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Community Resilience in Kyrgyzstan’s Former Uranium Monotowns

Pierobon, Chiara. “Community Resilience in Kyrgyzstan’s Former Uranium Monotowns: Local Voices and Visions”, OSCE Academy Policy Brief No. 81, 2022 [with Zarina Adambussinova]. 

Throughout the Soviet era, Central Asia was the site of extensive mining projects. As a result, numerous high-risk tailing dumps and other types of rare- earth metals and uranium legacy sites dot the region today1. This poses serious risks for local livelihoods, public health, and the environment, particularly within so-called ‘monogoroda’ or ‘monotowns’, urban areas whose socio-economic life are, or were, completely dependent on single production chains. The monotowns of Kyrgyzstan in particular face social, economic and ecological challenges that have been aggravated by the political and economic fragility of this post-Soviet country. Unfortunately, monotown communities, still having little knowledge of the legacies of uranium mining, including radiological waste, to this day do not effectively engage in uranium risk management. This policy brief focuses on how such communities perceive international projects that are being conducted in their midst toward the goal of developing their economies, and whether such perceptions may contain insights for international donors seeking to improve monotowns’ community resiliency. The recommendations made here are based on a combination of desk research and fieldwork, including one-on-one semi-structured interviews, focus groups discussions and group interviews mainly conducted in three monotowns in northern Kyrgyzstan: Kadji-Sai, Orlovka, and Ak-Tuz.

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