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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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. 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.” 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 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.
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.