Louise Chamberlain - UNDP Kyrgyzstan's Resident Representative. Photo: Chyntemir Kalbaev / UNDP Kyrgyzstan

Speech of Ms. Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Resident Representative

Consultation Meeting on Air Pollution in Kyrgyzstan

March 6, 2020

Venue: State Agency Environment Protection and Forestry


Excellency Vice Prime Minister, Mr. Kubatbek Boronov;

Director of State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry, Mr. Mirslav Amankulov;

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen!

It is my honor and privilege to welcome you on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme to this Consultation Meeting on air quality issues. I would like to thank the State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry for organizing today’s workshop. It is truly a pleasure to welcome so many participants across the Government, development partners and other stakeholders to this important session. 

In recent months, air quality in Bishkek has regularly been among the worst in the world in terms of PM2.5 concentrations, at times reaching levels nearly double the official ‘hazardous level.’ As we know, PM2.5 are tiny atmospheric particles that come from things like power plants, motor vehicles, airplanes, wood burning, and forest fires. Because they are so small, these particles linger longer in the air, penetrate deep into human lungs, and may even enter our circulatory system. Studies have evidenced a link between exposure to fine particles and premature death from heart / lung disease. The Ministry of Health in the Kyrgyz Republic estimates that nearly 80% of respiratory illnesses in Bishkek can be attributed to air pollution, and has contributed to illness in over 300,000 children.

Now, we know that the consumption of fossil fuels throughout Central Asia contributes to air pollution and global climate change impacts, particularly during the winter heating season.  According to the National Statistics Committee, Kyrgyzstan consumes more than 2 million tons of coal annually, including for purposes of municipal and household heating.  UNDP’s public expenditure review estimated that the costs of running small-scale boilers on coal exceeds 20 million USD annually. In the peri-urban areas around Bishkek, many private households operate outdated and inefficient household heaters, which significantly adds to the problem.  And over the past two decades, Bishkek municipality has reported an increase of over 1,000 per cent in the number of cars on the road.  Unfortunately, most of these cars do not meet global environmental standards.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while November’s first platform meeting helped us define the problem, I sincerely hope that today’s meeting can help us move closer to solutions and practical partnerships for action.  Importantly, since our last meeting the Government has updated, approved and begun implementation of the action plan we are discussing today.  In order to tackle the complex and multi-dimensional pollution challenge, the government will need strong support and effective partnerships from the private sector and from the international community. We all need to work together to speed up coordinated action on this critical issue. 

From UNDP’s side, we are working closely with the Government to help develop and put plans into action and welcome others to join in these efforts.  We are looking to scale up and strengthen monitoring of air quality and are bringing in technical expertise to look at options for adjustments in district heating plans, adjusting financing incentives, and promoting green cities.  We plan to scale up work to help public buildings to become more energy efficient and move towards clean fuel. We will also reach out to major investments funds and banks to work with the Government to take these projects to scale. 

And we see clear win-win options for strengthening action on pollution in line with accelerated climate change action, in line with Kyrgyzstan’s global commitment to implement the Paris Agreement.   Air quality and climate policies are mutually reinforcing: actions that mitigate climate change can help reduce air pollution, and clean air measures can help reduce the GHG emissions that cause climate change.

I know that many organizations here today want to be part of Kyrgyzstan’s sustainable development future, and are eager to contribute to a safe and healthy Bishkek. So, I hope our dialogue today can help highlight priorities, opportunities and partnerships to realize a shared country vision. 

In conclusion, I would like to reaffirm our intent to work closely with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic and with our sister UN agencies and other development partners to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal SDG 13 on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.  

Many cities in the world have overcome the pollution challenge with new technologies, better regulation and changing behavior of residents.  Development partners are here to help to bring such world-class solutions to Bishkek and other cities in Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek used to be known as one of the most green cities in the region. Let’s make sure Bishkek deserves to be called a green city once again.

Every breath we take depends on it. Thank you. Chong Rahmat.

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