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ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan – (AFP) – The ex-Soviet state of Turkmenistan announced on Saturday a new campaign to plant three million tree saplings this year with the aim of transforming the desert Central Asian nation into a “blooming garden”.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov signed a decree ordering ministers to plant the three million trees in 2013 alone, government newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan said on Saturday.
The tree-planting would be carried out with the aim of “transforming our country into a blooming garden and further enriching its beautiful nature in the era of power and happiness,” Berdymukhamedov was quoted as saying in the decree.
According to the plan, 1.5 million saplings would be planted in the capital Ashgabat and its surroundings and another 1.5 million in different areas of the vast state. Local authorities have been tasked with ensuring the trees are properly watered through irrigation canals.
Eighty percent of Turkmenistan’s territory is taken up by the Karakum desert, one of the biggest deserts on the world, with the capital Ashgabat located on its southern fringe close to the border with Iran.
The country is already battling creeping desertification and last year launched a smaller-scale drive to plant trees and plants around the Sarykamysh Lake which has suffered from the same ecological problems as the depleted Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Berdymukhamedov has embarked on a multi-billion dollar construction drive using the revenues from gas exports to adorn the capital Ashgabat with brand new architecture. Critics say he has made little progress on political reform in the isolated state.