Blurred by smoke and putrid steam, eagles and flocks of ravens hover overhead and swoop down to feast on colonies of rats. On the ground, a solitary pig roots through household debris, its snout buried in discarded plastic and rotting cardboard. This unappealing ecosystem in Kyrgyzstan is not merely home to wild animals: the Bishkek municipal dump, deemed a health hazard by ecologists, is also work site for human scavengers, mostly economic migrants from rural parts of Kyrgyzstan.
Single parent Aizat Isabekova and her four children one day recently could be seen sifting through the discarded bits of food and dead animals looking for plastic bottles to recycle. A migrant from southern Jalal-Abad Province, she has been living on the outskirts of Bishkek in informal accommodation for over two years. “You get used to it,” she says of the plumes of smoke that rise out of the rubbish mounds even in winter. “I can’t find work this profitable in the city.”
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.