Tazalyk – Cleanliness

July 19th, 2016 Sections: Government and Politics, Organizations

tazalykIt’s a tradition in most societies, that students find some form of employment to help earn some money – to cover living expenses … and also help cover the cost of fees if they don’t qualify for state support and a grant.

For example, as a student I worked as a Barman during the holidays … and earned enough to help keep me solvent during term time.  Some of my fellow students were a little envious my job, apparently it appeared a little glamourous to some people,  Believe me, it wasn’t.

One of my fellow students had a less solubrious job to support himself … one that raised a few eyebrows whenever it was mentioned … he woerked as a street cleaner.  It seems that he actually quite enjoyed it … out in the open air … working indepedently … with few cares or worries … and a great camraderie among his fellow workers.

As it happens, he didn’t really enjoy being a student teacher … and soon gave up and went back home … but we lost touch and I am not sure if he went back to being a Street cleaner.

Here in Bishkek, the street cleaners are employed by the Municipal Enterprise – Tazalyk.



In Kyrgyz, Takalyk means Cleanliness … and this particular enterprise is charged with aspects of the city’s beautification.  It carries out services maintaining and cleaning the territory of the city, parks and public places, roads and elements of landscaping … including street sweeping.

Every morning as I make my way to the hotel, I see some members of a small army of street cleaners sporting a bright orange jackets … sweeping away dust and leaves … and collecting rubbish from bins placed on the sidewalk.

It is true that they are out in the open air and not closed away in an office, shop or factory … but that also means that they are out in all weathers … in the heat of the summer sun (although, in the early morning when they are busy cleaning the streets, it is usually still quite cool), but also in the bitterly cold winters when there is snow and ice.

As it happens, in winter they are charged with keeping the roads clear … of snow and ice.  Blades are fitted to the front of their lvehicles, which then serve as snowplows … and from the back of lorries, salt and grit are spread over the road surface to help prevent serious ice building up and improve traction for the vehicles.

Often, the snow starts to fall dutig the night, which means another early start for Tazalyk’s employees.


As well as sweeping the streets, they also wash them … with special tankers driving up and down the main roads, squirting a jet of water across the road surface.


The most obvious function they perform, however, it the collection and disposal of rubbish.

In the case of household rubbish, they maintain sites around the city where bins are placed for citizens to deposit their rubbish.  Then, according to a schedule, vans drive and collect the rubish, transporting it to the municipal tip, (Polygon), on the Northern outskirts of the city.

Technically, it’s not a free service; residents are supposed to pay a fee – about 50 som a month per person – but there’s a concessionary rate for pensioners – just 15 som a month.

Firms pay separately, based on estimates of the amount of rubbish that they generate … based on the area of the their premises and the number of employees.

The regular collections may be just once a week … and additional, (occasional, one-off) collections can be arranged … for an additional fee.

They are also busy at hoiday times, cleaning up after festivals and large gatherings like protest meetings … and regularly collect something like thirty, forty, fifty or sixty tons of rubbish from the various sites around the city center … the main square and the parks.

There is a move to change the system of processing rubbish, separating it by category, (glass v paper v plastic v metal … etc.) and recycling as much as possible as happens in many places in the West.  That, however, will require not just new equipment, but also a change in mentality and custome and practice.

It will be a ‘long haul’.


They are also responsible for the implemention of the controversial policy of catching, (and shooting), stray animals – by municipal order.

In cooperation with another Municipal Enterprise – Zelenstroi (basically Green Build) – which is repsonsible for the plant life around the city, the trees and flowers that line the streets and adorn the parks – Tazalyk undertakes a number of tasks like cleaning the aryks (irrigation ditches), mow the grass and cut the hedges, not forgetting repairing park benches and cleaning any monuments.


Some statistics – Tazalyk employes something like 1250 people … they have about 45 vehicles specifically for the collection of garbage – which, it’s claimed is not enough for a city the size of Bishkek … that they really need at least 80.

Indeed, they have recently, (a couple of months ago), acquired some new ones … as well as new bins … but, for some reason they have removed the lids from the containers, which means that, although they may well appear bigger than the old ones that they have replaced, they still open to the weather, raiders by ‘totters’ scavenging animals … and overflowing.


Last year, the organization came under a certain amount of criticism … from deputies, in the press, and even from many of the general public.  It was sauid that, despite receiving large sums of money from the government, the employees are somewhat shy and elusive; and that they don’t really want to work.

Personally, it strikes me that, even if there was some element of truth in this, it’s a little unfair … most of the employees I have come into contact with have been very responsive … but it has to be admitted that not everyone is happy being a street sweeper or Bin Man, (Rubbish Collector), and I can well understand why their mativation might be somewhat low.

It doesn’t help that the City coffers don’t have sufficient funds on hand to resolve some of the deficiency issues that have cropped up recently … like the number of garbage collection vehicles that a city the size of Bishkek might require, low salaries (below the average for the country as a whole).

winter of discontentIt’s also true, as one official put it in an interview, one aspect of their work is that it is invisible – at least it is meant to be … it is often taken for granted and only really attracts attention when something goes wrong, like the rubbish not being collected and mounting up. “People don’t think about it … (and) … it’s easy to complain”

Those of us who lived through the Winter of Discontent in Britain, when garbage collectors went on strike and rubbish went uncollected, piling up in the streets, understand what life is like, how it can (quickly) deteriorate, when something we take for granted is taken away.

A bit more serious was the news that also broke last year, about corrupt practices in the organization … such as falsifying accounts data … and, apparently some 12 criminal cases were opened, many staff were sacked and the method of paying the staff was changed … and, it seems, this has had a beneficial effect.

Tazalyk is now facing competition from a number of private firms who are now offering similar refuse collection services.  We’ll have to wait and see if and how that changes the system.





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