A busy Kyrgyz border town of 25,000, Kara-Suu faces typical small-town challenges: outdated water and sewerage systems, water mains dating back to Soviet times, rusting metal and asbestos pipes posing serious health risks, leaks and burst pipelines resulting in losses of drinking water of up to 30 per cent. The list goes on. Almost half of the Kara-Suu residents are served by the municipal water company, while the rest use street taps or own wells.
However, the situation is bound to change as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Union (EU) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) are joining forces to rebuild the water infrastructure in Kara-Suu.
Altyn Shamshiev, the Chief Engineer at Kara-Suu’s municipal water company, beams with pride when explaining the production cycle and improvements.
“We pump the water from underground into the water reservoirs, then the disinfection equipment adds the right amount of chlorine to the water, then it is released into the supply network.”
Pumping groundwater from a depth of more than 100 metres are two newly installed boreholes with modern pumps. By adding a new 500 cubic metre water reservoir, the company nearly doubled its existing capacity of 750 cubic metres. This will increase the volume of clean water and serve many new customers. Nearby, a renovated chlorination facility, now equipped with new and automated disinfection equipment, keeps the drinking water safe and clean for all residents.
His company has already installed 22,500 metres of new pipelines, set to deliver water without losses to more residents. The system will also have the required pressure to allow the network of fire hydrants, which was non-existent before, to work properly and make the town a much safer place.
“Soon we will start running water through the new lines. With reduced water losses and increased water production, we will be able to provide water services to all 25,000 people and even connect new customers from neighbouring villages,” says Altyn.
Maintenance crews equipped with specialised vehicles, professional tools and equipment stand ready to fix any burst pipe or leak.
These and future improvements are made possible with loans from the EBRD and EIB, and a €3.3 million grant from the EU.
With additional grant funding of € 1.3 million from the Early Transition Countries Fund (Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the United Kingdom) and the government of Austria, international consultants are helping the municipal enterprise to manage the project, comply with technical requirements and improve its corporate governance.
As part of its planned changes, the water company is about to install 3,000 individual water meters to accurately charge users for consumption. The next major plan is to rebuild the sewerage system.
“In the 1980s,” explains Altyn, “the city attempted to build a wastewater treatment facility to serve local industries, such as the flourmill, and residential areas, including the adjacent apartment blocks. But construction was halted due to an engineering flaw and lack of funding after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
In the absence of a proper sewerage system, the residents of the apartment buildings have to use shared public toilets and public water taps outside their apartments. In some areas, residents have built septic tanks next to multi-storied buildings, which leads to additional issues and expenses for people.
Altyn looks forward to ending these inconveniences soon. As part of the project, the company has prepared a feasibility study for construction of the city’s new sewage collection network and wastewater treatment plant with infiltration areas on the site of the old facility. These developments will allow the city’s residents to finally connect their houses and apartments to the sewerage system and access the proper sanitation that they have waited so long for.
The improvements will be felt on many levels throughout the city. “Not only will the new infrastructure mean a much better quality of life for the city’s residents, but it will also have a major effect on economic growth as we have many industrial customers,” concludes Altyn. And that growth is something that will benefit everyone.