Until recently in the Ferghana Valley, the green belt that spans Uzbekistan, citizens located potentially deadly gas leaks largely by sniffing.
Then they plugged the leak with plastic, hemp, chewing gum or -- given the budget -- sheets of asbestos, the material believed to cause cancer.
"The materials used cannot withstand environmental stress and operating conditions and are not effective in preventing leaks," wrote
, Abu Dhabi's clean energy company, in a document to a UN environmental body.
In its fight against climate change, the UN has encouraged developing nations like Uzbekistan to reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gases they spew into the sky. Those nations can in turn sell credits granted by the UN to European factories or companies seeking green credentials. The basis for such an arrangement is the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement to keep greenhouse gas emissions in check that expires at the end of next year.
But such carbon-cutting projects can take a lot of money and time.
That's where the Ferghana Valley model comes in. Masdar, the government-owned company better known for its ambitious
or its planned carbon-neutral
on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, also develops such
. Masdar covers the development costs, which can add up over the years and require pricey renewable energy technology or the cooperation of industrial operators, then takes half the money made by selling the credits.
The Uzbeki model is appealing for its simplicity. By introducing devices to detect leaks and sealants and gaskets to plug the gaps in Uzbekistan's aging gas lines, Masdar estimates it can stop 1.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gases a year from reaching the atmosphere.
With the price of carbon hovering around $15 a tonne, it could also reap a profit. Now it is waiting for the UN to verify the cuts and issue the credits.
Bader al Lamki, the head of Masdar's carbon unit, wrote about the company's strategy in an