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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[30.06.23] Kyrgyzstan Calls for Urgent Aid to Avert Nuclear Risk in Central Asian Valley

A senior Kyrgyz official appealed for urgent help to avert the danger posed by a Soviet-era uranium mine threatening Central Asia's densely populated and seismically unstable Fergana Valley.
"Ecological catastrophe could hit the whole Fergana Valley" as a result of the mine on the banks of the Maili-Suu river, which flows into Andzhan in neighboring Uzbekistan, Amarkul Aitaliyev, a senior official at Kyrgyzstan's ecology and emergency situations ministry, told journalists.
Aitaliyev's comments followed a Franco-Belgian investigation sponsored by the European Union into the disused mine.
Observers have said has the mine and its environmental fallout have the potential to aggravate already tense relations in Fergana -- Central Asia's main population center shared by Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Uranium from the mine was enriched locally until its closure in 1960, and the resultant leftovers were buried in hillside pits, which are prone to flooding and could leak into the river due to frequent avalanches.
Social stigma has become attached to residents of the impoverished Maili-Suu district due to their alleged health problems resulting from the mine.
"In the event of natural disaster radiation levels in the Fergana Valley could seriously worsen," Hildegarde Vandenhove of Belgium's Centre for Nuclear Research, said.
Associated Press, June 30, 2003

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