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Tourism in Brichmulla-Nanai area

The overall objective of the EU-funded West Tien Shan Biodiversity Conservation Project is reduction of dependency on natural resources and threats to biodiversity through socio-economic development and improved self-governance within the West Tien Shan mountain regions of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The project has six components.

One of these aims at the development of sustainable livelihoods, and particularly attempts to create alternative income means from eco-tourism in ten selected areas in West Tien Shan. And one of the 10 areas is Brichmulla-Nanai tourist zone.


Location and geography. The Brichmulla-Nanai area incorporates villages situated in the south-east of the Charvak water reservoir at 960 m a.s.l. of western extremity of the Koksu ridge (West Tien Shan). The centre of tourism is village Brichmulla that occupies an area of 15,000 ha and has a population of 4,100 people. Populations of other villages in the area are as follows: Yakkatut - 3,100 people, Yanghikurgan - 700 people, Yusufhona - 500, Yubileiniy - 1,200, Baladala - 1,800, Bogus-tan - 2,000, and Nanai - 3,800 people. A great majority of population are ethnic tajiks.
The Brichmulla-Nanai area is a conventional tourism development area. The area is located in the Bostanlyk district (an administrative-territorial unit) of the Tashkent region.

Historical information. In middle Ages, mountain routes leading from Semerechie, Ferghana, Koksu valley, and Chatkal to Chach (Tashkent) converged on Brichmulla. The archaeologists say Brichmulla of that time was regarded as town (having a different name though) protected from three sides by the rivers. The steep banks served as a natural and reliable fortification line. Archaeologist and historian Server Ashirov noticed: "In the east the town was protected by defense wall remainer of which is 550 m long and up to 2.5 m high. A total area of the ancient settlement is about 16 ha".1

Located near Brichmulla, a ferry across the Chatkal river was functioning until 20th century. A narrow barely perceptible path leading to the river bank was noticed in south-eastern part of the ancient settlement. A passage tunneled by local people through the rock allowed them to descend to water in order to replenish water-supplies during the siege. The houses of citizens were made of paskhy (mixture of clay and hay) added to stones. The walls were up to half meter thick. The walls of fortification buildings were up to 1.5 thick. The village dates back to 6th century A.D. that is a period of the might of Turkic Khaganate (kingdom) in which the settlements and fortified castles began to appear in the foothills and mountainous area of Chirchik. Having been established as fortress to defend roads leading to the mountain area rich in various metals, Brichmulla play an important role. In 9th - 10th centuries the settlement turned into a town encompassed by the wall. A special manned fortification building was located in northern part of the town.

A majority of citizens was engaged in mining and metal processing. Craftsmen smelted and processed iron and copper. In the mountain areas of Koksu and Chatkal archaeologists and geologists found ancient courses associated with poly-metal ore mining. Arsenic, mineral paints and silver-lead ores were intensively mined out. Pebble enriched with hematite that was taken from the river-bed was used for mining out the iron. Furnaces with forced air supply bellows that were used for smelting iron were discovered, too.

Some archaeologists wonder what town was situated on the spot of current Brichmulla? There is a version that it was Ardlankent, the only mentioned town in the Chatkal valley of 10th century. However basic archaeological material found in the ancient settlement dates back to 11th - 12th centuries. This version has its opponents stating that Ardlankent is now Kulbeskan - a town located at mouth of the Aksu river and occupying an area of eight ha.

Being deserted by the 12th century, this town rose again at the end of the 14th - 16th centuries and from time to time decayed and thrived before the 18th century. Later it was eventually abandoned and after a while a new settlement - Brichmulla (Burch - a tower or a corner - probably because of a building located between the mountains) - was established on a little higher elevation. Later some residents of the settlement resettled to the village Yakkatut located on the right bank of Koksu river. The gold was mined out in the vicinity of Brichmulla in the 18th - 19th centuries. The process was very simple: they stretched a woolen carpet and put gold ore onto it. After that they streamed the ore to wash off the sand, while small pieces of gold remained in the pile of the carpet. Four men could make 10 - 30 zolotniks (4.96 g) or 42.7 to 128.1 g per day.

Population and economy. At present, Brichmulla has a population of 4,100 people, 750 families and 710 homesteads. There are 1,950 men and 2,150 - women. 2,500 people are 17 - 65 years old; 400 people are over 65 years old. More than 50% of the population is involved in public works, particularly khashar (a voluntary collective event). Last year, migration was noticed to have positive balance.
Economic situation is predefined by the difficulties of transition period and cutting-down area-specific productions. Some people worked at the rare-earth metal mining plant (this industry was regarded as ecologically dangerous) and diamond processing factory, others were involved in rendering services to visitors of the recreation zone and the others were engaged in farming.

From a total of 745 families 95 have good accommodation, 620 have poor accommodation, and 30 families live in temporary dwellings, and five families do not own houses. According to the calculations, 100 able-bodied citizens account for 92 disabled and 30 unemployed people. 40% of families earn less than three US dollars per each member of family per month. 49.3% make three to seven dollars per month, 10.7% - over seven dollars. Therefore a great majority of local people live under the poverty line.

The people live at the expense of natural economy that helps them survive the difficulties of transition period. The property makes certain amount of money. 70 families owns cars, five - tracks, 25 - motorcycles, and five families own agricultural machinery. The villagers also have 500 cows, 25 horses, 40 donkeys, 200 sheep, and 600 goats. At the same time 25% of population make their livelihood by service rendering (tourism, trading, transportation, education). Most of the people are involved in horticulture (with 40% involved) and cattle-breeding (35%). In 2004, 235 additional jobs were created, 150 of them were created by entrepreneurs, 60 - by small and medium
businesses, 15 - by people's employment promotion fund, and 10 - by international projects. A functioning infrastructure makes jobs too (two smithies, mechanical shops, garages, banyan hospitals, and veterinary drug-stores). Mills, grain threshing floors, gasoline station, and food-mixing buildings are planned to be built.

Local population is involved in agrarian production, cattle breeding and fruit collection. A chemically dangerous rare-earth metals mining plant was located in the area of Brichmulla, but this has stopped now. The plant was re-profiled for producing diamonds coming from Jakutia, but at the meantime the enterprise does not work.

Geological training grounds belonging to various technical higher-schools of Tashkent, a tourist centre (which status is not yet clear for the reason of privatization) and several private guesthouses are also located here. It is hard to undertake any tourist activity here as the area is very close to the state frontier. A frontier guards' station and militia check points on the roads regulate movement of visitors. This fact does not always contribute to the effectiveness of service sector.

The local economy is based on the following six components:
• Natural economy - agricultural production to meet domestic needs, i.e. plant cultivation and daily farming (cows);
• Jobs in the tourist centre "Samorodok";
• Commerce based on rendering tourist services such as accommodation, food catering, flowers, medicinal plants and honey supply;
• Employment with public organizations (school, forestry, transportation, local authorities}:
• Employment with private sector (construction works, transportation);
• Employment with the recent reopened diamond processing plant.

While some products (oil, flour, meat) are imported in the village, the others are made locally.

Production infrastructure. Roads leading to the villages are paved with asphalt. Electricity lines are installed. Telephone communication is available. The most effective is the cellular communication. The systems of forestry’s, border and militia services use radio transmitters. The water is supplied through off take from mountain streams which does not require purification. Gas and internet is not provided.

Social infrastructure. Social infrastructure of Brichmulla provides local population with principle municipal utilities and includes a water supply system that was built in 1964 and provides potable water to 75% and irrigation water to 95% of people; an irrigation system to allow discharging excessive water and watering homestead lands is available. There are two medical stations and two drug-stores that provide local community with certain medical and pharmaceutical services.

Also there are two clubs, libraries, kindergartens, and a temporarily closed day nursery. There is also a public school, where children receive the primary (1-4 forms), incomplete secondary (5-9 forms) and full secondary (10-11 forms) education. The education meets the requirements of Uzbekistan. Graduates of the school may enter higher or secondary professional schools throughout the country.

Climate and seasons. A favorable climate of Brichmulla is created by surrounding foothills and the Charvak water reservoir, which moistures and cools down the air in summer (+ 30 C). However the cold weather is more perceptible in winter (up to -25 C). The rain mainly falls in spring and autumn.
The best season for the beachfront tourism is July-August, for horse-riding and hiking - late April and early October. Winter is the best season for lovers of peace and quiet of rural way of life and those who look for snow adventures. Special winter trails are available, too.

Protected areas. The headquarters of forestry (leskhoz) that controls flora and fauna conditions is located in Brichmulla. Both the militia (check-points on two bridges) and the military (frontier guards' garrison) also contribute to protection of natural resources within their respective authorities.

Cultural attractions. The village has well kept traditions and customs of mountain tajiks. Acts folklore group "Mohi Tabon". The dish "Hashkak", the honey with nuts and "Urosh", the yogurt with spices can be called as distinctive feature of cookery.

Access. Brichmulla is located 120 km from Tashkent. The roads are paved with asphalt and suitable for buses. There are two ways of reaching the village from the town of GazaIkent located 57 km from the capital city of Uzbekistan:

• Via the dam of the Charvak water reservoir;
• Via pass Melovoy and the Chimgan recreation area.
• A Militia checkpoint is before the village, some areas being controlled by frontier guards and rangers. Brichmulla is reachable from Gazalkent by public bus in 90 min (public bus goes three times a day). Private cars and taxis are also available. The nearest airport, having international and local importance, is located in Tashkent 125 km (2.5 hour drive) away. The nearest railway station is in the village of Khodjikent.

Tourist conditions and services. The nature conditions of Brichmulla are especially attractive for lovers of landscape and ecological tourism. Canyon Kolasya, peak of Aukashka-Ohotnichiy (3099m) are located here. The Koksu river flows through picturesque gorge with waterfalls. The main sightseeing is the Charvak water reservoir.
In Brichmulla, tourism industry is mainly represented by private sector. There are five guest „houses, 50 houses and open-air accommodations (trestle-bed), and 100 other types of accommodation for groups of tourists. All of the facilities receive unorganized tourists. The existing resting point (pension) "Oltyn Embi-Samorodok" renders services to visitors sent by tour firms. This also receives other tourists, if places are available. Yurts are not considered to be traditional form of living for Tajiks, therefore there are no yurts in Brichmulla.

Citizens of the capital make up 80% of 'unorganized' tourists, the rest being from the Tashkent region and other regions of the country. The share of foreign citizens within a total number of tourists is negligible.

The main services of CBT are provision of accommodation/food, and swimming tools. Tourists make tours of nature sights on their own. However, there is a problem of border regime that restricts the entrance to some areas.

As the water reservoir of Brichmulla-Nanai and its beach are important tourism attractions, swimming tools are represented by one powerboat, boats and catamarans that are privately owned. Pleasure yachts, hydro cycles, windsurfing are not available, however some businessmen are planning to acquire them upon completion of construction of their guest houses, if free money is still available.

There are human resources available at the villages that are capable of rendering services to tourists. Translators of English and German languages among schoolteachers are available. Chaihona is the popular public catering point located by the water. Toilets do not meet the European standards. There is no sewerage system. Water is supplied through off take from mountain streams which does not require purification.

Visitors are recommended to see local handy-craftsmen who sell various implements for everyday life. The Brichmulla khashtak, containing specific type of mountain almond (including the bitterest one), may be of special interest. Honey with the flavor of mountain meadows and an orchard is added to the meal, too. Milk products such as airan and curdled milk, and sour-sweet compote are used for drinking.

Private guest houses. Being part of the local households, guest houses are made of local building materials in traditional way. Tap water is available. Sewerage system is not provided.
International (western) tourist services. The Brichmul-la-Nanai area is not an object of mass tourism for foreigners. But a number of Uzbek tour operators offer tourist services of Brichmulla to western customers. Brichmulla is visited by tourists from the US, France, Germany, and sometimes - Switzerland, Belgium, and Holland. Number of tourists arriving from Asian countries (Japan, South Korea, China) is minor. The villages are visited by tourists from the CIS countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia, and Ukraine.

Foreigners working at various international and diplomatic representatives and joint ventures in Tashkent visit the area, too. Members of delegations involved in private business or cultural exchange are taken here as guests.
The tourist competition with Khumsan and Chimgan makes it more difficult to promote tourist product based on the sights of Brichmulla.

Community-based tourism services. The backbone of community-based tourism is Brichmulla. Four families are involved in CBT there. But they have limited influence because of a number of difficulties (frontier zone, financial problems, complicated process of legalization, etc.).

Community-based tourism of the Brichmulla-Nanai area can offer the following services:
• Accommodation in private houses and on trestle-beds:
• Rent of boats, catamarans, etc.;
• Food services;
• Excursions. Guide services;
• Rent of horses (limited), donkeys;
• Folklore and handicrafts sale;
• Transportation.

Government investments. The Brichmulla-Nanai area has become a centre of recreation in Uzbekistan. This is secured by Government decisions. In particular, the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan #88 dated March 10, 2000 "About measures on conservation of natural resources and provision of complex and systematic approach to the development of the Chimgan-Charvak zone" says that this zone, due to its natural conditions, is considered as specially protected area having resort and recreational importance. For this reason a major restructuring of infrastructure is now carried out in order to reduce ecologic threats posed by enterprises that pollute the environment and to define economic potential of local tourism.

It is planned not only to make an inventory of all objects and facilities located in the area but to commission non-waste and environment friendly methods of production. Thus, treatment facilities will be expanded. Reconstruction of the sewage header will begin. Engineering facilities, water main for service and drinking water, pump stations, water inlet facilities and gas supply network will be built. This document states that incomplete constructions in the area, if any, shall be commissioned or otherwise removed 2001 through 2005. All previous decisions concerning the implementation of civil works in the Chimgan-Charvak area are being reconsidered. A matter of dislocation is being considered too. The matter concerns not only relocation of some facilities and liquidation of unauthorized buildings, like those erected on the shore of the Chavak water reservoir and polluting the environment and water. Contraction of any industrial, agricultural and other enterprises that would effect wildlife is prohibited, too.

From the middle of 1990-s, the interest in the Brichmulla-Nanai area had increased and so did the visitation rate. However, number of tourists dropped drastically after the encounters with terrorist groups at Bostanlyk and the neighboring districts of Kyrgyzstan in 1999 - 2000. The situation became even more aggravated after a special regime was established in village Brichmulla (frontier zone). This impedes local tourism development.
Since 2003, number of tourists has begun to slowly grow as population of the country could not afford to travel abroad. Though Brichmulla-Nanai is of demand, the area occupies the last place after Chimgan and Khumsan in terms of opportunities and current use.
About 30-50 thousand tourists come to the village, the total number of tourists during the season being 100-150 thousand people including those from nearby areas. The main problem is border regime frightening off the visitors and they go for other recreation areas. Tourism in Brichmulla bears clear seasonal character: from the end of May till the beginning of September. In other months it is too cool in foothills for swimming and sunbathing.
If the border barriers are solved, and tour products are effectively promoted and improved quality of service not less than 350 thousand persons can be expected in a year. Gross revenue of local economy (direct and indirect costs to serve tourists) from "tourism" budget line will exceed $5-7 million. Meanwhile, there are local tour-operators having interest to Brichmulla-Nanai tourist zone. In particular these firms are Asia Raft, Ecosan tour, Elena-tour, AST and Ark-Osiyo. The management of the hotel "Mountains of Chatkal" is interested to include in the recreation program of visitors proposal of Brichmulla CBT, in particular related to excursion around the village.

Potential market. According to the 2004 sociological survey, 48% of visitors to Brichmulla are from the capital of Uzbekistan, 16% - from other districts of the Tashkent region, 25% - from other regions of the country, and 11% are visitors from foreign countries. Therefore, main efforts should be focused on the market of Tashkent and Tashkent region. At the same time, the Brichmulla-Nanai area can become an integral part of tourist packages for those who travel over several countries or regions of Uzbekistan at a time. And this is a challenge for tourist firms operating under the brand "Great Silk Road".
25% of visitors to Brichmulla stayed in private houses, 19% rented trestle-beds, 7% came to visit their relatives, 20% stayed at the tourist centre "Samorodok", 25% - at the hotel "Gory Chatkala" or private guest houses, and five% lived in own tents. Therefore, demand for community-based tourism (CBT) accommodations would encourage local community to broaden a range of services provided and improve quality of services. Moreover this will create competition.

Prices for accommodation service per day vary and are as follows (in US$):
• Trestle-bed - from one dollar per person for place to five dollars for the whole trestle-bed. Discount is provided if family stays longer. Tourists are received in an unorganized manner:
• Private house - from three USD per person to 30 USD per family or group of people (depending on the level of comfort and additional services). Tourists are received in an unorganized manner:
• Private guest house - from 30 to 100 USD - depending on the level of comfort and services provided. Discounts are available, especially in dead season. Tourists are received in an organized (by agreement with tourist firms, trade unions and companies i and unorganized way;
• The hotel “Gory Chatkal” – 100 to 400 USD (for six-bed cottage), discount are also available. Tourists are received in an organized manner through a tourist firm or private company,
• Tourist centre "Samorodok" - 5 to 10 USD depending on room conditions. Tourists are received in an organized (by agreement with tourist firms, trade unions and companies and unorganized way.

Main consumers of tourist services of the Brichmulla-Nanai area are people aged 20 to 39 (54%) coming with their families or in company of other people (95%). They prefer the combination of active (mountain hikes, sailing) and passive (sun-baths, bathing) rest. 24% hike in the Ugam-Chatkal national park, 30% ride on horse-back, 24% study wildlife, 26% go for an outing, and 9% make picnics.

Zulfia Rakhimova
Expert of ecotourism

Traveller's Association Rabat Malik
BVV Business Report Newspaper

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