By Aynur Jafarova- Azernews: Despite the abundance of water resources -- with over 2,000 rivers a total length of about 35,000 kilometers -- the drinking water supply problem is exacerbating day by day in Kyrgyzstan.
A mountainous country, bordering China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan is one of five Central Asian countries distinguished from others in terms of its richness in water resources. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan faced a rapid deterioration in public infrastructure. The rapid urbanization in the capital in recent years with an increase of water consumption registered in the north and new settlements to be supplied in the south have put an additional strain on the already stretched capacity of the water resources.
The Bishkek Water Company manages networks including a 1,277 kilometer-long water supply pipe network and 605 km of wastewater. Only some parts of the infrastructure provide clean water and sanitation services to over 1.5 million people living in Bishkek and its surroundings.
The problem is that the infrastructure is more than 30 years old. Currently, Kyrgyzstan's 396 villages have no water supply networks, and the residents are obliged to meet their demand for drinking water from open reservoirs. The population in 1,805 villages (about 2 million people) is deprived of direct and sustainable access to clean drinking water. The main reason behind the situation is the deterioration of the water supply infrastructure.
The water supply system which was laid in the middle of the last century is inoperable. Providing clean drinking water and rehabilitation of wastewater management are the biggest priorities for Talas, a city in the north of Kyrgyzstan, close to the Kazakh border, with a population of over 45,000. Currently, the water losses are huge and supply intermittent.
The wastewater system has collapsed and untreated wastewater forms pools in the basement of apartment buildings, with endemic water borne disease as a result. Shortage of drinking water is observed in the central cities of the country as well. For example, the residents of the Amir Temur micro-district of the Osh city systematically face with this problem. In autumn- winter season the water is supplied for two hours per week while in spring and summer, people have to fetch water from the irrigation ditches and canals.
Delivery of drinking water in a special transport is too expensive for consumers. A similar situation exists in the micro-districts of capital Bishkek as well. The reason is the same - worn water supply networks, as well as a sharp increase of the population of the capital. Provision of clean drinking water in the Naryn region is 61 percent, Talas region 60 percent, Issyk-Kul region 38 percent, Batken region 30.9 percent, Osh region 25 percent, and Chui region 21 percent. Annually about 45,000 people suffer from parasitic diseases as a result of the use of untreated water from wells and irrigation ditches. The government annually spends about 5 billion soms for their treatment.
Local experts believe that the full maintenance of the Kyrgyz population with clean drinking water needs around $600 million. One way out of the crisis is receiving international grants and credits. Since 2001, the Kyrgyz government has been receiving funds from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank for the implementation of the 'Taza Suu' (Clean Water) project. As part of the project new water supply networks were constructed in 545 villages of the country. Currently, the project is underway in the Issyk-Kul, Naryn and Talas regions which will be completed in late 2014.
The modernization of water and wastewater services in Kyrgyz cities is a priority for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has developed a dedicated financing facility for the purpose. Currently, the bank provide financing to six cities in the country to support critical investments in the water supply and waste water networks and is considering further expansion throughout the country to smaller cities.