The lack of rain is aggravating the alarm signals in the main cities of Kyrgyzstan, already affected by high levels of pollution. The increase in the urban population is not accompanied by adequate development of housing, health and education infrastructures.
Bishkek () – Summer has begun in Kyrgyzstan with various alarm signals due to environmental conditions, especially in the main cities and in the capital, Bishkek. The winter blanket of smog has left a very serious situation, which is now reflected in the great scarcity of water that is common to the entire Central Asian region due to the lack of rain in recent months. In Bishkek all this is adding to the “old wounds” of housing, healthcare, education and other infrastructure that cannot cope with the city’s rapidly growing population, and there is a complete lack of reserves for the future. .
So far the city authorities only seem to be frantically striving to “plug holes”. Municipal deputy Zhanarbek Akaev explained that “Bishkek risks becoming a huge rural village”, and a similar situation is emerging in Osh, another big western city, if the government does not allocate adequate investments to the needs of the centers urban. The economist Azamat Akeneev points out that “population growth, especially in the capital, is exceeding the rate of 2%, following the characteristic rhythms of our social condition.”
Kyrgyzstan remains a fundamentally agricultural country, where the majority of the population lives in the countryside, but there is a much slower movement of migration towards urban centers than the average for other countries. If in the 1950s around one billion people lived in cities around the world, today there are around 4.5 billion, more than half of the total population. The trend towards urbanization is causing many imbalances everywhere. As Akeneev observes, this growth mostly affects large cities, while small and medium-sized cities do not experience growth and in many cases their population is declining.
In general, the metropolises should offer more infrastructures and job opportunities, added to the wide network of social relations. Above all because in the smaller centers there is not even the advantage of life in the countryside, contact with nature and a less polluted environment. The two main cities of Kyrgyzstan present all these tensions, and above all the capital, which is heading towards the formation of an agglomeration that concentrates the majority of the country’s population.
The economist also points out that “resources, already insufficient, are distributed incorrectly and ineffectively.” Kindergartens, schools and streets, for example, should be developed where the greatest masses of people are, and not in the most exclusive neighbourhoods, which already have enough services. Or build small schools in small towns, from which their inhabitants tend to leave. It was only last year that population flows began to be better considered and the construction of ten schools in Bishkek began, but in general, deputies and politicians defend the interests of their regions and areas of origin, and this slows down the panorama general infrastructure development. Politically it is not very convenient to say that “in the first place you have to invest in the capital” or in the city of Osh.
In addition to facilities for the most populated centers, the distribution of water resources continues to be a priority, of which Kyrgyzstan has significant reserves, although they are in danger of running out. It is no coincidence that the transfer of the Kempir-Abad reservoir to Uzbekistan has provoked such vehement protests, despite all the presidential assertions about the joint exploitation of water, and many people who participated in the demonstrations are still languishing in jail, that they often belong to social strata that are not at all marginal or extremist.
Economists trust in the progress of commercial activities, precisely related to the growth of cities, which could create opportunities for private intervention to make up for the delays of the bureaucracy. “They are natural mechanisms of market laws,” insists the expert, as long as authoritarian impulses in Kyrgyzstan can be curbed and citizens are guaranteed freedom of movement and business. “Many people concentrated in a small space still do not constitute a city,” concludes Akeneev. “We must give them the opportunity to put their skills and their spirit of initiative into play.”