Environmental Factors: The Aral Sea, half of which is in Uzbekistan, has been severely desiccated by overuse of its tributary rivers, a situation recognized as one of the world's worst environmental disasters. Enormous overdrafts on these rivers are caused by the extremely low efficiency of irrigation systems in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Without the moderating influence of the sea, winters became significantly colder and summers hotter. Vozrozhdeniye Island in the Aral Sea, now connected to the shore by shrinkage of the sea, contains the lethal remains of a Soviet anthrax weapons testing laboratory, most of which lies in Uzbekistani territory. Drinking water quality also is a major problem, especially in the western province of Karakalpakstan, where water is not properly distributed and sources are exposed to various types of surface and underground contamination. Inadequate sewage disposal adds to Uzbekistan's water pollution problem: only 40 percent of the population is served by sewerage systems. Some 15,000 hectares of pastureland are lost to salt and dust annually. Soil contamination is highest in agricultural areas that have been subjected to annual overdoses of fertilizers and pesticides. Uncontrolled timber cutting has endangered the few remaining stands of forest.
The main environmental protection agency, the State Committee for Nature Protection, nominally has responsibility for a wide variety of regulatory functions. However, like most of Uzbekistan’s ministries, it is outside the small decision-making circle of President Karimov.
Time Zone: Uzbekistan’s time zone is five hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.