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BRIEF June 9, 2021

Climate and Environment (CLIENT) Program in Central Asia


  • Through cutting-edge innovative environmental and economic analytical approaches, the World Bank’s five-year Climate and Environment (CLIENT) Program supports Central Asia countries to achieve sustainable, resilient, and inclusive economic growth with a focus on:

    • climate resilience
    • resilient landscape restoration
    • urban air pollution management and circular economy
    • green, resilient, and inclusive COVID-19 recovery

    Under CLIENT, the World Bank supports Central Asia countries with shared borders and ecosystems to facilitate transboundary collaboration and catalyze joint actions to increase resilience to climate change impacts, restore landscapes, and protect lives and livelihoods. The CLIENT Program also aims to help rural communities in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to implement landscape restoration practices to reverse landscape degradation and desertification.

    Environmental Degradation in Central Asia

    In the last few decades, Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have made remarkable progress in alleviating poverty and achieving economic growth based on natural capital. However, in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, the extraction of oil and gas is rapidly depleting natural capital. In the natural resource-based economies of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, land use practices are also becoming unsustainable leading to soil erosion and degradation, water depletion, and decreased carbon sequestration potential.  Furthermore, these countries’ arid dry landscapes prone to desertification threaten the supply of transboundary water resources.

    Climate change further exacerbates environmental pressures and threatens progress made by Central Asian countries in reduction of poverty and achievement of shared prosperity. These environmental pressures include mountainous landscape deforestation and soil erosion, changing water balances linked to the drying Aral Sea, and resource-intensive production tied to increasing urban pollution.  

    Weather variability due to climate change also significantly contributes to the loss of arable land and increased landslides. Agricultural production has been reduced by up to one-third, creating food insecurity and constraining economic growth. This has a particularly severe impact on the rural poor who directly depend on the land for their survival and livelihood.

    Transition to a more green, resilient, and inclusive development

    With their endowment of natural resources and high biodiversity, Central Asia countries have the potential to transition to a greener, cleaner, and more resilient growth that is efficient in its use of natural resources, clean in that it minimizes pollution and environmental impacts, and resilient in that it accounts for natural hazards and the role of environmental management and natural capital in preventing physical disaster. Towards this goal, the World Bank’s CLIENT Analytical Program supports Central Asia countries through three pillars of activities.

    The CLIENT Analytical Program’s Pillars:

    Central Asia Climate and Environment Project: 3 pillars


  • Pillar 1. RESILAND CA+


    RESILAND plus program logo
     Drylands in Central Asia are one of the most rapidly degrading and climate-vulnerable areas in the world. A mix of natural arid conditions and increasing pressures from human activity such as converting land to intensified commercial agriculture, logging, and pasturing, have led to land degradation, erosion, and loss of vegetation cover. This, in turn, has affected the productivity of agriculture, the resilience of transport/infrastructure, and the potential for tourism development, while increasing the fragility of the region.

    The region is increasingly exposed to intense weather events and natural disasters, which further degrade the landscapes, the living conditions, and the economic opportunities of people. Climate change impacts are expected to worsen the condition of countries’ natural resources and the overall resilience of their populations and ecosystems.

    Resilient Landscapes in Central Asia (RESILAND CA+) seeks to help affected rural communities across Central Asia in restoring landscapes, protecting lives and livelihoods, and increasing resilience to further desertification, landscape degradation and climate change. The program focuses on two distinctly different, yet very vulnerable areas: the Aral Seabed and the degraded mountain landscapes across Central Asia. RESILAND CA + also aims to catalyze transboundary collaboration across Central Asia’s shared borders and ecosystems for improved connectivity of natural resources and increased resilience of transboundary communities and regional infrastructure against the impacts of land degradation, and greenhouse gas mitigation.

    To address these objectives, RESILAND CA+ is implemented with a two-pronged approach comprised of:

    • technical assistance provided by the World Bank with support from executed funds, including GEF, CAWEP,  PROGREENWAVES, and PROFOR multi-donor trust funds, and
    • an investment program that national governments implement with support from low-interest financing from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and recipient executed trust funds.

    The following projects under RESILAND CA+ include technical assistance to strengthen the countries’ capacity in identifying and implementing innovative landscape management and restoration approaches.

    • The Economic Valuation of the Aral Seabed Restoration through Planting of Saxaul Trees for Environmental Stabilization in Uzbekistan. The Aral Sea is one of the greatest environmental disasters in the
      The Value of Landscape Restoration in Uzbekistan cover
      world. It has shrunk to about 10% of its original size. The Aral Sea is now mostly a salt desert exposing pesticides and herbicides deposited in past decades in its seabed.  The dust and sand storms originating from the dry seabed carry millions of tons of salt, dust, and pollutants across hundreds of miles negatively impacting air and water quality and people’s health. This study examines how restoring the degraded Aral Sea basin by planting of salt- and drought-resistant saxaul trees -- a species native to Central Asia -- can contribute to reduced air pollution and improved human health and livelihoods.

    Sand and dust storm in the Aral Sea. Before and After pictures
    Mapping and Valuing Ecosystems Services, and Prioritizing Investments in Select Watersheds in Tajikistan to support Sustainable Hydropower

    • The Economic Valuation of Landscape Restoration in the Mountains of Tajikistan. Major mountains of 
      Asia,  including the Pamir and Tian Shan ranges, extend across regions of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.  For the rural populations residing in these upland and mountainous areas, agriculture is the principal source of income.  Yet, land degradation exacerbated by climate change causes decreased agricultural productivity, water pollution, and sedimentation. It also leads to increased occurrence of natural disasters, destruction of infrastructure, and loss of life. In Tajikistan, the mountainous terrain and peaks above 6,000 m have made the country a hydropower net exporter in Central Asia generating 90% of the country's electric power. This project evaluates  economic costs of environmental degradation associated with hydroelectric dams located along Tajikistan’s Vaksh River – an area prone to land degradation caused by sedimentation and soil erosion and estimates losses in agricultural productivity and damage to roads and hydropower stemming from land degradation and the benefits of alternative strategies. In the second phase (pending confirmation of donor funding), a similar analysis will be completed in the Kyrgyz Republic.
    • Mapping and Valuing Ecosystems Services, and Prioritizing Investments in Select Watersheds in  Tajikistan to support Sustainable Hydropower. In Tajikistan, the mountainous terrain and peaks above 6,000m 
      hydroelectric dams located along Tajikistan’s Vaksh River
      have made the country a hydropower net exporter in Central Asia generating 90% of the country's electric power. This project evaluates economic costs of environmental degradation associated with hydroelectric dams located along Tajikistan’s Vaksh River – an area prone to land degradation caused by sedimentation and soil erosion and estimates losses in agricultural productivity and damage to roads and hydropower stemming from land degradation and the benefits of alternative strategies. In the second phase (pending confirmation of donor funding), a similar analysis will be completed in the Kyrgyz Republic
    • The Economics of Landscape Restoration: Opportunities at the National Level for Sustainable Hydropower in the Kyrgyz Republic. The largest in the country, the Toktogul dam hydroelectric power plant and 
      Dam in Central Asia
      reservoir on the Naryn River, hold great national importance. The objective of the Study on Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) in the Watershed of Toktogul Reservoir is to evaluate potential measures for integrated landscape restoration and catchment area management to reduce sediment inflows into the reservoir, which negatively impact the hydroelectric power plant’s energy production and safety. The study is expected to strengthen the capacities of the national partners to quantify costs and benefits of restoration interventions, expand the area under sustainable landscape management,  and promote collaboration on integrated and transboundary landscape restoration among various institutions in the Kyrgyz Republic and among Central Asian countries. 
    • Kazakhstan Resilient Landscapes Restoration Project is implemented as part of Sustainable Forest  Management Impact Program on Dryland Sustainable Landscapes financed by the seventh replenishment of 
      GEF. The $4.34 million project aims to prevent, reduce, and reverse further degradation, desertification, and deforestation of land and dryland ecosystems in drylands through the sustainable management of production landscapes

    The Kazakhstan RESILAND project supports piloting of community- and farmer-centered landscape restoration based on planting of drought-resistant species of trees and shrubs and establishing agroforestry and landscape restoration demonstration sites that utilize fast-growing fruit trees for fruit production and pasturelands for livestock production. The project also engages communities in afforestation efforts around villages to provide protection from sand and dust storms or along main roads for land stabilization.

    Additionally, the project aims to build capacity of Kazakhstan’s institutions in integrated landscape management. This includes:

     - mapping and surveying of the Dry Aral Seabed for continued long-term afforestation of the degraded area;

     - establishing a gene bank of forest species’ seeds for scientific and research purposes; and

     - inventory of unaccounted forest to assess the extent of land degradation in Kazakhstan.

    To further strengthen forest management capacity and ensure sustainable forest harvesting, forest management plans on selected areas of newly accounted forest in south and southwestern Kazakhstan (Kyzylorda and Zhambyl regions) will be developed and technical assistance will be provided to Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources to advance landscape restoration policies and legislation. In addition to supporting collaboration among stakeholders on the national level, the project facilitates regional cooperation among Central Asian countries and knowledge exchange under the GEF Drylands Impact Program.

    Building on the success of these activities, the World Bank is currently working with countries’ governments on the design of new initiatives in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. These activities will help restore landscapes across boundaries, protect lives and livelihoods, promote ecotourism, and increase the resilience of people and places against climate change and natural disasters.



    The Global Disruptive Tech Challenge 2021: Restoring Landscapes in the Aral Sea Region

    Investing in Mountain Economies ot Make People and Places More Resilient

    Protecting Central Asia’s mountains and landscapes to transform people’s lives and livelihoods

    Restoring Uzbekistan’s landscapes: Lessons from a virtual field trip

    In Search of a Desert Oasis: Innovative Projects Imagine a Promising Future for the Aral Sea and Central Asian Drylands

    Global Disruptive Tech Challenge 2021: Restoring Landscapes in the Aral Sea Region

  • Pillar 2. Circular Economy and Pollution Management for Green Growth

    Green growth provides economic development and job creation while enhancing environmental sustainability, innovation, and long-term competitiveness. Establishing a circular economy is a fundamental step in climate change adaptation, achieving green growth, and supporting sustainable development. 

    Poor practices in extractive and industrial activities leads to resource depletion, inadequate energy efficiency, waste, and pollution. Circular economy is an economic development model designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. The principles are not just based on minimizing waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but also on improving longevity of products and materials and regenerating natural systems. By using fewer resources, the circular economy reduces costs, waste, and GHG emissions while building resilient ecosystems and livelihoods.

    Supported by Korea Green Growth Trust Fund (KGGTF) and NDC Support Facility under this pillar, the World Bank has partnered with Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Uzbekistan in implementing the circular economy approaches in resource-intensive and polluting sectors that are in line with these countries’ green growth goals and the EU’s circular economy strategy.

    The World Bank works with:

    • Kazakhstan to develop an integrated approach to climate change mitigation and air pollution reduction in the use of fossil fuels through policy dialogue, knowledge sharing, and technical assistance to close knowledge gaps and provide policy and institutional action recommendations.
    • Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to develop circular economy action plans and capacity building tools to facilitate knowledge exchange, and promote policy dialogue on circular economy approaches. The action
      Clean Air and Cool Planet Cover
      plans will identify innovative solutions to improve resource efficiency and reduce waste and pollution in selected sectors, as well as assess technological, institutional, policy, financial and market barriers to their adoption. A recent World Bank study carried out as part of this pillar provides an overview of air quality and main emission sources in Kazakhstan, assesses air pollution and climate change interactions, and presents the least-cost measures to reduce air pollution exposure and their impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. It also analyzes the country’s air pollution and climate change policies and provides recommendations on integrated air quality management and climate change mitigation and future work. Detailed modeling to identify cost-effective technical measures and policy actions to reduce air pollution exposure for Kazakhstan’s cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan will follow the study.
    • The Kyrgyz Republic to improve air quality in the capital city of Bishkek and reduce health risks posed by air pollution. This effort identifies measures and investment areas to address air quality issues in Bishkek. It aims to assist for the Kyrgyz Republic Government in developing Air Quality Improvement Master Plan and priority pre-feasibility studies in the Energy, Waste, and Urban Development sectors, among others, while fostering a dialogue among stakeholders and establishing an IT-based knowledge management on air quality monitoring. 


    Five steps for cleaner air in Central Asia

  • Pillar 3. Communication for Climate and Awareness – C4CA

    Transitioning to green, clean, and resilient growth requires a paradigm shift not only in government but also in society. Social change occurs when awareness evolves to understanding and, ultimately, action. C4CA supports these steps by engaging with policymakers, civil society, media, youth, and affected communities to raise awareness and advocacy for Climate Resilience and Green Growth towards achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Activities under this pillar also facilitate a regional dialogue and knowledge exchange on transboundary climate issues, green growth, circular economy, and air pollution and GHG emissions.

    With support from the Bank’s CAWEP and CAMP4ASB, the C4CA works to build a shared understanding of possible solutions for resilient landscape restoration and urban air pollution management and to promote the adoption of climate resilience and circular economy models for green growth while ensuring green, resilient and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 impacts. The C4CA has reached millions in Central Asia and globally with key messaging on climate and environmental issues while promoting Central Asia on a global environmental forum and reaching non-traditional stakeholders.

    Smiling and waving kids form Central Asia

    The C4CA’s communication, innovation, and knowledge management activities include:

    Further exacerbated by the climate change, the drying Aral Sea has impacted the environmental, social, and economic well-being of four million people in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The project supported a series of knowledge-sharing events and a competition seeking innovative technologies and approaches for landscape restoration in the Aral Sea basin and in Central Asia drylands. Innovators from 38 countries across five continents submitted 159 proposals to the competition, which culminated in a virtual awards ceremony. Winners were recognized with monetary awards and an opportunity to be mentored by leading experts from the World Bank and Plug and Play. More than one million were reached with key messaging on climate change impacts and resilient landscape restoration in Central Asia. Find out more about the challenge competition winners from Central Asia.

    • Piloting AnchorEd Schools as a Model for Resilience in Central Asia. This feasibility study implemented in partnership with AnchorEd and University of Central Asia aims to raise awareness in climate change, pollution, and
      landscape restoration practices among Tajikistan’s rural youth and women. Using the Anchor Schools Project model tailored to specific needs of rural communities in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, the study aims to provide insights into how building awareness and engagement of these environmental issues among youth (aged 15-25 years) can contribute to community-driven actions towards climate resilience, green growth, and achievement of SDGs.
    • Regional and international knowledge sharing to address landscape degradation in the Central Asian drylands and mountains and promote landscape restoration management practices in rural communities.

    • Strategic Communications and media engagement

    Find out more about the Global Disruptive Challenge: 

    The Global Disruptive Tech Challenge 2021: Restoring Landscapes in the Aral Sea Region

    In Search of a Desert Oasis: Innovative Projects Imagine a Promising Future for the Aral Sea and Central Asian Drylands

    Restoring Landscapes: Lessons from a Virtual Trip

    Uzbekistan Policy Dialogues: Green Growth and Climate Change (August 20, 2021 - January 27, 2022)

    PRESS RELEASE: Policy Dialogue Series Aims to Accelerate Uzbekistan’s Transition to a Green Economy

The CLIENT Program is supported by PROGREEN, a global partnership that works on strengthening the management of forests, promoting sustainable agriculture to reduce deforestation and land degradation, and seeking to lessen the impact of sectors such as infrastructure, transport and mining on the land.