Even after he retired in 2019, chemical engineer Suidumbek Kalmurzayev remained preoccupied by the destiny of his former office in Tash-Kumyr, a Kyrgyz metropolis that sits on the gateway to Central Asia’s Fergana Valley and is thought regionally as “the graveyard of factories.”
“I used to say to him: ‘What’s it to you? Depart that manufacturing facility properly alone’,” Kalmurzayev’s widow Uububyu Kalmurzayeva instructed Eurasianet throughout an interview at her dwelling.
“He would say that Tash-Kumyr was sitting on an ecological time bomb. He tried till the top to seek out out the place all the cash went.”
Kalmurzayev died final yr after a quick sickness, abandoning a trove of paperwork and press cuttings linked to the Soviet-legacy Kristall polysilicon manufacturing facility the place he was the final worker.
However the time bomb he referred to with regularity continues to be ticking.
For greater than 20 years, 80 tons of harmful chemical compounds have sat in disused Kristall, which as soon as remodeled risky compounds into supplies for semiconductors and was slated to turn out to be one of many largest crops on this planet of its kind. Within the age of microchips and photo voltaic panels, its output would have been in excessive demand.
As a substitute, uncared for and ignored by the federal government, residents worry these corrosive chemical compounds are actually slowly leaking out into the native setting, spelling ecological disaster for each the town and the broader area, together with the populous Fergana Valley beneath.
Kalmurzayev started working at Kristall as a foreman in 1985 and later grew to become a manufacturing supervisor.
Through the years he noticed the positioning continually divided into totally different sections with totally different firms in cost as Kyrgyzstan’s political tides shifted, with two presidents felled inside 5 years of one another through the second decade of independence.
The positioning is now owned by Laptop Energy Middle LLC, an organization registered in Kyrgyzstan 2019.
Its director, Maksat Oskonbayev, confirmed that it now hosts a crypto mining farm, though he claimed that the rigs aren’t presently operating.
Throughout a gathering in Tash-Kumyr, Oskonbayev claimed that he’s not allowed to entry the territory and that the massive vats of chemical compounds should not the corporate’s accountability since they’re owned by a separate agency referred to as Tash-Kömür Silicon Manufacturing CJSC (TSP), from whom Laptop Energy Middle LLC acquired the land and constructing three years in the past.
“Everyone is aware of that there’s poison in these tankers, residue within the pipes. We raised these questions [with the state property fund] proper after we purchased the plant. Everybody is aware of that we received’t get any traders right here till the problem is resolved,” stated Oskonbayev.
Laptop Energy Middle LLC is Chinese language-owned, Oskonbayev stated, with out offering particulars.
The shifting of accountability for the chemical compounds has been a sample on the plant, which has largely stood idle after being prepped for privatization within the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse within the early Nineteen Nineties.
Based on a 2012 report by news website 24.kg property on the territory have been from 2007 onwards managed by Belize-registered firms linked to then-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s son Maksim Bakiyev and his enterprise accomplice and former classmate Alexey Eliseev.
These years have been the best throughout independence for the manufacturing facility, which started producing polycrystalline silicon consistent with world requirements.
However at 750 kilograms in 2009, annual output was properly wanting the 165-200 tons that the brand new traders have been setting as their final goal.
The next yr introduced bloody revolution, nationalization and accusations of mass embezzlement and worse aimed by the brand new regime on the fugitive Bakiyevs and their associates.
Kristall was declared bankrupt, positioned underneath exterior administration and saved in standby mode with a skeleton workers.
Initially unaddressed was the destiny of the massive tanks of trichlorosilane, a transparent liquid that’s each flammable and corrosive sufficient to separate muscle from bone.
In 2011, the federal government underneath Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev allotted 6.4 million soms ($152,000 on the time) to take care of the issue. A former colleague of Kalmurzaev’s, a scientist who requested anonymity, confirmed Eurasianet authorities paperwork dated from Might 23, 2011, that confirmed the order to get rid of the chemical compounds.
However the cash was by no means used for its meant goal.
“The lifespan of the tanks is simply 12 months, however they’ve been standing there for 20 years,” the scientist stated.
There are “enormous dangers” of the rusting tanks exploding through the center of Tash-Kumyr’s summers, when temperatures frequently rise over 40 levels Celsius, or in winter, when fierce winds batter the world, the scientist added.
“If that occurs, the air, earth and water will likely be poisoned. There will likely be tragic penalties not just for Tash-Kumyr and Jalal-Abad, however for the entire area.”
Tash-Kumyr’s new mayor, Kelsinbek Bektemirov instructed Eurasianet that native authorities are able to get entangled within the waste disposal effort if funds are forthcoming.
Throughout an interview in his workplace, each Bektemirov and his deputy forged doubt on the crypto mining agency’s declare that the chemical compounds within the tanks are nonetheless the accountability of TSP – the Bakiyev-linked firm that was nationalized.
Laptop Energy Middle LLC agreed to tackle all property after they concluded the deal, the officers have stated.
Leaks on the web site – albeit small ones with no seen results on the encompassing space – have been reported prior to now.
Again in 2017, Tash-Kumyr’s prosecutor obtained complaints a few leak on the plant and requested authorities inspections. In response, the Jalal-Abad area Interdistrict Courtroom ordered the destruction of the chemical compounds underneath specialist supervision. However no work has taken place to at the present time.
Bishkek-based activist and photographer Vlad Ushakov, one of many co-founders of ecomap.kg, a map of environmental stress round Kyrgyzstan, was capable of enter the plant in 2020 and document what he stated have been indicators of the leak and a slapdash try to repair it.
“You’ll be able to see from images contained in the plant the poor situation of the tanks. You’ll be able to see the place any individual tried to caulk the pipes. If the authorities proceed to disregard the issue, Tash-Kumyr will face an ecological disaster,” Ushakov stated.
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