To support Bishkek in moving towards more sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban growth, the UNECE is advancing several smart sustainable city projects in partnership with the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
Bishkek faces multiple challenges, ranging from rapid population growth, continued expansion of informal settlements, degradation of urban infrastructure, deterioration of the environment and the impact of all of these factors on human health. With over one million residents and an estimated population growth of 40 per cent in the next 15 years, the city government is at a crossroads when it comes to urban development: it must either step up the delivery of inclusive and sustainable infrastructure and seize the benefits of urbanization, such as rapid economic growth and increased job opportunities, or face increasing economic, social and environmental costs.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic recession has impacted all sectors, putting a spotlight on some long-standing social and economic needs: upgrading informal settlements, developing cleaner and less polluting urban mobility, linking municipal projects to sustainable finance and investment to support the process of building a smarter, more sustainable and more resilient city.
Upgrading informal settlements is a key challenge for the city. In almost all the 47 informal settlements, which account for an estimated 30 per cent of the city’s population, there is a lack of key infrastructure such as water supply and sanitation services. In one of the settlements, Ak-Bosogo, covering 316 hectares in the north of Bishkek and hosting over 15,000 people, UNECE found that only 31 per cent of residents have access to a toilet or bathroom, yet the population of this area is expected to double by 2030.
Nevertheless, the city has a high potential to turn urban social and economic challenges into opportunities. Bishkek is the testing ground for the majority of the Government’s pilot projects as part of the National Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for 2018-2040, most notably the “School of the Future”, “Safe City” and “Healthy City”. Around 60 per cent of the country’s small and medium enterprises and 18 per cent of the national industrial production are concentrated in the capital city. Bishkek is also the country’s major financial and scientific centre.
To support Bishkek in advancing towards more sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban growth, UNECE is carrying out several projects, which were discussed on 10 March 2022 at a national workshop, “Smart Sustainable Resilient City Bishkek”. The workshop, held at the Bishkek City Hall, provided an overview of the following UNECE engagements:
- The completion of the Bishkek smart sustainable city profile, which assesses the city in terms of its current degree of smartness and sustainability and formulates policy recommendations. The assessment included areas of environment, social and economic development, ICT and other urban infrastructure;
- The preparation of an Economic Resilience Building Plan for the city as part of the UNECE project, “Building urban economic resilience during and after COVID-19";
- The launch of a partnership between the city government, UNECE and the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) aimed at upgrading informal settlements.
The smart sustainable cities profile Bishkek included the following key policy recommendations:
- Improve institutional and governance frameworks towards integrated and long-term urban planning;
- Legalize, upgrade and redevelop informal settlements;
- Design a socially just coal phase out;
- Develop a formal affordable housing programme following compact urban development;
- Pursue compact urban development by incentivizing the development, redevelopment, and infill of underused or vacant land plots;
- Develop sustainable urban transport infrastructure by investing in low-carbon public transport infrastructure and expanding sharing mobility options;
- Improve internet access and digital literacy;
- Improve the water and sanitation infrastructure; and management of solid waste.
In response to key urban challenges and to support implementation of the policy recommendations in Bishkek’s smart sustainable cities profile, UNECE has partnered with CDIA to produce a feasibility study for the integrated upgrading of 5 informal settlements. This will involve providing them with all basic and social infrastructure – such as local water supply, sanitation, stormwater management, drainage, district heating, power supply, solid waste management, paved roads, green open spaces, schools, medical facilities and green buildings. In addition, the project aims to focus specifically on job creation based on informal workers' skills. A key aspect involves helping cities connect project ideas with the appropriate technical assistance, financing networks and mechanisms needed. By linking a city to a global network of Project Preparation Facilities (PPFs) in the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance Network, UNECE is committed to helping close the widening infrastructure financing gap.
The project preparation process, which is sponsored through a CDIA grant of $500,000 USD, is set to start in March 2022. It will involve a variety of local actors in development planning, to ensure the inclusion of the urban poor and not authorities alone. The participatory approach is indeed crucial for building trust at the local level; this is particularly important in rapidly growing cities like Bishkek. In Bishkek, a city with a budget of USD 120 million, the set-up of such multi-stakeholder partnerships will be an opportunity to improve the quality of everyday life on the ground for approximately 75,000 disadvantaged residents in the 5 targeted informal settlements.
The March 2022 national workshop was opened by Kuvanychbek Kongatiev, Chairman of Bishkek City Council; Mirlan Baigonchokov, First Vice Mayor of the City of Bishkek; and Dmitry Mariyasin, UNECE Deputy Executive Secretary. Mr. Mariyasin underlined “the strong commitment on the part of the City of Bishkek towards action and cooperation in furthering the sustainable development in the spirit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New Urban Agenda and the Geneva UN Charter on Sustainable Housing”.
City Vice-Mayor of Bishkek Ms. Viktoriia Mozgacheva will participate in the Second Forum of Mayors. She will provide information on the progress of city cooperation with UNECE and other partners.
More information on projects implemented in Bishkek is available at:
Smart Sustainable Cities Profile: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
The Smart Sustainable Cities Profile of Bishkek presents the outcome of the city evaluation against the United for Smart Sustainable Cities Key Performance Indicators, and proposes actions for the city’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
UNDA 12th tranche project on innovative financing for sustainable smart cities
The project supports the transition of beneficiary cities towards being smart and sustainable, with a view to support countries in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 11and other urban related SDGs.
Building urban economic resilience during and after COVID-19
The project focuses on strengthening the capacities of local governments to design, implement and monitor sustainable, resilient and inclusive COVID-19 economic and financial responses, recovery and rebuilding plans.
Post COVID-19 Recovery in Informal Settlements in the ECE Region
The objective of this project is to strengthen the capacity of the national and local governments in UNECE countries to address the needs of the population living in informal settlements.
The Forum of Mayors is a platform for on-going exchange and mutual learning where mayors will present their efforts to tackle challenges in their cities. Cities will learn from each other’s best practices in the areas of housing, climate-neutral buildings, green cities, sustainable urban transport, safer roads, nature-based and smart urban development solutions. The Second Forum of Mayors will take place on 4 and 5 April 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland.