BISHKEK -- The Bishkek City Council has initiated a procedure to set up additional environmental equipment in the capital to monitor air pollution, Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg reported Monday (November 26).
The new measuring instruments -- to be installed at three locations, according to Vice-Mayor Bakytbek Diushembiyev -- will be able to determine which areas of Bishkek are experiencing elevated pollution levels, said city council member Uvazarbek Adylbekov.
"We'll then be able to narrow the scope of the activities focused on reducing smog and make them more effective," said Adylbekov.
Residents 'can't breathe'
In recent years, environmental groups have been making Bishkek's air pollution an increasingly frequent topic of public discussion.
Air pollution in Bishkek far exceeds acceptable levels, according to data from Airkaz.org, a nonpartisan Kazakh initiative that publishes real-time information collected from measuring instruments in Bishkek and in several cities in Kazakhstan.
Inhabitants of the northern districts of the city, where the environmental consequences are felt most acutely, are demanding prompt action.
"You don't want to go outside -- the stench from burning hits you right away," Medet Suranchiyev, a resident of Nizhnyaya Ala-Archa (Lower Ala-Archa), a Bishkek suburb, told Caravanserai.
"I live on the outskirts of the city, where we have many single-family residences," he said. "When it's cold, people here start to heat their stoves with coal or even garbage. You can't breathe."
Several members of the Bishkek City Council have proposed declaring a state of emergency in the capital due to the smog.
However, Bishkek has no grounds for doing so because the pollution levels are not significantly above legal maxima, according to Mayor Aziz Surakmatov.
Various offenders are burning rubber, garbage and even scraps of fabric discarded by garment factories, he said, according to 24.kg. Burning trash to heat residences or even public saunas is widespread in Bishkek.
"We are working hard to combat this behaviour," said the mayor.
Police are aggressively raiding Bishkek saunas, fining those that burn fabric scraps rather than pay for coal or other fuel, Kaktus Media reported November 20.
Many factors contribute to Bishkek's environmental problems, according to Ulan Ismailov, a Bishkek-based environmentalist.
These factors include automobile exhaust, coal-burning power plants and single-family residences whose inhabitants burn both coal and toxic waste for heating, he said.
He urged authorities to devote more attention to environmental issues.
"We all -- environmentalists, citizens and authorities -- need to be more conscious of environmental issues and act responsibly when it comes to the condition of our city," Ismailov told Caravanserai.
"This problem is wrongly being put on the back burner, even though it is one of the most important issues," he said.
"We need to hold public discussions that include government officials, and we have to produce the solutions we need," said Ismailov.