Ecological struggle in Kyrgyzstan

From the New York Times, Dec. 12 (and apparently little-reported elsewhere):

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, Dec. 11 – In the remote hamlet of Tamga, residents frustrated by corruption and the sorry legacy of a chemical spill did something that would have been unthinkable in Kyrygzstan not long ago: they rose up.

For 10 days last month, they blocked the road to a gold mine where almost two tons of cyanide spilled into the Barskoon River more than seven years ago. Another group surrounded a power plant, threatening to cut off electricity to the Kumtor mine, owned by Centerra Gold in Toronto.

The protests were inspired by the public upheaval in March that toppled this country’s long-serving ruler, President Askar Akayev. Like the events in March, they appear – at least for now – to have succeeded.

The government that replaced Mr. Akayev’s promised to pay $3.7 million in compensation that local residents considered long overdue for the suffering the spill has caused in Tamga and neighboring Barskoon, situated about 150 miles east of here on the shore of Lake Ysyk-Kol.

Protesters say that corrupt elements of Mr. Akayev’s government intercepted earlier payments and that the new president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, gave his personal guarantee that the compensation money would be paid in full.

“And if they again steal from us, we will not believe them the next time,” Jekshen Shamaraliyev, a leader of the protests, said in an interview in Tamga. “We will close everything up. Then we will block all production at Kumtor.”

See our last posts on Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.