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Environmental Performance Review of Turkmenistan reveals soil salinity, waterlogging, land degradation and biodiversity loss are top environmental challenges for the country

Published: 21 December 2012

The Environmental Performance Review of Turkmenistan, performed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), takes stock of progress made by Turkmenistan since 2000 in 13 areas of importance to the country related to environmental policy making, implementation and financing, climate change, water, air quality, waste, energy, biodiversity conservation, forestry, land management and cooperation with other countries on the environment. While necessary actions were taken to address environmental issues, some challenges remain: the salinization of irrigated lands, desertification and biodiversity loss remain the most pressing challenges for Turkmenistan according to the review published this week.

Turkmenistan has experienced sustained economic growth over the past decade, mainly owing to the production and export of hydrocarbons, especially natural gas. According to official statistics, real gross domestic product rose at an average annual rate of nearly 13% during 2000–2010, and average real per capita income has tripled over this period to reach USD 6,611.

Turkmenistan started developing its environment-related strategies and programmes in early 2000. Priority areas of the State policy are protection of atmospheric air, development of “green belts”, protection of water, land and forest resources, and conservation of biodiversity. Turkmenistan is currently party to 11 international environmental treaties and is making efforts to bring its legislation in line with its international obligations. Among the recent achievements is the accession by Turkmenistan to the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes in August 2012.

Water management is one of the key issues for Turkmenistan. Almost 90% of its water resources go to irrigation. Irrigation water often does not meet the State standards for mineral content, and chlorides and sulphates are excessive. This has led to salinization of more than 60% of agricultural land.

Significant water losses together with the extensive use of old irrigation technology, which uses increasing amounts of water, induces water logging. The free allocation of water for agricultural use does not provide any incentives for water-saving practices. Waterlogging and salinization has resulted in a decline in crop yield of some 25% in the past decade.

The biodiversity and high-value ecosystems of Turkmenistan are under threat from desertification, land degradation and overexploitation. The decline of sturgeon, Caspian seal and leopard populations in the country are the most striking examples. Many natural forests (e.g., saxaul, tugai, pistachio and juniper forests) have been significantly reduced and degraded in the recent past.

The Review concludes with a set of 67 recommendations to the country to improve management of its environment, to better integrate the goals of sustainable development into sectoral policies, to promote greater accountability to the public and to strengthen cooperation with the international community. The recommendations were approved by the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy.

The Review and its highlights are available online at

For more information on the Review Programme, please visit:

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Note to editors

In 1993, at the Second “Environment for Europe” Ministerial Conference, ministers requested UNECE to undertake Environmental Performance Reviews in countries that were not Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members. By 2004, the first cycle of reviews was completed (with the exception of Turkmenistan). UNECE is now finalizing the second round of Reviews, taking stock of the progress made since the first review, and putting particular emphasis on policy implementation, integration and financing, and the socio-economic interface with the environment.

At the seventh “Environment for Europe” Ministerial Conference in Astana in September 2011, ministers invited UNECE to conduct the third cycle of Reviews, which may additionally look at environmental governance and financing in a green economy context, and environmental mainstreaming in priority sectors.


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