After many inquiries, I found out that it would be legally and technically possible to illustrate this blog. Still, electricity cuts, a slow internet connection and a stubborn computer made posting these few pictures an ordeal. So, please feel obliged to enjoy them.
This is the sunken garden in the courtyard of our house. Apparently, a local notable built it, decided he didn't like it, and rented it out to our project. The little platform hanging over the garden is the taptjan, an Uzbek classic, a place to drink tea and talk in the evening, arguably the best part of the home. Some flowers adorn the garden, but mostly, it is functional, tended by the father of the owner, an old man fond of over- irrigating the vegetables, and, doing so, making it impossible to take a shower or flushing a toilet. Natural resource governance...
A first impression of Ashirmat, the village west of Urgench where I try to get a more fine- grained picture of land-use change. This is an irrigation canal, with wild reed -left- right next to a carefully cultivated rice paddy, nested in the canal bed. Ashirmat is on the Turkmen border, far from the river and therefore water security, so every square inch that can used, will be used. Farmers prefer rice over cotton, because they can eat or sell it, but, unfortunately, rice requires much, much more water.
Ashirmat is a former Kolkhoz, a collective farm now privatized. There is a village, and several clusters of homes on higher ground, lining irrigation canals and roads. It looks like these built-up streets are following natural sand ridges that were raised, straightened and leveled by the Soviets, to keep pipes and drains out of reach from the high ground water, always a problem here.
What you see here is the edge of that engineered landscape, sloping down to a lush, densely planted garden.