Former Soviet Union; Village Infrastructure; Stakeholders; Water Tariff; Awareness; Water Utility; Access to Fresh Water
This research has been conducted within the framework of the joint project ‘Integrated Watershed Management in Central Asia – Implementing an Educational and Research Concept for Capacity Building in Kyrgyzstan’, driven by German and Kyrgyz universities and financed by the German Volkswagen Foundation.
After gaining its independence in 1991, Kyrgyzstan was confronted with arising social and economic difficulties. The newly formed Kyrgyz government was not able to provide the population with a functioning drinking water supply system (WSS) and all its connected proper services. Nowadays, many villages in Kyrgyzstan lack adequate WSSs for drinking as well as irrigation water.
The present thesis is focused on problems in the accessibility to clean drinking water in rural areas of Central Kyrgyzstan. On the example of the village of Kara-Suu in the central Naryn oblast, the today's structures of the WSSs are examined. Kara-Suu was chosen as a more or less typical soviet-style Kyrgyz village in order to find some answers to the defined main research question: What are the problems in the management of drinking WSS in rural areas of Kyrgyzstan?
Most data has been gathered during field research by using the following methods: An overview of the research area was gained by direct and indirect, respectively participating and non-participating observation, on-site inspection, mapping of the water supply system in a GIS, semi-structured expert interviews with various stakeholders and representatives of different authorities, and standardized interviews on the basis of a questionnaire with villagers of Kara-Suu.
The study in Kara-Suu showed that after getting independent in 1991, ownership and operation of the rural drinking WSS were decentralized and handed over to the administration of the village and villagers themselves. However, the administration as well as the villagers has little knowledge about management, operation and maintenance of a local drinking WSS, which has originally been planned and managed by the prior existing soviet collective farms. The deterioration of the freshwater WSS in Kara-Suu expresses itself in the fact that much of the water supply infrastructure (e.g. pumps, pipelines, public standpipes) is technically outdated, poorly maintained and out of function due to the discontinuation of funding from the government as well as the unwillingness or inability of the local community and people to self-management.
Based on the investigations in Kara-Suu, it can be concluded that the problem of inadequate access to water and its partially poor quality are rather rooted in the poor management and low awareness of local people, than in the physical availability of enough fresh water for domestic use and consumption.
The main conclusions of this research are as follows: 1) Only the investment of money cannot improve the situation in the WSS in rural areas; 2) It is necessary to change the attitude of the water user towards water as an economic good; 3) To raise awareness, responsibility and capacity of people to manage the WSS properly; 4) Not only to build a WSS, but also to establish the legal and social institutions that would help to create the needed conditions for a sustainable development and management of the rural water infrastructure.
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