Natural Hazard Risk
Uzbekistan is exposed to earthquakes, drought, flooding, mudslides, and landslides. Over 9 percent of its total land area is at risk from natural and man-made disaster, with nearly 66 percent of the population living in these areas and 65.5 percent of the national GDP earned in them. Among all natural hazards, earthquakes cause the largest economic losses. In the last century, five notable seismic events caused widespread damage and casualties. This includes a 1966 magnitude 5.0 earthquake, which destroyed the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, affected 100,000 people, and resulted in $300 million in economic losses.
Due to Uzbekistan’s mountainous landscape and abundance of rivers, the population living in mountainous areas are also exposed to a high risk of landslides and mud flows, often triggered by earthquakes. Further, according to GFDRR-supported analysis, a probabilistically rare but extremely high-impact flood could affect two million people and cause capital losses equal to 5 percent of the country’s GDP.
Climate change, according to the World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework for Uzbekistan, is producing higher temperatures, greater variability in precipitation, and increased frequency of extreme weather events. These events increase the pressure on water, land, biodiversity, and ecosystems.
Uzbekistan recognizes its vulnerability to natural disasters and has taken important steps to manage disaster risks. Following the Tashkent earthquake in 1966, the government established the Institute of Seismology of Uzbekistan to forecast future earthquakes. In 1996, the Ministry of Emergency Situations was established to protect the population and coordinate efforts in disaster risk management (DRM). In 2006, the government adopted a State Program on Earthquake Risk Reduction and in 2011, established a program to prepare earthquake impacts. In 2015, the program opened the Earthquake Simulation Complex at the Institute of Civil Defense in Tashkent.
To build on its DRM accomplishments, the government’s priorities include:
- Increasing climate resilience through the efficient use of water, land, and energy resources;
- Continuing to reduce seismic risks, particularly for priority buildings in Tashkent; and,
- Improving information on seismic risk identification in order to make risk-informed investment and planning decisions.
GFDRR began supporting disaster resilience efforts in Uzbekistan in 2009 at the regional level. GFDRR supported preparatory work, which laid the basis for the Central Asia Hydrometeorology Modernization Project, a $27.7 million World Bank project to strengthen trans-boundary weather, climate, and hydrological service delivery to Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan.
GFDRR support has helped improve national and regional knowledge of seismic risks and best practices for mitigation. This includes supporting the 2014 Central Asia Knowledge Forum, where Uzbekistan was a key participant and the 2015 Central Asia Earthquake Risk Reduction Forum to stimulate dialogue among Central Asian countries, including government officials from Uzbekistan, regarding the status of seismic risk in each country, on-going reduction and mitigation initiatives, and the needs and challenges each country faces.
GFDRR has also supported activities to help Uzbekistan better understand its seismic risks. In 2016, GFDRR’s Innovation Lab, together with the World Bank, developed quantitative country risk profiles for Uzbekistan and other Europe and Central Asian (ECA) countries to equip government decision-makers with more information about how floods and earthquakes are likely to impact people and the economy. This work is being followed by the development of a World Bank ECA Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Action Plan that will provide a framework for supporting disaster resilience building in the region on a long term basis. Meanwhile, GFDRR is supporting the first World Bank disaster risk management-focused program in Uzbekistan, which will enhance the DRM capacity of the Government of Uzbekistan to implement disaster preparedness measures and reduce the seismic risks of public facilities and infrastructure.
GFDRR’s DRM engagements in Uzbekistan are in the early stages. As such GFDRR anticipates continued demand from the Government of Uzbekistan in the following areas:
- Enhancing urban resilience and local capacity to manage seismic and climate-related risks;
- Improving the systems to gather and analyze hazard information;
- Modernizing early warning systems and improving weather forecasting; and,
- Investment planning to strengthen infrastructure, particularly public buildings and facilities, against earthquakes and to address likely climate change impacts.