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RTX77GUW
Soviet waste dump a landslide away from poisoning millions
Hidden in a remote Central Asian gorge, thousands of tonnes of radioactive waste are one landslide away from contaminating the water supply for the whole Ferghana valley, home to millions of people, environmentalists say.

Neglected for decades by the Soviet Union and then Kyrgyzstan, uranium ore dumps near the town of Mailuu-Suu must be urgently reinforced to prevent disaster, according to the European Commission and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) which are raising funds for the project.

"There are 14 million people in the Ferghana valley and in the event of a natural disaster water may wash away the tailings into the Naryn (Syr Darya) river which will be a tragedy for the whole valley," says Bolotbek Karimov, an environment researcher based in the southern Kyrgyz city of Osh.

Once known simply as Mailbox 200, the town was founded in 1946 under a secret Soviet uranium mining program which employed de facto prisoners - people of politically suspect ethnicities such as Germans and former Red Army soldiers found guilty of surrendering in World War Two.
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4L
November 05, 2019
A woman sits in the room of the Center of Oncology in the regional center of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, October...
Osh, Kyrgyzstan
A woman sits in the room of the Center of Oncology in the regional center of Osh
A woman sits in the room of the Center of Oncology in the regional center of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, October 22, 2019. Picture taken October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4Q
November 05, 2019
A girl looks back in front of her family's house in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019....
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A girl looks back in front of her family's house in the town of Mailuu-suu
A girl looks back in front of her family's house in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4Z
November 05, 2019
People gather on a road entering the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. The sign on a...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
People gather on a road entering the town of Mailuu-suu
People gather on a road entering the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. The sign on a monument reads "Bloom my town Mailuu-suu!". Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4X
November 05, 2019
A girl runs in front of an abandoned store in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A girl runs in front of an abandoned store in the town of Mailuu-suu
A girl runs in front of an abandoned store in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4W
November 05, 2019
Local resident Ibrahim Akhmetov, 70, who left and later returned to his home town, speaks in his home...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
Local resident Ibrahim Akhmetov, 70, who left and later returned to his home town, speaks in his home...
Local resident Ibrahim Akhmetov, 70, who left and later returned to his home town, speaks in his home in the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4V
November 05, 2019
Children are seen on a playground in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
Children are seen on a playground in the town of Mailuu-suu
Children are seen on a playground in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4U
November 05, 2019
Cattle graze on a mountain plateau outside the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 25, 2019. Picture...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
Cattle graze on a mountain plateau outside the town of Mailuu-Suu
Cattle graze on a mountain plateau outside the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 25, 2019. Picture taken October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4T
November 05, 2019
A woman walks along the road in the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A woman walks along the road in the town of Mailuu-Suu
A woman walks along the road in the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4P
November 05, 2019
Women wash clothes at a water pipe in the town ofMailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
Women wash clothes at a water pipe in the town ofMailuu-Suu
Women wash clothes at a water pipe in the town ofMailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F51
November 05, 2019
A view of an entrance to a uranium mine outside the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019....
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A view of an entrance to a uranium mine outside the town of Mailuu-Suu
A view of an entrance to a uranium mine outside the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4O
November 05, 2019
A general view shows the town of Mailuu-suu at the foot of the mountains, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019....
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A general view shows the town of Mailuu-suu at the foot of the mountains
A general view shows the town of Mailuu-suu at the foot of the mountains, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4K
November 05, 2019
A shepherd tends his cow next to the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A shepherd tends his cow next to the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu
A shepherd tends his cow next to the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4J
November 05, 2019
A woman walks across a garbage landfill next to the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan,...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A woman walks across a garbage landfill next to the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-suu
A woman walks across a garbage landfill next to the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4I
November 05, 2019
The ruined building of ex-soviet plant used to process and partially enrich uranium ore from nearest...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
The ruined building of ex-soviet plant used to process and partially enrich uranium ore from nearest...
The ruined building of ex-soviet plant used to process and partially enrich uranium ore from nearest mines is seen in the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 25, 2019. Picture taken October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4H
November 05, 2019
Local residents are seen outside apartment block in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019....
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
Local residents are seen outside apartment block in the town of Mailuu-suu
Local residents are seen outside apartment block in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4F
November 05, 2019
Local resident Salamat Akhmedova is reflected in a mirror as she stays in a bathroom in the town of Mailuu-suu,...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
Local resident Salamat Akhmedova is reflected in a mirror as she stays in a bathroom in the town of Mailuu-suu...
Local resident Salamat Akhmedova is reflected in a mirror as she stays in a bathroom in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4E
November 05, 2019
A man rides a motorcycle loaded with firewood on a bridge across the Mailuu-suu river in the town of...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A man rides a motorcycle loaded with firewood on a bridge across the Mailuu-suu river in the town of...
A man rides a motorcycle loaded with firewood on a bridge across the Mailuu-suu river in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4D
November 05, 2019
A view of Mailuu-suu river near the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 25, 2019. Picture taken October...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A view of Mailuu-suu river near the town of Mailuu-suu
A view of Mailuu-suu river near the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 25, 2019. Picture taken October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4B
November 05, 2019
A bird sits on a radiation sign at the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A bird sits on a radiation sign at the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu
A bird sits on a radiation sign at the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F4A
November 05, 2019
A view of a World War Two Monument in the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 25, 2019. Picture taken...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A view of a World War Two Monument in the town of Mailuu-Suu
A view of a World War Two Monument in the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 25, 2019. Picture taken October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F49
November 05, 2019
A mirror left in a room of an abandoned house is seen in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A mirror left in a room of an abandoned house is seen in the town of Mailuu-suu
A mirror left in a room of an abandoned house is seen in the town of Mailuu-suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F48
November 05, 2019
A man rides on a motorcycle near the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
A man rides on a motorcycle near the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu
A man rides on a motorcycle near the uranium ore dump near the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F2F
November 05, 2019
Students are seen in front of a school in the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture...
MAILUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
Students are seen in front of a school in the town Mailuu-Suu
Students are seen in front of a school in the town of Mailuu-Suu, Kyrgyzstan, October 23, 2019. Picture taken October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
KYRGYZSTAN-ENVIRONMENT/NUCLEAR-WASTE
RTX77F2E
November 05, 2019
Women sit in the room of the Center of Oncology in the regional center of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, October 22,...
Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Women sit in the room of the Center of Oncology in the regional center of Osh
Women sit in the room of the Center of Oncology in the regional center of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, October 22, 2019. Picture taken October 22, 2019. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev
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