July 18, 2008

Kyrgyz Government Sets US Air Base Fuel Dumping Damage at Some 550,000 Dollars

Text of report by state-owned Kyrgyz news agency Kabar

Kabar, 18 July: American pilots from the Ganci air base at Manas [Airport in the Kyrgyz capital] jettisoned about 31 tonnes of aviation fuel into the air while refuelling a military transport over Kyrgyzstan at the end of June, the deputy director of the Kyrgyz state agency for environment protection and forestry, Aytkul Burkhanov, has told the Kabar news agency.

He said that the incident was established in Kyrgyzstan's south and that the command of the Ganci air base at Manas had told the state agency about this. A Kyrgyz air traffic organization has recorded 12 cases of fuel being discharged accidentally over Kyrgyzstan since the foundation of the US air base [in Kyrgyzstan]. The amount of aviation fuel jettisoned into the air has reached 345 tonnes in recent years.

"An agreement between Kyrgyzstan and the USA has a section, which indicates that aviation fuel must not be discharged at an altitude lower than 6,000 metres and that US pilots are not breaking this rule. In recent times, however, many complaints have begun coming from people who live near the Ganci air base. They are complaining about a decline in crop capacity, the worsening of the state of their health and about damage to the environment. If what US scientists said is true, aviation fuel inflict no damage on people's health because, according to them, aviation fuel evaporates in the air and poses no threat to the flora and fauna on the earth," Burkhanov said.

The deputy director of the state agency said that the department for the protection of flora and the sanitary epidemiological service were carrying out periodical laboratory tests in places where incidents had happened. However, not even one case has so far been discovered in which damage might have been inflicted on people or the environment.

"In case of a trial, we, unfortunately, will not be able to prove the damage caused to our nature and consequently, we will be unable to get compensation," Burkhanov said.

According to him, the government has been asking the command of the Ganci air base for several years to compensate the damage inflicted on the country's nature and forestry. According to estimates, the amount of the compensatory damage is 20.640m soms [over 550,000 dollars].

Burkhanov said that this amount was established using a special formula, which is based on an actual instance of damage, under which about a tonne of aviation fuel is 60,000 soms [over 1,500 dollars].

Originally published by Kabar, Bishkek, in Russian 1023 18 Jul 08.

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