Dotted around the outskirts of Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, lies a region known as the "migration circle." This area has become a settling ground for internal migrants from various parts of the country, drawn by the allure of more affordable housing options, albeit in hazardous, ramshackle conditions with few public amenities.
Today, these internal migrants constitute over 35 percent of Bishkek's population, more than 380,000 inhabitants. Many work in the service industry, garment sector, or construction field.
Unfortunately, while Bishkek offers prospects, it also ranks among the cities with the world's poorest air quality. This predicament poses a significant health risk to migrants, who are particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of air pollution.
In particular, green spaces are few and far between. The opening of a modest park in the Ak Bosogo district, where many migrants live, was therefore greeted with enthusiasm.
This initiative, carried out by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with support from the IOM Development Fund, aims at combating air pollution for Bishkek’s displaced and local populations.
The project's objective is to adopt the World Health Organization's (WHO) Healthy City Vision approach in Bishkek, while also raising awareness among migrants and other stakeholders about the impact of air pollution on the health of migrant communities residing in the city.
“Our children are so happy that they have the opportunity to play in the park. Also, older people sit on benches and talk with other residents; it is also a great environment for them to be active. We are trying to maintain the cleanliness of our park,” says Jamila, a resident of Ak Bosogo.
At the official opening of the community park in Ak Bosogo - jointly constructed by the IOM and the Bishkek District Administration - residents celebrated the fruition of their collaborative efforts. The project, which began in November 2022, involved the procurement of construction materials and equipment for asphalt paths, lighting, benches, and trash bins.
The park also boasts two hundred newly planted trees, an irrigation system, and a lush lawn. The event saw the participation of notable figures, including representatives from Parliament, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Supervision, the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Migration, the Ministry of Health, and the Mayor's Office of Bishkek.
At the official opening Zeynal Hajiyev, IOM’s Sub-Regional Coordinator for Central Asia stated, "the challenges linked with air pollution can be best addressed at the local level. Hence, we need to scale-up municipal planning that is informed by evidence, raise awareness, build capacities of local stakeholders and ensure an inclusive urban development plan that effectively protects and promotes the rights of all residents."
The efforts to create a healthier and greener Bishkek signify a promising step toward a more sustainable future. By prioritizing environmental consciousness and community involvement, the city can foster a better quality of life for all its residents.
The residents of the migration circle lack regularized status and are disconnected from essential public amenities, including waste management systems, gas heating infrastructure, and other crucial facilities.
Faced with economic uncertainty, many households in these areas resort to burning coal and various forms of waste, such as household refuse, textiles, and tires, during the winter season, which creates dangerous levels of air quality for residents. In Kyrgyzstan, air pollution accounted for nearly 14 percent of all deaths in 2016.
The WHO Healthy Cities movement is a global endeavor that advocates for prioritizing health in the social, economic, and political agendas of municipal governments. By embracing this approach, the project in Bishkek seeks to engage and encourage participation from every community in the pursuit of collective well-being and prosperity.