Article by Mr. Ari Mäkelä “20 years in Kyrgyzstan”

On July 4th in 1998 -  twenty years ago, for the first time I was fielded in Bishkek to work in Kyrgyz Ministry of the Environmental Protection for reasons of  ”Environmental Monitoring and Management Capacity Building”. So far, five different projects in cooperation between Finnish Environment Institute and the State Agency of Environment Protection and Forestry under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic (including its precursors) have been carried out in 1998-2000 in Bishkek and Chui area, 2001-2002 in Osh and Jalal-Abad areas, 2004-2006 and 2011-2014 in Chui area, and 2015-2018 in Issyk-Kul area and partially in Naryn area (Son-Kul lake).

At first, the key idea was to introduce the concept ‘source – pathway – recipient (target)’ to mobilize environmental monitoring and data collection to track pollutants and their fate within the context of “risk assessment and risk based environmental management”. However, during these years, many things have happened and taken place; having both setbacks and meaningful steps and leaps forward.

The purpose of our projects has been assisting in gathering information on the state of surface waters and environment, for environmentally sound decision making and, subsequently, to improve the state of environment. The objective has been to strengthen capacities to carry out all activities of monitoring and management effectively, as well as reporting of the results for communication and subsequent decision making, and also to enhance national institutions’ capacity to perform institutionally integrated monitoring and sharing of the accumulated information with each other. After all these 20 years this is still a valid purpose to work for even more.

From very beginning we have had the goal of preparing “National Environmental Monitoring Plan” and for its fulfillment a valid “National Environmental Monitoring Program” . For the time being we are still on our way striving for that, although many advances have been made and many waypoints on the road forward successfully hit, including improved laboratory and field working capacities and improved laboratory data storage and State-of-Environment reporting based on globally recognized environmental indicators.

Still, upcoming challenges of permanently developing environmental  monitoring system are waiting for us just round the corner, like adapting to the upcoming climate change. In 2015 and 2016 we have organized conferences on Environmental Cooperation between Finland and Kyrgyzstan addressing "Responding to needs of environmental data for climate change adaptation and natural resources management". This hits exactly at the point and living in hope that our process continues and provides more insight in order to tackle and to monitor the climate change related disadvantageous environmental issues, whatever they will be.

During the past 20 years I have seen how the Bishkek has been changed and improved; A lot more streetlights, a lot more new cars, shopping centers,  buildings of residence and new roads, including increased frequency of international flights at Manas Airport, having felt it by myself after travelling about 60 times Helsinki – Bishkek back and forth. However, I have spent much time as a city pedestrian; What I feel that there is still work to do in terms of monitoring and management for improving air quality, a vital part of our quality of life.

30 years have been passed by of the history of Kyrgyz environmental authority, and I wish success for the next 30 years to come, and specifically, cooperation efforts with regard to water and environmental monitoring between Kyrgyzstan and Finland.