Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsKyrgyz Republic: Villagers Learn To Cope with Disasters
Villagers in the southern part of the Kyrgyz Republic arenow more alert and more prepared than ever should naturaldisasters such as floods and landslides occur. A disaster-preparedness training program has honed their skills incoping with calamities that frequent their mountainouscountry.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRAINING
Residents of KyrgyzRepublic's southernvillages are nowmore prepared toface naturalcalamities afterparticipating in adisaster-preparednesstraining program,which was jointlyconducted by theCivil Social Support Center (CSSC) and the southerndepartment of the Ministry of Extreme Situations (MES). “This was the first-ever training conducted by the Ministryof Extreme Situations to help the local population duringtimes of floods, landslides and mudflows. These naturalcalamities commonly occur in more than 90 percent of southern Kyrgyz Republic,” said CSSC’s Elmira Mavlyanova.Created in 1996, the CSSC is one of country's leading NGOsupport organizations.The six-month disaster-preparedness project, which endedearly July, was funded by the Organization for Security andCooperation in Europe (OSCE). Focusing on the southernKyrgyz provinces of Jalal-Abad, Osh and Batken, the projectconducted a series of roundtable discussions, seminars, andtrainings for both the villagers and local officials in 21villages in the three provinces.
PREPARING FOR DISASTERS
“MES experts, localofficials andvolunteers workedout evacuation plansand logistics, andlearned how to buildsmall dams andchannels,” saidJoldosh Amanbekov,the head of thenewly created civilprotectiondepartment of MES. “Our duty is to coordinate with theministry, local administrations and the local residents onhow to prepare for natural cataclysms and hopefully preventthe loss of lives,” said Amanbekov. Jalal-Abad Vice Governor Aybek Akbarov was quite happywith the training results. He said, “The participants learnedhow to construct small dams, fortify the riverbanks and cleardrainage channels.” Mavlyanova said that they chose to conduct seminars inhigh-risk areas given the fact that Kyrgyz Republic isdominated by peaks, glaciers and high-altitude lakes. Thecountry is no stranger to natural disasters, often because of cattle overgrazing and the deforestation of steep mountainslopes. Mudslides and avalanches are said to haveswallowed entire villages. Apart from water-relateddisasters, earthquakes also affect the region. A severeearthquake in 1992 left thousands of people homeless inJalal-Abad.
INCREASED ALERTNESS, VARIED REACTIONS
According to CSSC studies, only 16.7 percent of villagers inAk-Kyja in Osh province knew how to act in times of naturalcalamities. When the training program was conducted in Ak-Kyia, more than half of the villagers joined the seminars.Volunteer groups, consisting of local administrationrepresentatives and villagers, have been created after thetraining. The primary goal of these groups is to notify andevacuate villagers during emergency situations. The MES’ local branches have a list of members of the volunteergroups in the 21 villages. Apart from constant coordination,the volunteers also train fellow villagers on some basicpreparedness skills.Some peasants, however, stayed away from the projectbecause they said it would not be of any use during floodsand landslides. “The State is obliged to protect us. We cando nothing against the forces of nature,” stated one peasantfrom Sarybulak village in Jalal-Abad province. “We tried to explain to them the importance of beingprepared in extreme situations and tried to convince themto come to the training but they didn’t want to,” saidMavlyanova. “Many villagers, especially the younger ones,think they are safe where they are. But natural catastrophesare very unpredictable and we couldn’t take any chances.” “A person should be given the opportunity to protect hisfamily and property,” MES deputy minister Bolot Ayadaralievsaid, stressing the importance of resident’s participation inthe trainings. “We know we did the right thing. Localresidents who participated in the project say that theirnewfound knowledge is very dear to them than any specialequipment,” said Ayadaraliev.