"Open Asia" Helps Inform Communities about Local Environmental Concerns

Two journalists work on a laptop computer
Internews trainers Almash Shabdanalieva, who produced "Mudslide," and Mars Tulegenov at a Training-the-Trainers seminar in Kyrgyzstan. (credit: Internews)

In the spring of 2012, melting snow and heavy rains caused mudflows and flash floods across Kyrgyzstan. The Ministry of Emergencies did not have the money or resources to deal adequately with the crisis, and residents were left to fend for themselves after the floods destroyed their homes and belongings.

The story was covered by Internews’ weekly TV news magazine program Open Asia, and producer Almash Shabdanaliyeva and cameramen Emil Sadyrov and Tynybek Kazybekov were honored for their work on the feature story “Mudslide” in the category “Best Media Coverage of Climate Risks in Kyrgyzstan” at the UNDP-sponsored Environmental Journalism 2012 competition in Bishkek on December 5, 2012.

Open Asiagives residents in isolated communities across Central Asia a rare glimpse into the lives of their neighbors across national borders, often revealing shared challenges and potential solutions. Each program features four in-depth stories about issues affecting the life and work of people in several Central Asian nations.

The show regularly covers regional environmental issues as they affect local populations. For instance, one recent episode focused on an experiment with solar heating in Tajik public schools. Many school buildings in Tajikistan are still heated with bricks of dry dung that students must bring themselves. With support from German scientists, several schools are experimenting with heating from alternative energy sources, such as solar panels. If it works well, all Tajik schools will transition to alternative heating sources.

Other Open Asia stories from 2012 examined the precarious livelihoods of fisherman on Kazakhstan’s highly threatened Northern Aral Sea; agricultural reforms in Tajikistan that are fundamentally changing how farmers are working the land; and the human and environmental impacts of blistering heat waves in Kazakhstan. 

The show’s production team is known for more than making good TV. Kazakhstani blogging platform YVision named Open Asia Project Manager Gulnara Bazhkenova “Best Blogger of 2012” at the Online Journalism and Blogging conference on Dec. 9, 2012 in Almaty, the first of its kind in Central Asia. Her blog Bazhkenova offers her smart take on current affairs, women’s issues, media, film, and culture in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

Open Asia is broadcast in Russian and local languages by nearly 35 TV stations across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan with a combined potential audience of 15.6 million viewers (approximately 53% of the total population of these three countries). Internews has been producing the program since 1999.

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