Abandoned Soviet-era uranium mines and processing plants have left areas of Central Asia threatened by toxic waste dumps and radioactive contaminants. The EBRD is at the forefront of work to clean up the sites to protect human health and the environment. Min-Kush means 1,000 birds in the Kyrgyz language. It’s a beautifully poetic image that the name of this rural town, surrounded by Central Asia’s snow-capped glaciers, suggests. However, this idyllic place hides a poisonous secret: its surrounding lands and water are contaminated by nuclear waste. Uranium made Min-Kush prosperous in Soviet times but now the town has fallen into poverty. Many young people leave as soon as they can.The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development works closely with its donors the European Union, Belgium, Norway, Switzerland and the United States of America and partner, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to clean up the nuclear waste. Various problems make the clean-up works particularly urgent. Contaminated water used to flow down from the former mine, with an obvious risk of entering the food chain either directly or through irrigation. Furthermore, climate change has led to increased rainfall; one of the uranium sites was at risk of being affected by landslides, potentially harming the environment and people.The problem does not stop here, as local creeks and rivers float into the Syr Darya River, which crosses the Fergana Valley, Central Asia’s fertile agricultural heart. The consequences of contamination and the ensuing ecological, health and social disasters would be unimaginable.It is a long-term legacy from Soviet times, when Central Asia was a main hub for uranium mining and processing. Large amounts of radioactive waste were placed in mining waste dumps and tailing sites. Mines closed down in the 1990s but very little remediation took place before or after the mines were closed and milling operations ceased.