BISHKEK (TCA) – The conflict between local shepherds and the staff of the Sary-Chelek Biosphere Reserve in Jalal-Abad Oblast in southern Kyrgyzstan has been resolved.
“The Commission has found alternative pastures in the neighboring Toktogul forestry,” said Kylychbek Jundubaev of the State Agency for Environment and Forestry. “We convinced both local authorities and the Kyzyl-Tuu villagers that Sary-Chelek is a unique natural reserve, and according to the law it should not be used as a pasture.”
In mid-May Deputy Director of the Sary-Chelek Reserve, Akylbek Dubanaev, reported to the State Agency and the media about the destruction of valuable plants. He said that eight herdsmen, the Kyzyl-Tuu village residents, willfully turn six herds of horses and 20 cattle out to grass in the reserve.
On the request to drive the cattle away, more than hundred horsemen arrived and threatened to fight and call on other Kyzyl-Tuu villagers for the support. Naturally, employees of the reserve could not resist the aggressive and numerous Kyzyl-Tuu residents.
The reserve staff applied to local authorities and the prosecutor's office.
It is bizarre that at first the local administration tried to persuade the reserve management to allocate part of the reserve for summer grazing. Not one of local authorities spoke about the violation of the protected territory or punishment for breaking the law.
The issue was discussed for about ten days, and during this time horses and cows continued to graze on the unique areas and trample down the valuable plants listed as endangered. Moreover, each day the number of animals increased.
Thanks to journalists and the reserve management the situation in Sary-Chelek was widely debated in the country.
The mitigation progressed after the Government and Parliament paid attention to the incident. MPs stressed that the reserve belongs to the protected areas and the law provides the responsibility of local authorities for allowing violations of environmental regulations.
Chief of the Government’s Office and ex-Minister of Agriculture, Torogul Bekov, promised to send the heads of relevant agencies to the reserve. He stressed that in order to protect Sary-Chelek, a special directorate and chasseur service would be established. He instructed to tighten control over the reserves.
The State Agency for Environment and Forestry organized a competent commission which included local officials. At the meetings with local residents they explained that Sary-Chelek is a buffer zone, and it is illegal to break the boundaries of the reserve and to use its territory for grazing animals.
According to Jundubaev, the Kyzyl-Tuu villagers were granted other pastures on favorable terms.
Damage & punishment
Twelve shepherds will be punished for violating the Law on protected natural areas, said Jundubaev.
According to the reserve management, the damage from grazing at Sary-Chelek amounted to about 500 thousand soms ($10,600). They calculated only the amount of the fine for grazing per one day. To calculate the damage caused to valuable plants, it is needed to determine how many acres have been trampled and which plants have suffered.
There are suggestions that the violations were initiated not by the shepherds but a few wealthy residents of the village that have a lot of cattle. Undoubtedly, it is easier to turn cattle out to graze on the fertile fields nearby rather than travel to mountains to remote jailoos.