Welcome speech of UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Kazakhstan at the Round Table on the impact of linear infrastructure on the migration of wild animals

June 12, 2024
Photo: UNDP Kazakhstan

Dear participants,

Let me welcome you on behalf of the UN Development Program to this very important and significant event for all of us. 

As we all know, the world's natural capital underpins sustainable development and provides the ecosystem services without which life is impossible. Half of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are inseparable from nature and are closely linked to the healthy functioning of ecosystems. 

Unfortunately, the world today faces a multi-dimensional planetary crisis related to nature loss, climate change, poverty, and inequality. The stability and sustainability of the ecological system that supports life on Earth is under threat.

Loss of ecosystem services could reduce global GDP by US$2.7 trillion by 2030, with higher impacts in low- and lower-middle-income countries, while global warming trends continue to accelerate.

In response to these global challenges, in December 2022, the world community adopted a policy document in support of global biological diversity - Kunming-Montreal Framework.

According to this document, member state to the Biodiversity Convention have committed to fully integrating biodiversity issues into policies, regulations, planning and development processes, and environmental impact assessments at all levels of government and in all sectors by 2030.

Kazakhstan has a huge diversity of ecosystems and species. More than ten percent of the country's territory is covered by protected natural areas. More than 90 percent of the world's saiga population is concentrated here, migrating mainly in central and western Kazakhstan. 

In the mountainous regions of the country live the snow leopard, argali, and in the desert regions - gazelle, which migrate between their habitats. All of these animals are indicator species that reflect the health of ecosystems.

At the same time, Kazakhstan is an industrial country and its favorable geographical position gives its territory high transit and logistics potential. The largest international transport corridors pass through the country, connecting the western and eastern regions (Europe-Asia), northern and southern regions (Europe-India). The development of linear infrastructure in the near future is inevitable and will grow every year.

In this context, it is more important than ever for us to take into account the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife when planning and implementing large infrastructure projects, including the construction of highways and railways.

The UN Development Program in Kazakhstan has been a key partner of the national Government in matters of biodiversity conservation for 20 years. Since 2004, UNDP, with financial support from the Global Environment Fund, as well as through related grants from the Government of Kazakhstan, has implemented 10 large-scale initiatives in this area and attracted more than $29 million in direct investment. 

Within international grant projects, ten new protected natural areas were created and the territory of six existing ones was expanded, the total area of which is almost 3.5 million hectares. To preserve the migration routes of wild animals, two ecological corridors were created for the first time - “Yrgyz-Torgai-Zhylanshik” in the Kostanay Region and “Kapshagai-Balkhash” in the Almaty and Zhetysu regions.

Separately, it can be noted that UNDP pays great attention to establishing partnerships and integrating new financial mechanisms into the practice of biodiversity conservation. Thus, more than $700,000 has been mobilized from business as part of the BIOFIN initiative for the conservation and sustainable management of unaccounted forests in the East Kazakhstan and Pavlodar regions.

Currently, with the support of UNDP, a new National strategic document in the field of biodiversity conservation is under development with the participation of international and national experts. This is a unique opportunity to lay the foundation for the development of soft “environmentally friendly” linear infrastructure that does not threaten migration and habitats of valuable animal species.

We really hope that the relevant experts in the field of wildlife, biodiversity, road and railway management, road construction, as well as representatives of environmental non-governmental organizations present today will be able to bring their constructive proposals to this Strategy.

In conclusion, let me wish you a productive discussion and exchange of views and success in your future efforts.

Thank you for your attention.