Kazakhstan Press Club
January 27, 2009, 12:00 PM
For the first time, a court in the Republic of Kazakhstan has agreed to review a lawsuit from the public against the government for its failure to act, which has led to a violation of the right of citizens to a healthy environment.
The lawsuit was submitted on June 19, 2008 in the interests of the residents of the village of Berezovka (Western Kazakhstan Oblast) by the Ecological Society “Green Salvation”, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, and the Nationwide Public Association “Shanyrak”. For nearly half a year and under various pretexts, a number of Astana’s city courts refused to accept the lawsuit for review. Finally, on December 11, 2008, the Board of Civic Affairs of the Astana City Court satisfied the plaintiff’s complaint and issued a decision to review the lawsuit on its merits in the Almaty District Court of Astana City.
In 1979, the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field was opened near Berezovka, which currently has a population of nearly 1400. In 1997, the field was turned over to the international consortium “Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V.” for development. The active development of the field has led to intensive environmental pollution. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Environmental Protection lists KPO as an enterprise that is especially dangerous to the environment. In 2002, the Ministry of Public Health established a Sanitary Protection Zone with a radius of 5000 meters around Karachaganak, and a portion of the village of Berezovka fell within this boundary. As it is not permitted for people to live within Sanitary Protection Zones, the residents of Berezovka should have been relocated to a safe location. The relocation issue has been raised repeatedly. However, the government has not resolved the issue.
The government’s failure to act forced the residents of Berezovka, with the assistance of public organizations, to appeal (in 2004, 2007 and 2008) to the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Office of the Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO). The IFC awarded a loan of $150 million to Lukoil, one of the companies comprising KPO. In their complaints, the local residents draw attention to the fact that the IFC’s investment is fostering environmental pollution. The Berezovka residents also raise the need for relocation and compensation for damages incurred. In response to the first complaint, the CAO conducted an audit and acknowledged that the monitoring of atmospheric emissions and water quality conducted by KPO is not in accordance with the IFC’s requirements. The process of reviewing the complaints is still underway.
In accordance with the statutes of the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) and the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the public has the right to contest in court actions or lack of actions on the part of government bodies, which violate the provisions of national legislation.
The violation of the Sanitary Protection Zone conditions, which was cause for appealing to the court, is, unfortunately, a typical example of the lack of compliance with environmental protection legislation in our country. Public enterprises as well as government bureaucrats are the perpetrators of these legal violations. As a result, the health and lives of thousands of people is under constant threat. One of the fundamental rights of each person—in this and future generations—is being violated: the right to live in an environment that is favorable to his/her health and wellbeing.
On January 26, 2009, the first trial session on this lawsuit is to be held in the Almaty District Court of Astana City. The session results will be announced at the press conference.
More information is available at www.greensalvation.org
Press Conference Participants:
Sergey Georgievich Kuratov,
Chair of the Ecological Society “Green Salvation”;
Evgenii Aleksandrovich Zhovtis,
Director of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law;
Asylbek Bazarbaevich Kozhakhmetov,
Chair of the Nationwide Public Association “Shanyrak”.
Address of the Kazakhstan Press Club:
Almaty, 050059, microraion “Samal-2”
ul. Furmanova, at the corner of Al’-Farabi
Business Center “СAТТІ, Entrance 1 (from ul. Furmanova).
Tel.: +7 (727) 272-79-92, 272-88-67, 272-82-37, 261-77-73