A man stands next to a lorry loaded with coal that people buy at reduced prices in order to heat their homes during the energy crunch, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on November 26, 2021. BISHKEK, Nov 26 Reuters -- Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japparov told the COP 26 global climate summit this month that his Central Asian nation would achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 - but right now his government is urging citizens to burn more coal.
Hundreds of people queue up every day to buy coal at reduced prices, an arrangement that was agreed by the cabinet amid an electric power crunch and ahead of Sunday's parliamentary election.
This bodes badly for air quality in the capital of Bishkek, which last winter claimed the dubious title as the world's most polluted city.
The former Soviet republic has little choice in the matter - almost half of its electric power is generated by hydroelectric plants, the biggest of which has suffered this year from low water levels due to drought across the region.
Like many other Bishkek residents, housewife, Chinara, 51, has queued up to buy coal at 3,000 soms $35 per tonne, a major discount from the market price of about 5,500 soms.
She said that we burn about 5 -- 6 tonnes in a cold winter. I stand in line for three-four hours. What are we supposed to do, freeze? According to the environmental engineer Kanykei Kadyrova at the Movegreen NGO, the combined emissions of city power plants and households burning coal are the main factor behind the heavy pollution that chokes Bishkek at all times.
The country of 6.7 million hopes to solve its energy woes in the future by building more hydroelectric power plants. In winter, increased water flows in neighbouring Kazakhstan cause headaches, as increased water flows lead to floods downstream, in neighbouring Kazakhstan.