One citizen, one sapling

March 28th, 2016 Sections: Bishkek, Plants
Bishkek was once hailed as the Greenest City on Earth

Bishkek was once hailed as the Greenest City on Earth

It used to be said that Bishkek was the “Greenest city on Earth” with its parks, tree lined boulevards, open spaces between the apartment blocks … and even in the garden at our hotel in Bishkek, the Silk Road Lodge, we have over 50 trees of different types, sizes and age.

This was largely due to efforts of the the early Russian settlers, such as Alexei Fetisov and the military engineers who drew up the plans for the city when the administrative center was moved here from Tokmok following devastating floods in 1878.

These, days, however, the title has been conceded.

In the days of the Soviet Union, for example, it was estimated that there were about 100 square meters of greenery for every citizen living in the city, compared to a recommended figure of just 24 square meters, but the equivalent figure today is said to be just 6.4 square meters.

One reason for this is the rapid development in the city … which has also encroached on some of the once extensive parks in the city.

Well there’s now a campaign to try and encourage the local population to plant tree saplings – not just in the capital, but throughout the republic -under the slogan, One citizen, one sapling.

So far, it was announced last week, already more than a million trees have been planted as part of the campaign.

Although it is a nationwide campaign, Bishkek is leading the efforts with more than 320,000 trees and shrubs, followed by the Batken oblast – with a quarter of million saplings.  Slightly less impressive were the efforts of the Issyk-Kul and Talas oblasts with just 3,000 plants , (and it wasn’t clear, to me at least, if that was ‘each’ or a combined total).

There’s a long way to go in order to achieve the slogan’s target, which implies planting more than six millions seedlings, “by the end of 2016” (!)

Some of the efforts have been ‘high profile’ events, involving the participation of celebrities, like the Mayor of Bishkek and a selection of City Councillors, (Deputies of the City Kenesh), who were planting Fir trees last week in one of Bishkek’s suburbs.  Others, on the other hand, have been completed as part of the everyday work of the agencies like Zelenstroi who are responsible for the maintenance of upkeep of the city’s “green areas”.

I do hope that some thought has been given to the question of the care, maintenance and upkeep of the saplings … or else it could be a futile exercise.

It’s not a trivial question … Not long ago there was some controversy over a number of saplings of special ornamental trees that had been donated by Japan, and planted by no less a personage as the President, Almazbek Atambaev, which, within weeks, had apparently been damaged or had disappeared.  Other problems exists, however, as many (most) of Bishkek’s Oak trees have suffered  from a particular blight.


This isn’t the first such project … although it may be the most ambitious to date.  A couple of years ago, one of the banks, (The Kyrgyz Credit and Investment Bank), launched a project encouraging the population and businesses to plant trees; and there have been campaigns to plant trees to replace those lost when plots of land in some of the city’s parks, (especially Ataturk park in the southern part of the city), were sold off for housing projects.

Outside of Bishkek, several international aid agencies and non-governmental organizations are involved in projects under the Global Trees Campaign, aimed at helping to protect and preserve Kyrgyzstan’s trees … including the walnut forests of Aslan Bob and the wild ancient fruit forests across Central Asia – including the indigenous progenitors of Apples and Pears – which have been identified by Flora and Fauna International (FFI) as endangered, with something like 90% disappearing over the last 50 years as a result of “excess logging, human development, pests, diseases, overgrazing, desertification and fires”.

One famous stretch of road, just outside Cholpon Ata on the northern shores of Lake Issyk Kul, was in the news recently because the trees that lined it were reported to be endangered due to a road widening scheme – and leading to an intervention by the Prime Minister who apparently pledged to preserve the avenue.


In another report last week, it emerged that Bishkek is to get a new park, (at the intersection of Akhunbaeva and Shabdan Baatyr Streets.

Back in 2006, when the general plan of the city was approved, this area of just under a hectare was designated for a public garden with trees, lawns, pathways, benches and a fountain in the center.  Construction, financed by the city and the President’s administration is planned to be completed in August this year.


The One citizen, one sapling campaign seems worthwhile if a bit ambitious, but not as ambitious as Ireland’s One Million trees in one day project, which aims to plant a million saplings across the island (both North and South of the border separating the Republic of Eire and the British province of Northern Ireland – Ulster) in a twenty four hour period sometime next year.

Apparently, they have already planted some 650,000 trees at over 1500 sites in trial runs since 2013.


Incidentally, it’s just a coincidence, but before the name was changed to Bishkek, the city was known as Frunze, after the famous Red Army General – Mikhail Frunze – who was born in the city, the son of a Moldovian Doctor … and, apparently, in Moldovian Frunze means Green Leaf.


There is one comment. to “One citizen, one sapling”

  1. ian
    March 28th, 2016 at 10:39

    For the record: This was reported today …

    In Bishkek there is to be a complete inventory of trees

    In Bishkek there is to be a complete inventory of all trees conducted under the personal supervision of the mayor, the press service of City Hall reported today.

    According to it, the municipality has established a commission from among emergency workers, the city hall service, the Chui-Bishkek Territorial Department of Environmental Protection and Gosekotehinspektsii (The State Technical Inspection Service) to study the reasons why a tree fell at the intersection of Turusbekova and Chui on the evening of March 27th, 2016.

    Bishkek Mayor, Albekov Ibraimov, instructed to promptly organize aid for the family of the deceased.

    Recall a tree fell at about 19.00 near school №2, crushing a parked car and a passing car, the driver of died as a result.

    The URL:

    (The original article is in Russian – I have paraphrased it in English).

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