Developing a Modern «Smart» Metropolis

6/2019

     – Dear Jakhongir Abidovich, it has been a year and a half since you were appointed head of Tashkent city. Is it hard for a businessman to become a mayor? What skills of a successful businessman help in managing a huge city?
     – I can answer your question in one word: it is hard. In business, one risks own property, business reputation and the final result affects the businessman.
Khokim must solve a set of problems. This includes solving social problems, improving social and living conditions of citizens, ensuring high-quality work of engineering communications, roads, construction of new facilities, taking care of investments in the city, the budget and much more. It is impossible to prioritize the directions, and each of them requires a solution.
     – The management style of a businessman is significantly different from the style of an official, because entrepreneurs have direct communication with subordinates. How has the management structure of the Khokimiyat administration changed under your leadership?
     – You have correctly noticed that the principle of direct communication works very effectively in business. But I would also add that a businessman should be able to delegate the powers, be able to trust.
     The structure of Tashkent Khokimiyat provides for 8 sectors headed by Deputy Khokims by profiles, the administration of the Khokim, as well as 11 khokims of districts of the capital.
     We regularly discuss the main tasks with the deputies in an informal setting, generate ideas, form a position on any issues, think about solving problems. This is an important aspect of the activity when decisions are made by the team, because then they are more thoughtful and correct.
During my work, we revised the structure of the Khokimiyat, opened new departments and offices. We have also established a Public Council under the Khokimiyat to ensure a lively dialogue with people.
     – Today Tashkent looks like one big construction site. New subway lines, roads, business centers and other facilities in various parts of the city are under construction. All this requires huge both human and production and technical resources. How does the Khokimiyat address the lack of these resources?
     – Yes, Tashkent is experiencing a real construction boom today. And this is not just a fashion statement, but an objective reality – there is a certain demand for changes in the city, for the construction of new facilities. After all, in recent years, Tashkent began to experience an acute shortage of new roads and interchanges, public transportation was in crisis, the problem of shortage of affordable housing for young families and socially vulnerable segments of the population became more and more noticeable. Now the country’s leadership pays great attention to the process of modernization of the Republic, including Tashkent.
     As for the provision of large construction sites with the required resources, it is necessary to clearly separate the facilities being funded from the Republican and city budgets (metro, roads, transportation interchanges) from the facilities being funded by private investors (new residential and commercial complexes, business centers, production and service enterprises). Of course, the state-funded sites have all the necessary resources. And the provision of resources at private facilities should be monitored by investors themselves. At the same time, the government is doing everything possible to ensure that construction does not stop and all buildings and infrastructure facilities under construction are delivered on time.
     – Urbanization involves the active development of modern facilities: will the old districts of the city – mahallas, which are important for maintaining the uniqueness and history of the city be preserved?
     – A very relevant question. Today Tashkent is the largest metropolis in Central Asia and one of the most populous cities in the CIS. According to experts, the permanent population of Tashkent is almost 3 million people. In addition, a significant number of people come to Tashkent every day – for work, business, study, personal affairs and as tourists. Given these factors, we must make the city comfortable for every category of citizens. I am a supporter of the preservation of historical monuments in Tashkent, as they store our rich and diverse culture. But at the same time, we must not deny that the city must develop in parallel with the population growth.
     Of course, the city administration is faced with the task of studying the issue of development of the city not only up, but also in breadth. This year the English Bureau Benoy published its concept of Tashkent development. As part of the concept, it is planned to expand the territory of Tashkent by almost 1.8 times to the North-East and thus increase the capacity of the city by another 2-2.5 million people. I would like to note that this issue is still being worked out, but if we want to avoid transportation collapse and social crisis in the future, we must avoid excessive centralization of Tashkent, since most of the business and commercial premises are located within the Nurafshon Ring Road. We should focus on creating a city with several centers. This will allow to evenly distribute the load throughout the city.
     – While having large facilities built it is necessary to solve many problems, including the most pressing one for the population — the demolition of old housing. Has the optimum approach satisfying the residents been found to solve this issue?
     – Tashkent is developing, Tashkent is growing. The wellbeing of people is improving, the number of cars is increasing, the birth rate is growing. In this regard, we are faced with the task of creating new jobs, building new apartment buildings, kindergartens, schools, infrastructure renovation in all parts of the city.
However, the area of the city does not increase according to population growth, Tashkent does not expand. That is why it is impossible to build new facilities without demolition. I can confidently say that the main reason for discontent of the population during the demolition is the amount of compensation issued. But if owners are given compensation equal to the real market value of the property, they almost always agree to demolition.
     – During the preparation of the issue dedicated to Uzbek-French relations, we met with the management of the French company Suez, which is taking part in the modernization of water supply and drainage systems in Uzbekistan. The company informed about the interaction with municipal structures. How is the process of upgrading these systems at the moment?
     – Over the past years, the water supply and drainage system of Tashkent became seriously outdated and requires the fastest possible modernization. We studied the work of several companies, also analyzed the experience of other cities with a comparable area and similar to Tashkent indicators of population size and density and decided to cooperate with a French company. At the moment, negotiations are still underway. If we reach concrete agreements, the water supply system of Tashkent will be upgraded in the coming years. This means that the residents of the city will be provided with quality drinking water. In addition, we will be able to optimize the irrational consumption of water resources, improve the efficiency of watering plants of the capital, as well as improve the drainage system of the city.
     – Many megacities of the world create park zones which are “lungs” of the city. Are there plans to preserve the existing parks in the capital and create new ones?
     – In spring of this year, we held the campaign “Yashil Tashabbus-2019” (Green Initiative), within which active citizens planted 400 thousand trees. In October, Tashkent City Park was opened, where 3,500 trees and shrubs grow.
     Of course, the preservation of trees and shrubs, as well as increasing their number is one of the main priorities of Khokimiyat of Tashkent. It is very important for the environment of the region, when the population, entrepreneurs and large companies take the initiative of planting trees and shrubs.
     Very often residents criticize the administration for the lack of control of the problem of poaching. Yes, there are cases of illegal logging and abuse of authority when issuing permits. We have created a service that can be contacted through emergency number to report clearance. A mobile group was formed to look into each case of clearance.
     The moratorium on tree cutting announced by our President Shavkat Mirziyoyev from November 1 this year to December 31, 2020 is aimed at preserving the green cover of the city. The moratorium is mandatory for all. To implement the moratorium during the construction of buildings, trees falling into the pit zone will be transplanted and we have special equipment for this. Trees that do not fall into the pit area should be preserved.
     – Recently, you have been communicating a lot with your foreign colleagues – mayors of capitals. Will you tell us briefly about these meetings?
     – You are right, Tashkent is actively establishing contacts with other world capitals and megacities. In general, this is due to the new policy of Uzbekistan, which opens up to the world and foreign capital. Large cities are interested in cooperation with us. Relations with Moscow, Berlin, Seoul and other world capitals have been established. In recent months, a number of meetings have been held, in particular with the Vice-mayor of Vienna and the Mayor of Ankara. Such meetings are useful, for example, in terms of learning the experience and the latest developments in the field of urban planning and management.
     – You often visit the capitals and big cities of foreign countries. Which city development example is more applicable to Tashkent?
     – As I have already said, Tashkent must preserve its uniqueness and originality. But at the same time, we should not ignore modern urban development trends. Last year, we invited one of the leading companies CB “Strelka” to improve the urban environment and create public spaces. We are pleased with the result of cooperation, “Strelka” has given us a wealth of experience in the reconstruction of Tashkent in the spirit of modern urban trends. As for the example for development, I want to say that there are no ideal cities and therefore we should not copy someone’s experience. In my opinion, first of all we should soundly assess the mistakes – both our own and those made in other cities, and avoid their repetition in the future.
     – How do you see the new face of the future Tashkent?
     – Modern “smart” metropolis, where everything is created for a comfortable stay of people. Green fragrant city with a developed transportation system and an abundance of places for recreation and development of citizens and guests.
Blitz questions:
     – How can you describe Tashkent in one word?
     – Beloved city.
     – What is the main resource of the capital?
     – The main resource of Tashkent is our hardworking and proactive people who are ready to make efforts for the prosperity of our city every day. And we must support them in every possible way.
     – What is important in working as khokim?
     – Discipline, hard work, honesty, ability to find a compromise.
     – What is most valuable to you?
     – Family, love of Motherland, patriotism, honesty.
     – Your plans for the year 2020?
     – To continue working on the development of urban infrastructure, to support young talents, in particular, to introduce a special scholarship of the khokim of Tashkent for students, primarily of technical universities.

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