Outdated Waste Management Practices Underscore the Need to Modernize Facilities in Central Asia
Rapidly growing populations and increasing consumption across Central Asia underscore the need to review existing waste management practices. Most Central Asian countries rely on heavy-polluting industries, such as mining, to drive their economies. Traditionally, waste from these industries has been stored in Tailings Management Facilities (TMF). However, poorly designed or outdated facilities can result in industrial accidents that transcend state borders. These include soil erosion, water contamination, often exacerbated by weather conditions and natural hazards. For example, an accident at the Kazzinc metals-mining-and-processing facility resulted in run-off of grey sludge into a northern Kazakhstani river that runs through numerous villages. Central Asian countries should prioritize modernizing both industrial and consumer waste management facilities to prevent future environmentally hazardous incidents from occurring. The five Central Asian republics are projected to add a total of 25 million more people to their populations by 2050, a total growth rate of 34.9 percent. This growing population will only worsen the current situation if left unaddressed.
Waste accumulation continues to grow across the region. Kazakhstan produces 300 million tons of industrial waste and 3-6 million tons of municipal waste annually. Yet, waste collection capacity is considerably lacking; 30 percent of waste is not disposed of by private or public waste collection services. Furthermore, recycling is not commonplace in the country. Only 10-11 percent of waste in Kazakhstani landfills are recycled goods, compared to 80 percent in the European Union and Japan. Furthermore, 70 percent of waste in the Kyrgyz Republic and 60 percent of waste in Tajikistan is not properly removed to collection sites. The geographical expanse and low population density in the western reaches of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also serve as an impediment to implementing effective waste collection practices.
Central Asian countries have realized the importance of addressing local concerns surrounding waste accumulation. For example, while Kazakhstan’s growing population has increased outputs of solid waste, Kazakhstan was the first country in the Caspian region to adopt waste management legislation. The code stipulated that manufacturers would be responsible for overseeing waste cleanup but financial incentives would be distributed for those that adopted proper recycling methods and embraced environmentally friendly regulations. Similarly, Uzbekistan has instituted waste management modernization policies into its green economy plans. The Uzbek government commissioned a $69 million project, financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to modernize its solid waste management facilities in Tashkent in 2014. Central Asian countries have noted the growing environmental dangers of solid waste accumulation and have adopted measures to accommodate those communities.
Financing waste management modernization has proven difficult. Private investment has been lackluster and very few waste management facilities are financed by local or national municipalities. As a result, some Central Asian governments have turned to international organizations and financial institutions to fund their waste management goals. The ADB allocated a $60 million loan to Uzbekistan to improve its solid waste management practices by granting funds to purchase collection vehicles and waste disposal bins, and train personnel. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has also extended funding to organize landfills in Tajikistan to mitigate the health and environmental impacts for communities near waste collection sites.
Central Asian countries should incorporate waste management practices into financial and environmental goals. By linking private investment with public infrastructure projects, governments can properly finance modern waste management facilities that reduce the release of harmful materials into the environment. Moreover, the Central Asian republics must prioritize waste management investment by granting incentives to investors. Ensuring that manufacturers are adhering to waste management regulations is a hefty task, but one that can be accomplished by providing incentives for firms that invest in these practices. Enlisting private investors and enterprises to support waste management ambitions will lead to quicker results. Outdated facilities have lasting negative impacts on the environment and will only continue to deteriorate with increased consumption. Waste management projects benefit the public health and environment of local communities, stimulate the economy by generating jobs, and address the issue before population growth worsens the problem.