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Kyrgyzstan-Environmental Problems





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Kyrgyzstan Index

Kyrgyzstan has been spared many of the enormous environmental problems faced by its Central Asian neighbors, primarily because its designated roles in the Soviet system involved neither heavy industry nor large-scale cotton production. Also, the economic downturn of the early 1990s reduced some of the more serious effects of industrial and agricultural policy. Nevertheless, Kyrgyzstan has serious problems because of inefficient use and pollution of water resources, land degradation, and improper agricultural practices.

Water Resources

Although Kyrgyzstan has abundant water running through it, its water supply is determined by a post-Soviet sharing agreement among the five Central Asian republics. As in the Soviet era, Kyrgyzstan has the right to 25 percent of the water that originates in its territory, but the new agreement allows Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan unlimited use of the water that flows into them from Kyrgyzstan, with no compensation for the nation at the source. Kyrgyzstan uses the entire amount to which the agreement entitles it, but utilization is skewed heavily in favor of agricultural irrigation. In 1994 agriculture accounted for about 88 percent of total water consumption, compared with 8 percent by industry and 4 percent by municipal water distribution systems. According to World Bank (see Glossary) experts, Kyrgyzstan has an adequate supply of high-quality water for future use, provided the resource is prudently managed.

Irrigation is extremely wasteful of water because the distribution infrastructure is old and poorly maintained. In 1993 only an estimated 5 percent of required maintenance expenditures was allocated. Overall, an estimated 70 percent of the nation's water supply network is in need of repair or replacement. The quality of drinking water from this aging system is poorly monitored--the water management staff has been cut drastically because of inadequate funds. Further, there is no money to buy new water disinfection equipment when it is needed. Some aquifers near industrial and mining centers have been contaminated by heavy metals, oils, and sanitary wastes. In addition, many localities rely on surface sources, making users vulnerable to agricultural runoff and livestock waste, which seep gradually downward from the surface. The areas of lowest water quality are the heavily populated regions of the Chu Valley and Osh and Jalal-Abad provinces, and areas along the rivers flowing into Ysyk-Köl.

In towns, wastewater collection provides about 70 percent of the water supply. Although towns have biological treatment equipment, as much as 50 percent of such equipment is rated as ineffective. The major sources of toxic waste in the water supply are the mercury mining combine at Haidarkan; the antimony mine at Kadamzai; the Kadzyi Sai uranium mine, which ceased extraction in 1967 but which continues to leach toxic materials into nearby Ysyk Köl; the Kara-Balta Uranium Recovery Plant; the Min Kush deposit of mine tailings; and the Kyrgyz Mining and Metallurgy Plant at Orlovka.

Land Management

The most important problems in land use are soil erosion and salinization in improperly irrigated farmland. An estimated 60 percent of Kyrgyzstan's land is affected by topsoil loss, and 6 percent by salinization, both problems with more serious long-term than short-term effects. In 1994 the size of livestock herds averaged twice the carrying capacity of pasturage land, continuing the serious overgrazing problem and consequent soil erosion that began when the herds were at their peak in the late 1980s (see Agriculture, this ch.). Uncertain land tenure and overall financial insecurity have caused many private farmers to concentrate their capital in the traditional form--livestock--thus subjecting new land to the overgrazing problem.

The inherent land shortage in Kyrgyzstan is exacerbated by the flooding of agricultural areas for hydroelectric projects. The creation of Toktogol Reservoir on the Naryn River, for example, involved the flooding of 13,000 hectares of fertile land. Such projects have the additional effect of constricting downstream water supply; Toktogol deprives the lower reaches of the Syrdariya in Uzbekistan and the Aral Sea Basin of substantial amounts of water. Because the Naryn Basin, where many hydroelectric projects are located, is very active seismically, flooding is also a danger should a dam be broken by an earthquake. Several plants are now in operation in zones where Richter Scale readings may reach eleven.

The Aral Sea

In response to the internationally recognized environmental crisis of the rapid desiccation of the Aral Sea, the five states sharing the Aral Sea Basin (Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) are developing a strategy to end the crisis. The World Bank and agencies of the United Nations (UN) have developed an Aral Sea Program, the first stage of which is funded by the five countries and external donors. That stage has seven areas of focus, one of which--land and water management in the upper watersheds--is of primary concern to Kyrgyzstan. Among the conditions detrimental to the Aral Sea's environment are erosion from deforestation (photos | news) and overgrazing, contamination from poorly managed irrigation systems, and uncontrolled waste from mining and municipal effluents. Kyrgyzstan's National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) has addressed these problems as part of its first-phase priorities in cooperation with the Aral Sea Program.

Environmental Policy Making

The NEAP, adopted in 1994, is the basic blueprint for environmental protection. The plan focuses on solving a small number of critical problems, collecting reliable information to aid in that process, and integrating environmental measures with economic and social development strategy. The initial planning period is to end in 1997. The main targets of that phase are inefficient water resource management, land degradation, overexploitation of forest reserves, loss of biodiversity, and pollution from inefficient mining and refining practices.

Because of severe budget constraints, most of the funds for NEAP operations come from international sources, including official institutions such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and numerous international nongovernmental organizations. Implementation is guided by a committee of state ministers and by a NEAP Expert Working Group, both established in 1994 by executive order. A NEAP office in Bishkek was set up with funds from Switzerland.

The main environmental protection agency of the Kyrgyzstani government is the State Committee on Environmental Protection, still known by its Soviet-era acronym, Goskompriroda. Established by the old regime in 1988, the agency's post-Soviet responsibilities have been described in a series of decrees beginning in 1991. In 1994 the state committee had a central office in Bishkek, one branch in each of the seven provinces, and a total staff of about 150 persons. Because of poorly defined lines of responsibility, administrative conflicts often occur between local and national authorities of Goskompriroda and between Goskompriroda and a second national agency, the Hydrometeorological Administration (Gidromet), which is the main monitoring agency for air, water, and soil quality. In general, the vertical hierarchy structure, a relic of Soviet times, has led to poor coordination and duplication of effort among environmental protection agencies.

Data as of March 1996



BackgroundA Central Asian country of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions, most of Kyrgyzstan was formally annexed to Russia in 1876. The Kyrgyz staged a major revolt against the Tsarist Empire in 1916 in which almost one-sixth of the Kyrgyz population was killed. Kyrgyzstan became a Soviet republic in 1936 and achieved independence in 1991 when the USSR dissolved. Nationwide demonstrations in the spring of 2005 resulted in the ouster of President Askar AKAEV, who had run the country since 1990. Subsequent presidential elections in July 2005 were won overwhelmingly by former prime minister Kurmanbek BAKIEV. The political opposition organized demonstrations in Bishkek in April, May, and November 2006 resulting in the adoption of a new constitution that transferred some of the president's powers to parliament and the government. In December 2006, the Kyrgyzstani parliament voted to adopt new amendments, restoring some of the presidential powers lost in the November 2006 constitutional change. By late-September 2007, both previous versions of the constitution were declared illegal, and the country reverted to the AKAEV-era 2003 constitution, which was subsequently modified in a flawed referendum initiated by BAKIEV. The president then dissolved parliament, called for early elections, and gained control of the new parliament through his newly-created political party, Ak Jol, in December 2007 elections. Current concerns include: privatization of state-owned enterprises, negative trends in democracy and political freedoms, endemic corruption, improving interethnic relations, electricity generation, rising food prices, and combating terrorism.
LocationCentral Asia, west of China
Area(sq km)total: 199,951 sq km
land: 191,801 sq km
water: 8,150 sq km
Geographic coordinates41 00 N, 75 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 3,051 km
border countries: China 858 km, Kazakhstan 1,224 km, Tajikistan 870 km, Uzbekistan 1,099 km

Coastline(km)0 km (landlocked)

Climatedry continental to polar in high Tien Shan Mountains; subtropical in southwest (Fergana Valley); temperate in northern foothill zone

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Kara-Daryya (Karadar'ya) 132 m
highest point: Jengish Chokusu (Pik Pobedy) 7,439 m
Natural resourcesabundant hydropower; significant deposits of gold and rare earth metals; locally exploitable coal, oil, and natural gas; other deposits of nepheline, mercury, bismuth, lead, and zinc
Land use(%)arable land: 6.55%
permanent crops: 0.28%
other: 93.17%
note: Kyrgyzstan has the world's largest natural-growth walnut forest (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)10,720 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)46.5 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 10.08 cu km/yr (3%/3%/94%)
per capita: 1,916 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsNA
Environment - current issueswater pollution; many people get their water directly from contaminated streams and wells; as a result, water-borne diseases are prevalent; increasing soil salinity from faulty irrigation practices
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - notelandlocked; entirely mountainous, dominated by the Tien Shan range; 94% of the country is 1,000 m above sea level, with an average elevation of 2,750 m; many tall peaks, glaciers, and high-altitude lakes
Population5,431,747 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 29.7% (male 822,128/female 789,425)
15-64 years: 64.5% (male 1,717,497/female 1,787,551)
65 years and over: 5.8% (male 123,045/female 192,101) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 24.4 years
male: 23.6 years
female: 25.3 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)1.396% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)23.44 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)6.91 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-2.57 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 36% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 1.6% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.64 male(s)/female
total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 31.26 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 36.19 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 26.06 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 69.43 years
male: 65.43 years
female: 73.64 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)2.65 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Kyrgyzstani(s)
adjective: Kyrgyzstani
Ethnic groups(%)Kyrgyz 64.9%, Uzbek 13.8%, Russian 12.5%, Dungan 1.1%, Ukrainian 1%, Uyghur 1%, other 5.7% (1999 census)

Religions(%)Muslim 75%, Russian Orthodox 20%, other 5%
Languages(%)Kyrgyz 64.7% (official), Uzbek 13.6%, Russian 12.5% (official), Dungun 1%, other 8.2% (1999 census)

Country nameconventional long form: Kyrgyz Republic
conventional short form: Kyrgyzstan
local long form: Kyrgyz Respublikasy
local short form: Kyrgyzstan
former: Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic
Government typerepublic
Capitalname: Bishkek
geographic coordinates: 42 52 N, 74 36 E
time difference: UTC+6 (11 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions7 provinces (oblastlar, singular - oblasty) and 1 city* (shaar); Batken Oblasty, Bishkek Shaary*, Chuy Oblasty (Bishkek), Jalal-Abad Oblasty, Naryn Oblasty, Osh Oblasty, Talas Oblasty, Ysyk-Kol Oblasty (Karakol)
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)
Constitutionapproved by referendum in November 2006
note: under the old constitution adopted on 5 May 1993, an amendment proposed by President Askar AKAEV and passed in a national referendum on 2 February 2003 significantly expanded the powers of the president at the expense of the legislature; during large-scale demonstrations in November 2006, President BAKIEV and the opposition negotiated a new constitution granting greater powers to the parliament and the government; amendments added on 30 December 2006 redistributed some power back to the president, but both November and December 2006 versions were annulled in September 2007, and a new version was approved by referendum on 21 October 2007; the BAKIEV-initiated referendum was criticized by Western observers for voting irregularities, particularly ballot stuffing

Legal systembased on French and Russian laws; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Kurmanbek BAKIEV (since 14 August 2005)
head of government: Prime Minister Daniyar USENOV (since 21 October 2009); First Deputy Prime Minister Akylbek JAPAROV (since 22 October 2009)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers proposed by the prime minister, appointed by the president; ministers in charge of defense and security, appointed solely by the president
elections: Kurmanbek BAKIEV reelected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 23 July 2009 (next scheduled for 2014); prime minister nominated by the parliamentary party holding more than 50% of the seats; if no such party exists, the president selects the party that will nominate a prime minister
election results: Kurmanbek BAKIEV elected president; percent of vote - Kurmanbek BAKIEV 76.1%, Almaz ATAMBAYEV 8.4%, Temir SARIYEV 6.7%, other candidates 8.8%

Legislative branchunicameral Supreme Council or Jorgorku Kengesh (90 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 16 December 2007 (next to be held in 2012)
election results: Supreme Council - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Ak Jol 71, Social Democratic Party 11, KCP 8

Judicial branchSupreme Court; Constitutional Court (judges of both the Supreme and Constitutional Courts are appointed for 10-year terms by the Jorgorku Kengesh on the recommendation of the president; their mandatory retirement age is 70 years); Higher Court of Arbitration; Local Courts (judges appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Council on Legal Affairs for a probationary period of five years, then 10 years)

Political pressure groups and leadersAdilet Legal Clinic [Cholpon JAKUPOVA]; Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society [Dinara OSHURAKHUNOVA]; Interbilim [Asiya SASYKBAEVA]
International organization participationADB, CIS, CSTO, EAEC, EAPC, EBRD, ECO, FAO, GCTU, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt (signatory), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, MIGA, NAM (observer), OIC, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, SCO, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag descriptionred field with a yellow sun in the center having 40 rays representing the 40 Kyrgyz tribes; on the obverse side the rays run counterclockwise, on the reverse, clockwise; in the center of the sun is a red ring crossed by two sets of three lines, a stylized representation of the roof of the traditional Kyrgyz yurt

Economy - overviewKyrgyzstan is a poor, mountainous country with a predominantly agricultural economy. Cotton, tobacco, wool, and meat are the main agricultural products, although only tobacco and cotton are exported in any quantity. Industrial exports include gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas, and electricity. Following independence, Kyrgyzstan was progressive in carrying out market reforms such as an improved regulatory system and land reform. Kyrgyzstan was the first Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country to be accepted into the World Trade Organization. Much of the government's stock in enterprises has been sold. Drops in production had been severe after the breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991, but by mid-1995, production began to recover and exports began to increase. The economy is heavily weighted toward gold export and a drop in output at the main Kumtor gold mine sparked a 0.5% decline in GDP in 2002 and a 0.6% decline in 2005. The government made steady strides in controlling its substantial fiscal deficit, nearly closing the gap between revenues and expenditures in 2006, before boosting expenditures more than 20% in 2007-08. The government and international financial institutions have been engaged in a comprehensive medium-term poverty reduction and economic growth strategy. In 2005, Bishkek agreed to pursue much-needed tax reform and, in 2006, became eligible for the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative. Progress fighting corruption, further restructuring of domestic industry, and success in attracting foreign investment are keys to future growth. GDP grew more than 6% annually in 2007-08, partly due to higher gold prices internationally, but growth is likely to decline from that level in 2009, due to declining demand and lower commodity prices in the wake of the international financial crisis.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$11.64 billion (2008 est.)
$10.82 billion (2007 est.)
$9.971 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$5.05 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)7.6% (2008 est.)
8.5% (2007 est.)
3.1% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$2,200 (2008 est.)
$2,000 (2007 est.)
$1,900 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 29.8%
industry: 19.7%
services: 50.6% (2008 est.)
Labor force2.344 million (2007)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 48%
industry: 12.5%
services: 39.5% (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)18% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)40% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 3.6%
highest 10%: 25.9% (2004)
Distribution of family income - Gini index30.3 (2003)
29 (2001)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)23.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $1.274 billion
expenditures: $1.231 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)24.5% (2008 est.)
10.2% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$NA (31 December 2008)
$911.1 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$NA (31 December 2008)
$303.7 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$558.3 million (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA (31 December 2008)
$121 million (31 December 2007)
$92.69 million (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$268.5 million from the US (2005)

Agriculture - productstobacco, cotton, potatoes, vegetables, grapes, fruits and berries; sheep, goats, cattle, wool
Industriessmall machinery, textiles, food processing, cement, shoes, sawn logs, refrigerators, furniture, electric motors, gold, rare earth metals

Industrial production growth rate(%)10.7% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$680 million (2008 est.)
-$267.9 million (2007 est.)
Exports$1.847 billion (2008 est.)
$1.337 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)cotton, wool, meat, tobacco; gold, mercury, uranium, natural gas, hydropower; machinery; shoes
Exports - partners(%)Switzerland 27.2%, Russia 19.2%, Uzbekistan 14.3%, Kazakhstan 11.4%, France 6.7% (2008)
Imports$3.754 billion (2008 est.)
$2.636 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)oil and gas, machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs
Imports - partners(%)Russia 36.6%, China 17.9%, Kazakhstan 9.2%, Germany 8.2% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$1.225 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$1.177 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$3.467 billion (31 December 2008)
$3.162 billion (31 December 2007)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$16.5 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$NA
Exchange ratessoms (KGS) per US dollar - 36.108 (2008 est.), 37.746 (2007), 40.149 (2006), 41.012 (2005), 42.65 (2004)

Currency (code)som (KGS)

Telephones - main lines in use494,500 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular3.394 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: telecommunications infrastructure is being upgraded; loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are being used to install a digital network, digital radio-relay stations, and fiber-optic links
domestic: fixed line penetration remains low and concentrated in urban areas; multiple mobile cellular service providers with growing coverage; mobile cellular subscribership exceeded 60 per 100 persons in 2008
international: country code - 996; connections with other CIS countries by landline or microwave radio relay and with other countries by leased connections with Moscow international gateway switch and by satellite; satellite earth stations - 2 (1 Intersputnik, 1 Intelsat); connected internationally by the Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line (2008)
Internet country code.kg
Internet users850,000 (2008)
Airports29 (2009)
Pipelines(km)gas 254 km; oil 16 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 18,500 km
paved: 16,909 km (includes 140 km of expressways)
unpaved: 1,591 km (2003)

Ports and terminalsBalykchy (Ysyk-Kol or Rybach'ye)
Military branchesGround Forces, Air Force (includes Air Defense Forces), National Guard (2009)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age for compulsory military service (2001)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,398,878
females age 16-49: 1,419,374 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,083,777
females age 16-49: 1,229,406 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 57,659
female: 55,557 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)1.4% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalKyrgyzstan has yet to ratify the 2001 boundary delimitation with Kazakhstan; disputes in Isfara Valley delay completion of delimitation with Tajikistan; delimitation of 130 km of border with Uzbekistan is hampered by serious disputes around enclaves and other areas

Electricity - production(kWh)15.96 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 7.6%
hydro: 92.4%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)9 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)2.379 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)958.4 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)15,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)1,890 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)12,850 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)40 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)30 million cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)750 million cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)5.663 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)less than 0.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS4,200 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 200 (2007 est.)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98.7%
male: 99.3%
female: 98.1% (1999 census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 12 years
male: 12 years
female: 13 years (2006)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)4.9% of GDP (2005)








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