JALAL-ABAD, 13 July (IRIN) - Villagers in parts of Kyrgyzstan particularly vulnerable to natural disasters are angry that government policy, which aims to compensate them for resettling in safer areas, is not being followed.
"Last year people from the MEE [Ministry of Emergency and Ecology] came here and agreed to resettle us but I still cannot get the money to resettle," said 57-year-old Jurabai Baikuliev. He continues to live with his two sons in Aksy district in the province of Jalal-Abad, in southern Kyrgyzstan, a region especially at risk from landslides.
The mountainous country is vulnerable to a variety of natural disasters including flash floods, avalanches and landslides. According to the MEE, there are more than 2,000 areas of the country prone to landslides, which have killed an average of 35 people per year over the last decade. In the first half of 2005, there have been 25 landslides and 20 avalanches have hit the country.
"The issue of resettlement of vulnerable people is a big headache. From 1994 the MEE had promised to resettle 13,000 families but 5,600 families are still waiting to move," Colonel Sergey Stepanov, chief of civil defence at the MEE, said in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital.
Once a community has been designated for relocation by the MEE, a grant may be awarded of about US $2,000 to build a new house in a safer part of the country, or in some cases, $3000 to buy another house. But people in Jalal-Abad, one of the most badly hit parts of the nation, said they were frustrated at the long wait for the money to come through.
"I built this house five years ago. The people from the MEE told me to destroy it because then I would be able to get compensation to resettle in another place. I have already found a new house, but still there is no money from the state for me to buy it," said Baikuliev.
"The process of getting the payments is complicated by widespread bureaucracy," said a representative of the village administration.
Last year MEE representatives causing anger amongst locals by destroying 421 houses in Aksy to prevent people from staying in the region but then failed to provide any of the families with resources to secure alternative accommodation.
Recently, the MEE forcibly resettled 580 families in Batken, Osh, and Jalal-Abad provinces, although none received the government resettlement payments.
A recent United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) report said that more than 1,210 natural disasters occurred in Kyrgyzstan between 1992 and 1999. The incidents killed 400 people and destroyed 50,000 houses, 222 schools and 127 healthcare facilities.
"We live with horror each day. It's three years since the first landslide appeared [happened] and the risk of another one becomes greater each day. We want to move from this area but we need assistance now," said Tolganai in anguish, another Juzumjan village resident. She also lost her husband in a flash flood four years ago.
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