3 june 2020

Central Asia news

International organizations take measures to prevent radioactive contamination of the Ferghana Valley

26.04.2005 15:15 msk

Andrei Kudryashov (Tashkent)

Ferghana Valley

A major land slide was reported on April 13 in Kyrgyzstan, not far from the borders of the Namangan region (Uzbekistan) in the vicinity of the town of Mailu-Suu where radioactive wastes storage facilities are located. International mission ECOSAN was urgently formed to study the situation. Its functionaries called a press conference in Tashkent today to acquaint general public with their findings.

According to Yu. Shadimetov of ECOSAN, radioactive wastes are kept in 23 storage facilities. Remnants of the processed uranium ore from Mailu-Suu factories and stibium factory in Kadamzhai were stored there from 1948 to 1968. Storage facilities with approximately 7,000 tons of semi-liquid radioactive wastes are located in the active seismic zone where land slides and mudrock flows are frequent. Thirteen terraces amounting to 2.7 million cubic meters (200 grams of uranium per ton) pose a threat too. Radiation background on the surface of the terraces varies between 100 and 200 microrhoentgen/hour.

ECOSAN mission visited the land slide area on the Maili-Suu river that took the lives of two locals, according to Kyrgyz sources.

"The situation is dangerous because of the nearness of storage facilities. Wreck one of them and it will mean an ecological catastrophe for the Ferghana Valley and all of Central Asia," Shadimetov said. "The land slide blocked the river and water rushed into abandoned workshops of Izolit. Poorly informed, the locals are not aware of all ramifications. ECOSAN mission therefore met with B. Aidaraliyev, Senior Deputy Minister for Ecology and Emergencies, and Mayor of Kadamzhai T. Kambayev."

A special project financed by the World Bank ($11,760,000) will be put into motion before September. Scheduled to be completed before 2009, the project will rehabilitate and reclamate radioactive wastes storage facilities. The World Bank mission will open its office in Maili-Suu in the near future.

What with the dangerous socioecological situation along the Maili-Suu, ECOSAN urges territorial structures of the Ministry for Ecology and Emergencies of Kyrgyzstan and Emergency Ministry of Uzbekistan to inform the population of the dangers posed by the possibility of ruination of storage facility. Before the season of rains in the mountains (May), it is necessary to take urgent measures to fortify dams and slopes to prevent land slides.

ECOSAN experts are convinced that the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan should strive to focus the attention of the international community on the radiation problem in the vicinity of the Maili-Suu. Russian, American, German experts should study the condition of storage facilities and terraces, draft a project of their reinforcement, and start looking for investors.

ECOSAN urges the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to make an official appeal to donor countries.