Murky Waters in Uzbek City

Residents of Angren, an industrial city in Uzbekistan, complain that the water supply is erratic and polluted. Water only comes out of the taps for a few hours a day, and even then it is often dirty and smells bad.Problems with water provision in this city of 170,000 people, about 100 kilometres south of Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent, stem from years of under-investment in the local treatment plant. The poor state of the infrastructure has forced staff to cut corners just to keep any kind of supply going.In Soviet times, Angren developed into an industrial centre, with engineering, construction materials and rubber factories all powered by the plentiful coal deposits in the area.

One resident, a pensioner who gave his name as Ilhom, described how householders stored up water in buckets and plastic containers whenever the taps were working.“After we let the water settle, there’s always dirt, mud or sand at the bottom. When it rains, the water coming out of the tap is brown and smells of clay,” he said. “It’s always been like that. What can we do about it?”Daily power cuts interrupt the pumping of water through mains pipes, and this is compounded by numerous leaks in the network. A source at the city’s hygiene and disease prevention agency told IWPR that perhaps 90 per cent of the mains network was in need of repair or replacement.The situation is only made worse by people in villages near Angren tapping into the mains supply to divert water for their own use.

Officially, health experts say that problems with the supply are not a danger to human health. Angren’s hospital refused to provide data on waterborne diseases, while the city hygiene agency said it had only recorded one case in the last five years, which involved people drawing contaminated water from a well rather than from the mains supply.Doctors say that boiling tap water should ensure it is safe, and Angren’s residents have been made aware of this.

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