Findings of the journalistic investigation conducted by show that a part of the funds allocated by the authorities and international organizations for the safe disposal of millions of mercury-containing lamps (light bulbs) in Tajikistan was not used for its intended purpose.  Used mercury-containing lamps are reportedly disposed of in general landfills, which poses a threat to human health.

The investigation shows that one of the main reasons for the main issue -- safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps – having not yet been resolved is corruption.  

However, the investigation showed that the main issue – the safe disposal of mercury-containing lamps – has not yet been resolved and the efforts in this direction have not been successful. One of the reasons is corruption.

An Open Joint-Stock Company (OJSC) Charogh, which operates in the Tajik northern city of Isfara, produces lighting equipment.  In 2019, the Tajik government of Tajikistan allocated 750,000 somonis (US$79,535) to this state-run enterprise for the purchase of a device for mercury lamp demercurization.

According to the anticorruption agency, the Charogh OJSC activities were inspected from September 2016 to March 2022, and “theft of cash and financial assets and loss of financial assets” was identified in the amount of more than 233,000 somonis (equivalent to US$20,619 at the exchange rate as of January 1, 2022).  

The investigation reportedly resulted in instituting criminal proceedings against the former Director-General of Charogh OJSC Bilol Mahkamov on charges of appropriation or embezzlement of property in especially large amount.  However, after full compensation of this amount, the amnesty law was applied to Bilol Mahkamov, and the criminal case against him was dropped.

An investigation into the topic reportedly showed that as a result of his actions, Charogh OJSC had been unable to receive a lamp demercurization unit from Russia.

In 2022, the Sughd Department for Environmental Protection donated a device for energy-saving lamp recycling to the Charogh enterprise, but these devices are small and they are capable of recycling up to only 1,000 bulbs per day.  Currently, 1.5 million mercury-containing lamps are stored in the Charogh OJSC’s warehouse and this number is increasing monthly.  

Another reason is lack of specialists in recycling energy-saving lamps in Tajikistan.  In 2013, equipment for energy-saving lamps recycling was purchased for the State Unitary Enterprise (SUE) Dushanbe Solid Waste Landfill with a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).  However, this equipment did not work for long, since, according to official data, there was no specialist

The equipment for mercury lamps recycling purchased for Dushanbe reportedly worked for a certain period and then stopped working for technical reasons.

On November 14, 2023, the Committee for Environmental Protection donated “two sets of equipment for mercury lamps recycling” to the Dushanbe Solid Waste Landfill.  These devices reportedly recycle 350 mercury lamps per hour.

Saiburkhan Atozoda , Head of the Dushanbe Solid Waste Landfill, told in March that the company’s warehouses contained 32,000 energy-saving lamps, which were recycled within a month and a half.  According to him, they are waiting for energy-saving lamps to be brought from other regions and they will recycle them as well.

A logical question arises: were only 32,000 energy-saving lamps recycled in Dushanbe?

The investigation reportedly showed that certain work has been carried out in the country to collect mercury lamps. In particular, in Dushanbe, until 2022, local government bodies and housing and utility services have opened points for the collection of energy-saving lamps.

According to the Committee for Environmental Protection report, 1,765 points for mercury lamp collection were opened in the country and 1.4 million mercury lamps were collected from the population and legal entities from 2009 to 2021.  On April 5, 2024, the Committee for Environmental Protection stated that just over 2 million used mercury lamps had been collected in the country.

However, the Committee for Environmental Protection confirms that the collected lamps represent only a small share of all mercury lamps – only about 18-20%.

The lack of possibilities to collect lamps in one place is just one problem. Another problem is the impossibility of completely recycling or disposing of collected lamps. According to the Committee for Environmental Protection, there are currently only three mercury lamp disposing and recycling facilities operating in Tajikistan, which recycle 350 lamps per hour. These devices are installed in the cities of Isfara, Dushanbe, and Tursunzoda.

The authorities admit that the government’s decision to recycle lamps in the country has not been implemented. 

The total number of mercury-containing lamps imported into Tajikistan or produced domestically between 2009 and 2022 is unknown.  The state-run news agency Khovar reported that until September 2011, Tajikistan residents were provided with “8 million 154 thousand energy-saving lamps”.

Recall, mercury-containing energy-saving lamps became widely used in Tajikistan after President Emomali Rahmon’s decree, issued in April 2009, obligated all enterprises and organizations to switch to such lamps for energy-saving purposes.