Under the framework of the Almaty-Bishkek Economic Corridor (ABEC), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) supports the governments of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic in their efforts to provide a healthy and clean urban environment starting by piloting monitoring devices to measure air quality in Bishkek and Almaty. The devices measure particulate matter and Nitrogen dioxide will help identify the main sources of pollution, their impact on the population of different areas in the city, inform mitigation measures, and assess the health impact of the polluted air and serve as a baseline for air quality improvement strategies.

Almaty and Bishkek are main economic centers in Central Asia and only 240 kilometers apart from each other. During the winter, both cities are heavily trapped by deep smog and polluted air that comes from coal power plants, vehicles, and burning of wood and coal causing severe health problems and a high prevalence of respiratory diseases in the population. This situation has been dire for decades, and the urban population is increasingly aware of the detrimental health effects of this pollution problem.

For example, in Bishkek, the World Health Organization estimates that outdoor air pollution is causing approximately 400 premature deaths with national health-related costs amounting to $1.4 billion per year. In Bishkek, air pollution is causing: 29% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer, 24% of all deaths from stroke, and 43% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

ABEC is supporting the cities of Bishkek and Almaty in their efforts to improve the air quality. As a first step, ADB financed 50 air quality devices for Bishkek. ADB is working closely with the Agency on Hydrometeorology under the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic (KyrgyzHydroMet), guided by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on 10 September 2020. The 50 devices were deployed throughout the city of Bishkek in January 2020.

The devices include solar panels, environmental shields for outside use, and cellular connectivity to send live air quality data for real-time tracking of the air quality on the KyrgyzHydroMet and the ABEC websites. ADB and the Government of Kazakhstan are in preparation of a similar pilot project in the city Almaty. Publication of air quality data will help increase the awareness of the local population regarding the causes and health impacts of air quality and serve as the basis for air quality improvement strategies.

ADB will support mitigation measures of both governments starting with the preparation of Clean Air Action Plans for Almaty and Bishkek. The plans will develop technological solutions, policy actions, and investment proposals for air quality management. For Bishkek, ADB proposed to support the further electrification of urban transport and the collected air quality data will serve as a baseline for the proposed project.

The Almaty–Bishkek Economic Corridor (ABEC) is the pilot economic corridor under the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program. ADB serves as the secretariat for the CAREC Program and ABEC Initiative. Implementing an economic corridor between Almaty, Bishkek, and the surrounding regions since 2014, ABEC seeks to connect people, businesses, and ideas to shorten economic distance between the two cities of Almaty and Bishkek. This means reducing travel times; creating one competitive market for health, education, and tourism services; and aggregate agricultural produce in wholesale markets.

The vision of the economic corridor is that the two cities and its surrounding regions can achieve far more together than either can achieve alone. ABEC is guided by the Intergovernmental Council, which is chaired by the two Prime Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan. The Council created the ABEC Subcommittee, a regular official meeting of the two national governments, regional governments, and private sector representatives, which is co-chaired by the Kazakh vice-minister of National Economy and the Kyrgyz deputy minister of Economy and Finance.