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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[03.04.2OO2] "Legal and economic aspects of ecology of Kyrgyzstan"

Recently Kyrgyzstan has faced acute environmental issues that directly impact the life of the whole society and hence the State functioning.
The economic collapse that scuppered almost the whole economy of Kyrgyzstan in early 90s has provoked dramatic decrease in gross harmful waste to atmosphere
Given the republic's significant decrease in output we would be right to expect significant improvement in the environment situation. However this improvement only took place for a short time, maximum five years, during the early stage of the economic crisis.
This effect is explained by several reasons: firstly, the equipment used by the still operating companies is wearing
The second cause is the dramatically growth in the number of vehicles. Recently a large number of second-hand vehicles have been imported from Western Europe. The unadjusted motors produce the bulk of toxic wastes to atmosphere.
As a result of the well-known economic hardships many heat and power stations have begun to use coal instead of natural gas. As a rule they use low-quality brown coal. Due to this the amount of poisonous sulphide compound wastes in atmosphere has increased.
Air streams above the capital do not breeze through it but slowly intermix and hang in the city atmosphere long time before fresh air comes; hence smog virtually never clears away
The republic's sanitary control over the potable water quality has virtually been fully destroyed. Due to the shortage of technical means the bulk of water wastes are not treated. In Bishkek, nitrates have polluted the whole subterranean water area. The highest degree of pollution that is five times higher than the maximum admissible concentration is observed in Ala-Archa reservoir water
About 60% of people in the republic still use potable water from open sources; this results in the growth in infectious and parasitic diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports show that use of low-quality water is a key cause of mortality in developing countries. An ecological condition of many potable water sources in the republic is not satisfactory and keeps on deteriorating; water pipelines in urban areas is partly worn and needs urgent replacement.
In broad perspective, water is Kyrgyzstan's strategic raw material, a sort of political lever against the pertinacious neighbors. However the pure fresh water reserves are not unlimited even here in our mountain country. According to expert assessments global warming will soon affect Kyrgyzstan's mountain glaciers. As a result water reserves will decrease in the future but currently we'll face increasing and accelerating water flow in rivers, bank erosion, and, with additional negative factors, mudflows, landslides and floods. The counter process will begin in the future: decrease in water level in the rivers and drying up of the most low-water of them. These events will cause desertification of currently semiarid lands of Kyrgyzstan and the adjacent countries
Our greatest apprehensions are those concerning Kyrgyzstan radiation security. The republic has for many decades been the USSR defense complex's main raw uranium supplier.
After the destruction of the Soviet Union uranium production was stopped leaving us with some 13 dumps lacking necessary control. Public budget has no money for recovery because the cost is comparable with the Kyrgyzstan year budget.
In 1997, the Government adopted the Environmental Security Concept developed by the Environment Ministry; ecological audit institution was introduced and a range of environment protection laws was passed. However there is still no uniform document containing priorities and short, medium and long-term challenges and prospects of the national environment policy, as well as there's no official document that should contain assessments on Kyrgyzstan's current environment situation
The list of case producing violations is vague; fines are minimum and sometimes merely ludicrous. The improperness of laws is also testified by the fact that Kyrgyzstan's judicial practice mainly focuses on illegal woodcuttings and fishery. Cases involving water reservoir and air pollution are very seldom.
One more factor contributing to environment situation aggravation is people's law legal consciousness. Citizens are unaware of their ecological rights declared in the Law on Environment Protection; many people do not believe that such court procedure as health damage compensation can be effective.
The environment situation could be kept at an admissible level by not just new environment law but by introducing Draconic laws, by toughening them regarding violator responsibility However the laws in themselves cannot do much; ecological education must be introduced, mainly for the adult. Although the ecological education ideology was introduced in Kyrgyzstan since 1994, similar to that in Russia, this is not enough
By polishing the environment-related laws and investing some budget money in this field Kyrgyzstan could somewhat successfully turn its global environment issues into ordinary ones.
Infocenter Bishkek, April 3, 2002

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