the capital of Uzbekistan. House No. 78 on the embankment of Ankhor Canal in Tashkent was started to be demolished when residents were still inside. The territory will become a new park zone. Later on, an official in charge of resettlement was held liable for misconduct and negligence in the resettlement issue.

Shortly before that, the metropolitan authorities had announced a few major projects: Mirzo Ulugbek Business City and Yunusobod Business City. The news caused a wave of concern among the residents of Tashkent. 600 residents of Mirzo Ulugbek district came to the meeting with the khokim of the city. The khokim of Tashkent, Jakhongir Artikkhodjaev, said there would be “no demolition without residents’ consent.”

3D General Layout

Last December, prime minister of Uzbekistan Abdulla Aripov said that Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered to demolish ramshackle buildings, including the ones without sewer connections.

This February, the 3D general layout of Tashkent was said to be presented before the end of April.

The public council of the khokimiyat noted that “the lack of approved general layout of the city, development strategy and other urban planning documentation” led to “non-transparency of the construction decisions made.”

According to the Council, “the general layout of Tashkent needs to be developed and published so that residents could plan their lives and investors could implement their projects more effectively and smoothly.”

Jens Jordan. Photo: gazeta.uz

A member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), Jens Jordan, has been studying the architectural heritage of Uzbekistan since 2006. He said the problem was much deeper than just a lack of general layout. According to him, urban planning must involve not only officials and experts, but also general public.

However, the problem is that local authorities in charge of monument protection don’t have enough employees and administrative rights, the specialist said. This is why not all historical objects in Uzbekistan are recognised as such.

“For example, Navoi Street is an ensemble of objects of major significance. The square between Ankhor Canal and Khadra contains architectural monuments dating back to the 1930-1950s built in a neoclassical style, and forms an ensemble that shouldn’t have any component missing. However, it cannot be recognised as such due to the lack of relevant information and the city administration may sell territories for new development projects,” Jordan said.

He noted that there has been some progress in the Samarkand case. If the 2006 general layout of the city provided for the full “renovation” of the colonial part, the new one provides for the preservation of the history.

“For a reason”

The story about the massive demolition in Uzbekistan has attracted attention of the foreign press. In early April, the UK newspaper, The Guardian, published an article about the demolition of buildings in Tashkent and eviction of residents from their houses.

A screenshot of theguardian.com

A few days later, the khokim of Tashkent, Jakhongir Artikkhodjaev, wrote a follow-up letter criticising the editorial staff’s stance. He noted that all occupants were given notice, some up to two years in advance.

“Any demolition of properties in Tashkent takes place for a reason. lt occurs when apartment buildings have fallen into a severe, dilapidated state. In most cases, in these neighbourhoods, the infrastructure also requires a complete renovation; water supply and sewage systems are sometimes missing,” said the letter.

He also noted that under Uzbek legislation, the demolition of buildings cannot be carried out without full notice to the occupant and an agreed compensation agreement. This agreement can take a form of a new accommodation, monetary compensation or a combination of both.

However, economic analyst and independent expert Igor Tsoi noted that the anger of people was caused by the lack of a transparent mechanism of coordination of development projects with residents and of compensation for house demolition.

Однако экономист-аналитик и независимый эксперт Игорь Цой отмечает, что недовольство населения вызывает как раз отсутствие понятного механизма согласования с жителями планов строительства, а также компенсации за жилье. 

The feeling is that sources of funding don’t matter, what matters is investment. Projects are done for the sake of investors. And the latter are interested in profit-making – land plots in the centre are more expensive than the ones in the outskirts.

People don’t know how the city is going to extend its boundaries, which areas will be covered by the city development projects, whether it’s worth purchasing [houses] in certain areas or not.  The plans need to be more transparent.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.

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