Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan: People in potential disaster zones may be moved

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OSH, 7 October (IRIN) - Authorities in southern Kyrgyzstan are concerned over the reluctance of local people to leave potential disaster zones. They have urged the population of some areas prone to landslides to move to safer areas.
"Regarding those who don't want to do that voluntarily, we will have to use forcible methods," Naken Kasiev, the governor of the southern Osh Province, said at a press conference last week. He said the obstinacy of the residents of the landslide-prone southern Uzgen District - despite the numerous warnings by the authorities of a possible disaster - had led to casualties caused by the landslides in there last spring.

Kyrgyz scientists and experts recently forecast seismic activity on the territory of the mountainous Central Asian state, and authorities in Osh expressed concern over the possibility of houses in mountain villages and valley settlements, as well as communications infrastructure, being affected.

According to the country's ecology and emergency situations ministry, there are about 900 landslide-prone areas in the south, and the governor of Osh Province says some 600 households need to be relocated immediately.

There have been more than 50 emergency situations in Osh Province since the beginning of the year. Some 40 people died, while more than 100 houses and dozens of irrigation schemes, as well as communications and water supply infrastructure, were damaged. The provincial authorities have estimated the total damage to stand at US $1.5 million.

Stressing the magnitude of the problem, some provincial officials estimated that the inhabitants of nearly half the province's mountain villages were at risk from natural disasters and needed to be relocated to safer areas.

However, some NGO activists were sceptical about the prospects of implementing such a challenging task. "The government will need huge resources for that, which it lacks," Adyljan Abidov, the head of the Civic Initiatives Support Centre told IRIN in Osh.

According to the governor's office, some 200 households affected by disasters have been provided with land for housing. Kasiev said the government had, with the support of the international community, spent huge amounts of money on building houses for those affected by disasters, and on reconstructing infrastructure.

"In rural areas, the majority of houses and buildings comply with neither with the seismic safety requirements nor with other construction norms and requirements," Abdulahat Yuldashev, a prominent civil engineer in the region, told IRIN. "Most of the residents in these areas construct houses using mud-bricks, because they don't have money for cement and concrete."

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