Despite a marked overall improvement over the last ten years of the economic picture in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, urban planning lagged, and the development of basic and social infrastructure did not keep up with population increase, particularly in informal settlements. According to estimates shared by the city government, between 18 and 25 per cent of the inhabitants live in 54 informal settlements in the outskirts of the city. They lack health care, water, electricity and transport infrastructure. Urban decision makers face multiple challenges, such as rapid population growth, continued expansion of the informal settlements, deterioration of the environment and its effects on human health, and a stagnant local budget. Improving the infrastructure of the informal settlements in Bishkek would require around 5 billion Kyrgyz som (around 58 million USD), according to the Ministry of Finance of Kyrgyzstan, and this exceeds the available government resources.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has been carrying out several projects to assist Bishkek in its efforts to achieve more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient urban development and support the improvement of the informal settlements. Among its works:
The Bishkek Smart Sustainable City Profile, published in March 2022, presented the outcomes and recommendations of the city evaluation against the United for Smart Sustainable Cities Key Performance Indicators. The report suggests activities that the city can take to move closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also guides Bishkek in the creation, review, and implementation of urban policies, programmes and initiatives, as well as in the formation of partnerships to strengthen the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDG 11.
The city has developed an Economic Resilience Building Plan. The Plan was created as part of the United Nations Development Account (UNDA)-funded project "Building Urban Economic Resilience During and After COVID-19".
The local government, UNECE, and the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) have formed a collaboration to improve informal settlements. A result of this was the publication of an assessment report on “Post COVID-19 Recovery for Informal Settlements in the UNECE region: City of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan” in December 2021 that focused on close analysis of five informal settlements in Bishkek: Ak-Bosogo, Archa-Beshik, Bakai-Ata Kalys-Ordo and Ruhii-Muras.
In November 2022, a joint delegation representing UNECE and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) met representatives of the national and city governments to discuss follow-up activities implemented by the city government according to the recommendations of the Bishkek Smart Sustainable City Profile and the Urban Economic Development Action Plan, especially the work on the formalization and improvement of the informal settlements. They also discussed a new joint project to develop a Voluntary Local Review to assess the progress of the city towards the SDGs.
At the workshop held at the Agency for Development and Investment Attraction of the city of Bishkek, representatives of the city departments presented proposals for projects which could support promoting climate neutrality at the city level. Those included:
A proposal for a project on the Kara-Jygach Park focusing on expanding green areas, planting trees and constructing new commercial and service facilities.
A proposal for a project on the Big Chu Canal aimed at improving the drainage system and its related structures that do not carry and collect water efficiently. Estimates shared by representatives of the local government suggest that 40% of water is lost. This is a major issue, considering that the Big Chu Canal has the role of supplying water for irrigation in the dry season.
UNECE and UNCDF will assess possibilities for finding support to implementation of these proposed projects and will continue working together with the city government on the improvement of the informal settlements in Bishkek as outlined in the UNECE Recovery Action Plan for Informal Settlements in the ECE Region and the Guidelines for the Formalization of the Informal Settlements.