For people in Central Asia, water is a precious gift. It is vital for households, agriculture and the health of many people who still lack access to safe drinking water.
People in the Fergana valley have always faced issues with access to water. In the past, some cities and villages had water, while others did not. Furthermore, over the years the water infrastructure has become outdated.
I had an opportunity to visit some of the 10 municipalities in southern areas of the Kyrgyz Republic where the EBRD is helping to modernise water and wastewater facilities. This is the most densely populated part of the country.
Uzgen, at the eastern end of the Fergana valley, is a multicultural city with an ancient history stretching back 2,000 years. It was once an important hub on the Silk Road, where thousands of merchants and their caravans would stop in search of a place to rest. Nowadays, Uzgen is best known for its bazaars, minarets and old stone-paved streets.
Preserving cultural heritage
“The water and sewerage network in Uzgen, built in 1954, needs urgent rehabilitation. Today, most people in Uzgen have access to water according to a schedule, for no more than eight hours a day. Only 45,000 of the 65,000 people in Uzgen have access to piped water, whereas other households use water from street pumps, aryks and private wells,” explains Azamat Duisheev, Director of the Uzgen municipal water company.
Since Uzgen is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country, we are supporting local authorities in their work to preserve the city’s cultural heritage. As part of this drive, the International Institute for Central Asian Studies and the Kyrgyz Academy of Science have put together a Cultural Heritage Management Plan. The plan identifies special zones where contractors can implement all the technical work that needs to be done.
Positive changes on the way
Together with the European Union, the European Investment Bank and the government of Japan, the EBRD is planning to rehabilitate the old water and wastewater network and lay around 80 km of new water and wastewater pipes. We are also helping the municipal water company to modernise the wastewater treatment plant, for example by adding a laboratory and purchasing new equipment. The investment will also go towards renovating water disinfection systems and building a much-needed pump station, allowing the water company to increase its customer base and ensure uninterrupted access to water.
This year, International Water Day is focusing on accelerating change to solve the water and sanitation crisis. There is hope that the people of Uzgen will have uninterrupted access to safe drinking water and sanitation in the near future. The local authorities are also keen to see the city added to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.