A bridge over troubled water in Kyrgyzstan
The first thing that strikes you when you walk around Maily-Suu, an old mining town in southern Kyrgyzstan, is the lack of young people.
From the age of 16 onwards many migrate to neighbouring countries or Russia in search of a job. But unemployment isn’t the only threat facing those that stay – for that you have to dig a little deeper.
Clean water is sparse in the town and so groups of families often take it upon themselves to dig small boreholes in order to bring groundwater up to the surface for drinking. The effects of consuming the polluted water aren’t revealed straight away. But then skin conditions appear, kidneys are damaged, and over time, stunted growth in children is observed.
The water is contaminated with radiation, a consequence of the abandoned uranium mines nearby.
Coordinating the GNDR Views from the Frontline project has enabled human rights organisation, Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan, to work with communities to collect data and analyse the multiple risks faced by residents.
One particular group of five female activists in Maily-Suu had been vocal in the past. Working with Bir Duino has enabled them to turn their words, often disregarded by authorities in the past, into evidence.
In 2019 Bir Duino convened community representatives, civil society organisations and national authorities, including the Ministries of Finance, Economy, and Emergency Situations. In a series of three roundtable discussions they presented and discussed the new data.
The result was a list of proposed solutions, agreed by the community and national stakeholders, to combat the threats of water pollution and unemployment. This included investment in water piping, public awareness campaigns and infrastructure measures to reduce contamination.
To address widespread unemployment government representatives agreed to support job creation opportunities and increase public sector salaries in the region.
Using the GNDR project methodology, Bir Duino has been able to build a bridge between the community and decision-makers. The solutions aim to reduce risk over the long term. And also to encourage the young people who left the old mining town to come home.
Photo credit: Bir Duino Kyrgyzstan
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