Kyrgyzstan Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Kyrgyzstan:

  1. Poverty

In 2017, poverty rate at national poverty line for Kyrgyzstan was 25.6 %. Though Kyrgyzstan poverty rate at national poverty line fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to decrease through 2008 – 2017 period ending at 25.6 % in 2017. About 0.8 percent of the population lived in a state of extreme poverty. At the same time, 28.4 percent of rural residents and 20.4 percent of urban residents remain poor. The number of citizens living below the poverty line has increased in Kyrgyzstan. According to the National Statistical Committee, the share of low-income citizens increased from 25.4% to 25.6% over the past year. The total number of poor reached 1.6 million, 40 thousand people more than in 2016. In the Batken province, the poverty level increased from 37% to 40.5%, and in Osh, the second largest city of the country, from 24.6% to 33.5%. 

Perhaps one of the largest causes of poverty in Kyrgyzstan is its dependence on agriculture despite gaps in knowledge and resources. Two-thirds of the population live in rural areas: however, these people are not adequately trained in land management, animal husbandry, veterinary practices and harvest techniques. This results in land that can no longer produce food and feed animals at full capacity and a group of people who cannot subsist on their agricultural efforts alone. It is not surprising then that 75 percent of poor people in Kyrgyzstan live in rural areas and that 12 percent of the total population is food insecure.


  1. Gender Inequality

The country suffers from high and rising inequalities and faces major regional disparities. Women are largely excluded from decision-making. Violence against women is widespread and takes many forms, including domestic violence, bride kidnapping, trafficking, early marriages and physical abuse. The negative reinterpretation of some cultural and social practices increasingly restricts women’s rights to control their lives. There is a growing risk of women’s involvement in radical religious groups. 

Unpaid care makes it difficult for rural women in Kyrgyzstan to take advantage of on- and off-farm employment opportunities. Rural women and girls have restricted access to productive resources. 

Kyrgyzstan’s HDI for 2018 is 0.674. However, when the value is discounted for inequality, the HDI falls to 0.610, a loss of 9.5 percent due to inequality in the distribution of the HDI dimension indices. 


  1. Environmental Issues

Although Kyrgyzstan is not a centre of heavy industry, its environment suffers the results of decades of serious ecological mismanagement. Air pollution represents a major problem in the cities of Kyrgyzstan, due to rapid increase of traffic. Water pollution is also a significant issue, especially in the south, where water-borne diseases are prevalent. In agricultural areas, excessive irrigation and unrestrained use of agricultural chemicals have severely degraded soil quality. Livestock overgrazing has contributed to soil degradation, and a significant portion of Kyrgyzstan’s grassland has disappeared. Kyrgyzstan has many uranium and gold mines, which are a threat to the environment, due to the release of toxic substances into the soil.

The climate in Kyrgyzstan varies from semi humid to semi arid and mountains rise at north from 800 to almost 5000m. Since the 1950s there is significant rise of average annual temperatures in this region, and it got even more apparent for the last 3 decades, and in winter period. Compared to the global annual temperature increase, the rise in this region is up to 3 times higher. The significant threat to the Kyrgyzstan region is glacier melting, which is the most obvious consequence of global climate trend here. The melting significantly increased after 1970s.

Another danger represents the glacial lake increase, due to constant melting of permafrost and glaciers. This poses a threat from mud flow, floods and landslides and on the other hand, global warming in other regions of the country causes draughts and therefore, lack of water for the population.


  1. Crime

There is considerable risk from crime in the capital city of Bishkek. Although relatively uncommon, there have been reports of muggings and assaults on foreigners in downtown Bishkek at night. Many reports center on bars, clubs, and other drinking establishments where inebriated patrons (regardless of nationality) make for tempting targets; local criminals perceive foreigners to have more money than local residents. Other non-violent crimes occur regularly. In 2017, Bishkek reported 9,901 crimes.There is a high incidence of petty theft and pickpocketing in local open-air markets, bazaars, and other crowded places. There is particular need to pay close attention to one’s surroundings and belongings while in crowded public places, walking on crowded streets and underground crosswalks, and traveling on public transportation.  Kyrgyzstan has faced a variety of challenges since its emergence as an independent state after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Two serious outbreaks of violence have occurred in the last twenty years, both during periods of political confrontation, with political leaders attempting to replace old elites and the central government weakened by changes around it.

The first occurred in the early 1990s, when Southern Kyrgyzstan was the scene of rioting between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Similar events occurred in 2010 – five years after the ‘Tulip Revolution’ – when thousands of people fled the violence which led to 400 people being killed in Osh and Jalalabad.


  1. Economic Issues

The country suffered a severe drop in production in the early 1990s and has again faced slow growth in recent years as the global financial crisis and declining oil prices have dampened economies across Central Asia. The government remains dependent on foreign donor support to finance its annual budget deficit of approximately 3 to 5% of GDP. Kyrgyzstan’s economic development continues to be hampered by corruption, lack of administrative transparency, lack of diversity in domestic industries, and difficulty attracting foreign aid and investment.