In Spring of 2015, the Roza Otunbayeva Initiative (and many partners) hosted an “Eco Festival” in central Bishkek.

Recent years have brought political stability and economic growth to Kyrgyzstan, but progress along these lines doesn’t necessarily equate environmental stewardship. According to Zhanyl Avaskanovna of local public foundation CAMP Alatoo, increasing car ownership just over the past few years has led to a very perceptible drop in air quality in Bishkek. While Kyrgyz citizens are more economically empowered than probably ever before, notions of environmental conservation and sustainable living have moved to the background.

Surrounding green talks, master classes, forums, exhibitions, and a vast market of sustainable, locally sourced products, what we experienced was a new holiday–one that modestly (but purposefully) invites neighbors to celebrate their city and their country in the name of ecology.

As the festival coordinator, Klara Issak Kyzy, mentions in the video, these festivals of education are not “just a holiday.” They emphasize the importance of education and bring vital issues to the forefront of collective consciousness, if only for a couple of days. What we saw is the organizers’ successful attempt to bring “ecology” into the lexicon of modern Kyrgyzstan.

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