Striking a balance between environmental worries and the need for foreign investment is proving difficult in Kyrgyzstan. Of late, investment has outweighed ecological concerns, but officials in Kara-Balta, an industrial town about two hours west of Bishkek, are calling for a reordering of priorities. The sources of their concern are China’s relentless economic push into Central Asia and the Kyrgyz government’s hesitation in enforcing environmental protection statutes.
Members of the Jayil Regional Assembly’s Environmental Commission claim that the construction of an oil refinery in the town -- a project financed by a Chinese firm, Zhongda -- will negatively impact air quality in the area and pollute a local river. The refinery will process crude that is transported by rail from nearby Kazakhstan.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.