Protestors in Kyrgyzstan’s northwest have clashed with police and blocked a major road, alleging a Kazakh project to survey for gold is polluting the local environment. It’s the latest in a string of violent, mining-related clashes in the Central Asian state. Once again, mining experts in Bishkek are skeptical about the protestors’ motivations.
Early on April 3, several hundred protestors blocked the road leading from Talas, the largest town in Kyrgyzstan’s northwestern Talas Province, to Taraz, in Kazakhstan. By evening, the number had swollen to 500 and some reports circulated that two officials had been kidnapped. At least 19 police were wounded in a confrontation with stone-throwing residents, 24.kg reported, citing an Interior Ministry official.
The protestors are demanding Kazakh mining concern Altyn Kumushtak, which has been exploring the Shiraldjin gold deposit since 2005, stop. In an interview with Radio Liberty’s Kyrgyz Service, a self-identified participant in the riots, Nurlan Muzurov, said he and others “don’t want deformed children, pollution of the water and the air.”
In 2009, Altyn Kumushtak’s license had been annulled and given to a Chinese company in one of many murky exchanges during the presidency of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was ousted amid bloody street protests in 2010. In 2013 the Kazakh company successfully appealed and won back the rights to the deposit.
Russia’s state-run oil giant Rosneft wants to purchase a majority stake in the state-controlled company that owns all of Kyrgyzstan’s civilian airports. The negotiations are stoking concern in some circles in Bishkek about the potential risk to Kyrgyzstan’s sovereignty. But with its entrenched corruption, poor governance and remote location, the Central Asian country has few other options.
Twenty-seven-year-old Manucher has spent every day for the past six years cleaning out manure and, in winter, snow from his cattle barn. In his impoverished village not far from Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, he counts himself lucky to have the work.
When Bibiradja Ochildieva, a resident of Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, stepped into her backyard to collect her laundry one day recently, she was horrified to find her family’s clothing covered in black soot. “It was like there had been a fire,” she recounts.
Officials in Kyrgyzstan have expressed alarm in recent weeks over blood shortages in hospitals. The problem has become so acute that parliamentarians are discussing new laws to encourage citizens to donate. But, as I experienced recently, there are some basic reasons people are unwilling to give blood, and they cannot be addressed by legislation.
On January 22, parliament began considering a bill that would encourage military personnel to donate by giving them an extra day off.
But, even if I were given such an incentive, I would think twice before visiting the aggressive and offensive people running our nation’s Republican Blood Center, which is managed by the Ministry of Health.
In late December, an appeal was circulating on a popular local social network: a two-year-old boy was very sick and needed blood. The next morning my friend and I visited the Republican Blood Center, eager to help.
After answering a few questions about my health in a written questionnaire, I was called to speak to a middle-aged woman at the reception desk. “What did you eat over the last three days?” she asked through a small window in a glass wall. I answered that, to be honest, I couldn’t really remember. “Who are you? A princess?” she yelled. “Quickly, tell me what you ate and don’t waste my time!”
Rude service is nothing new in Kyrgyz government agencies, but next the woman said something that all but guaranteed any young woman in this conservative country would not return to the Blood Center.
A slow-motion ecological calamity is unfolding at Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. An underground plume of refined oil products – the result of a spill back in the 1990s – is migrating toward the lake and, today, it’s only a few meters away from hitting water.
A generation after independence from the Soviet Union, most villages in Kyrgyzstan are ramshackle, broken places, scenes of hopelessness and despair. Able young people leave – for Bishkek, the capital, or for menial jobs in Russia. But thanks to a secret gold mine, one little mountain hamlet is different.
Anyone who has visited Kyrgyzstan won’t be surprised by this news: Kyrgyzstan, officially, has some of the best honey in the world.
The Kyrgyz Union of Beekeepers took home five medals – three gold and two silver – at the biannual International Apicultural Congress held this month in Kyiv. Representatives from over 100 countries participated in the event, dubbed Apimondia.
At the Union of Beekeepers in Bishkek, the phones were ringing off the hook this weekend as chairman Kazim Karaketov feasted his eyes on the awards.
“We had no idea what a diamond we held in our hands. Only the global community could evaluate the true worth of our honey,” Karaketov told EurasiaNet.org.
Among Kyrgyzstan’s gold medal winners was the creamy white honey from the high-altitude region of At-Bashi in Naryn Province. A wax figure of a beekeeper wearing a kalpak, the felt Kyrgyz national hat, won a gold in the “beeswax model” category, beating an Indian entry; Kyrgyzstan also beat Slovakia for a gold in a category that considered display cases for selling honey.
Dark honey from Issyk-Ata in Chui Province and beeswax candles took silver medals in their respective categories.
Karaketov said that while choosing what to present at Apimondia, the union looked for products that had won praise at local contests. His sole regret: Kyrgyzstan presented only five products because it costs 180 euros to enter each. “Everything comes down to finances. We took a risk, but we should have risked more!” Financing problems had kept the union from participating in the past.
Late at night, Aibek Baratov is driving around Kyrgyzstan’s poorly lit capital testing his latest project. Tired of hearing about pedestrian deaths, and frustrated with a lack of interest among Bishkek city officials to address the hazard, the activist took matters into his own hands and installed reflective signs marking crosswalks.