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Ashgabat Residents Turn Up Noses At Smelly Artificial River

Former President Saparmurat Niyazov's river project seems to be suffering neglect.
ASHGABAT -- Residents of Ashgabat say the manmade "river" flowing through the Turkmen capital has been neglected and has become foul-smelling, RFE/RL's Turkmen Service reports.

Former Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov ordered the construction of the 12-kilometer-long waterway in 2004. He ordered that parks and fountains be built at regular intervals along the sides of the waterway, which cost some $68 million.

But the water level in the river is extremely low and trash is floating in the brackish, foul water, which is recycled over and over again.

Parks and landscape work along the river banks appear to be left unfinished. Residents of the areas near the river complain of a stench emanating from the water during the summer.

"The water in the river does not always flow, it makes the water dirty, and in the summertime the smell gets worse," says 34-year-old Allmyrat, who lives in a nearby apartment. "You can also see trash cans flowing on the water."

Many of the parks built along the waterway have also been left in disrepair.
Many of the parks built along the waterway have also been left in disrepair.
Berdi Aga, who lives in a fourth-floor apartment near the river, bemoans the poor state of the riverbank area.

"It's dirty, nearby areas [footpaths] are messy," he says. "Previously it was green, there were parks, they planted trees, but they soon dried out. They planted them again, they again dried out."

The artificial waterway is only one of many grandiose projects Niyazov ordered during his 21-year reign, which ended when he died in 2006.

Other major projects included an artificial lake in the heart of the Kara-Kum Desert, five-star hotels in Ashgabat that remain nearly vacant, new buildings for various government ministries, and a luxury resort area on Turkmenistan's Caspian shore that is also nearly completely vacant.

Read more in Turkmen here