Turkmen authorities address problems in Garabogaz after ATN investigation and presidential reprimands

The city of Garabogaz (formerly known as Bekdash) was buzzing on February 6-7, when Kuren Kurenov, the governor of Turkmenbashi district, arrived to monitor the situation in the city, ATN sources reported.

The city underwent a massive cleanup. Three buses full of cleaners were sent to the city from an unknown location. They tidied up all empty apartments and removed the broken tiles around the fountain in the main square (see photo).

Kurenov, who has overseen Garabogaz since 2016 when it was incorporated in the Turkmenbashi district, held meetings with local residents together with other local officials. He was briefed on the problems with access to drinking water, housing and foodstuff. The governor told residents that they should not pay for deliveries of drinking water. He announced that the city has received five new trucks to be added to the city water supply chain but the residents will have to apply in advance for water deliveries as they did before.

“Today we applied for water supplies [at the city administration] at noon and the truck came to deliver four cubic meters of water just two hours later, for free. Previously, for the same delivery, we used to pay 50-60 manats and waited for days on end,” a local resident said on February 7.

Every applicant receives water deliveries in their private tanks. In addition, water trucks going around local neighborhoods would fill up the buckets of anyone who asks them.

The availability of foodstuff has improved as well, chiefly in the state-owned grocery store. Fruits and vegetables, which were previously only available at the bazaar, appeared on the shelves. Apples, for example, are sold at a price of 5 manats per kilogram, onions at 4 manats, potatoes at 3.5 manats, and carrots at 1.7 manats. Shoppers can also buy fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, beets and mandarins.

Residents formed a long line to buy chicken legs (every family is allowed up to three kilograms) and loaves of bread (absent from the stores for the two preceding days, due to lack of flour). Eggs cost 0.40 manat each and every family can buy around 10-15. Fresh meat is also available: lamb costs 17 manats per kilogram and beef is sold at 18 manats.

Local residents also said that kindergartens were provided with yogurt and white bread for the pupils. Yogurt had never been available on the menu before.

Even the allocation of housing to those in need seems to be now high on the agenda. ATN had previously reported about a local resident Irina Harchenko, whose flat burned down in a tower block fire in 2012, and who had requested the allocation of a new flat from the local administration to no avail. Since 2012 the woman lived at her relatives’ place or asked her friends to host her. In the days prior to the official mission to the city, the prosecutor’s office called her and urged a new application for a flat. Shortly thereafter, she submitted the paperwork and was asked to wait a few days until the final decision.

On January 22, ATN published “Turkmenistan: Garabogaz Residents Left Scrambling to Survive,” a photo-reportage from the city. We illustrated the many problems that local residents had to face, in a city with some of the world’s largest reserves of sodium sulfate and other minerals.

On February 1, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov publicly criticized Satlyk Satlykov, governor of Balkan region, for “the slow-paced works in the region, inefficiency in the everyday implementation of the plans, and shortcomings in the completion of the infrastructural overhaul according to the state program.” The president also emphasized the need to improve the residents’ living standard.

“The president urged the governor to fully implement the state plans and to ensure that the works are carried out with the highest efficiency,” Turkmen state media reported.

“We hope that the recent improvements may be structural and not just a façade for the official visit to our city,” local residents said. “We, the residents of Garabogaz, don’t need much, just regular supplies of drinking water and foodstuff.”

ATN will continue to monitor the situation in Garabogaz.