The village of Berezovka is located in the Burlinsky District of Western Kazakhstan Oblast. It was formerly a central farmstead in the “Akbulaksky” state farm, one of the wealthiest farms in the oblast. Nearly 1400 people currently reside in the village.Translated by Michelle Kinman.
In 1979, the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field was opened adjacent to Berezovka. In 1997, the international consortium “Karachaganak Petroleum Operating, B.V.” began developing the field, leading to severe environmental pollution.
KPO is one of the largest projects in the Republic of Kazakhstan, and has been included in a list from the Ministry of Environmental Protection of enterprises that are particularly dangerous to the environment. In 2002, the Ministry of Public Health established a Sanitary Protection Zone (SPZ) with a radius of 5000 meters around the Karachaganak Field, and a portion of the village of Berezovka falls within this zone. In accordance with Kazakhstani legislation, people are not permitted to live within Sanitary Protection Zones. For this reason, the residents of the village should have been relocated to a safe location. The issue of relocation has been raised repeatedly with local authorities and authorized government bodies.
However, in 2004, the State’s Senior Sanitary Doctor made the decision to reduce the SPZ from 5000 to 3000-3840 meters, violating a number of requirements set forth in national legislation and in the Aarhus Convention. As a result, the village of Berezovka found itself outside of the SPZ’s boundaries.
In 2006, the General Public Prosecutor issued a protest against this decision. As a result, the decision was recognized as illegal and it no longer carries legal force. Today, the SPZ has been restored to 5000 meters.
Since 2002, the residents of Berezovka have tried unsuccessfully to defend their rights to live in a healthy environment. Their repeated appeals to the authorities and KPO to resolve the issue of relocation have not led to any concrete results.
In 2004, Berezovka residents were compelled to submit a complaint to the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Office of Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO). In 2002, the IFC awarded a $150 million loan for development of the Karachaganak Field to Lukoil, which together with ENI, BG Group, and Chevron, comprises KPO. Therefore, the local residents appealed to the CAO, stating that the IFC’s investment is fostering environmental pollution. In 2007 and 2008, two additional complaints were filed, raising the issue of the need to relocate the residents of the village and to provide them with compensation for damages incurred. In response to the first complaint, the CAO conducted an audit, the results of which were published in April 2008. The CAO acknowledged that KPO’s monitoring of atmospheric emissions and water quality was not in compliance with the IFC’s standards. The complaint review process is still underway.
In 2007, KPO was the focus of a corruption scandal. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, found the American company Baker Hughes, which was a contractor at KPO, guilty of bribing Kazakhstani bureaucrats. As such, the American entrepreneurs were awarded a profitable contract to participate in the preparatory work at the Karachaganak Field.
In connection with the Government’s failure to act, on June 19, 2008, the Ecological Society Green Salvation, the Kazakhstani International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, and the Nationwide Public Association “Shanyrak” filed a lawsuit in Kazakhstan on behalf of the residents of the village of Berezovka.
An Oil Democracy, or the Story of Berezovka (Green Salvation Herald, 2006)
Film "Svetlana’s Story" (08.2003)
KARACHAGANAK IN THE NEWS (Crude Accountability)
|Appeal Regarding the Emergency Situation in the Village of Berezovka (2.12.2014)
Sinkholes Appear in and Around the Village of Berezovka Near the Karachaganak Field in Kazakhstan (19.01.2011)
Crude Accountability invites you to watch our short video Berezovka: A Town that Suffers because of World Bank Inaction (youtube) Featuring recent interviews with residents of Berezovka, Kazakhstan, this video offers a glimpse into the uphill battle that the villagers face in their efforts to hold the World Banks International Finance Corporation accountable for non-compliance with its own environmental standards at the neighboring Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field (2010).
The Kazakh press (Kazakhstan Today and Kazinform) announced on Friday, July 23 that a working group is being created by the government of Kazakhstan to develop a proposal to solve the problems in Berezovka, Kazakhstan.
On June 1, the Specialized Interregional Economic Court of Astana City made a decision on the lawsuit about inactivity of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and about admitting as invalid the Head sanitary inspector’s conclusion on reduction of the sanitary protection zone of the “Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V.” enterprise. The court’s decision was mailed to the claimants on June 29. Without permission of the claimants, the judge went over the limits of the lawsuit requirements, replaced the defendants, and changed the basis of the lawsuit, thereby, committing gross violations of the norms of procedural and substantive law. In this connection, Ecological Society Green Salvation sent an appeal to the Appellate Board on Civic Affairs of the Astana City Court.
A lawsuit about the government inactivity. Court on-site hearings in Berezovka village (13.05.2010)
Kazakhstan has Charged an Oil Extraction Consortium $700 Million in Illegal Revenue (Gazeta.ru, 26.03.2010)
The People have Taken a Partial Step towards Victory (Republic, 02.02.2010)
On June 10, 2009 the Board on Civil Affairs of the Astana City Court considered appeals by Green Salvation, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights, and the NGO “Shanyrak” and by the Chief State Sanitary Doctor. In their appeal, submitted on May 14, the plaintiffs requested the that “the decision of the Specialized Interregional Economic Court (SIEC) of Astana City on April 30, 2009, regarding the failure of the government and ministries to act, be overturned as illegal, and the case sent to be considered on the grounds of its legal requirements by another judge.” In addition (and in contrast to the plaintiffs), the Chief State Sanitary Doctor asked that the SIEC’s decision declaring illegal the former’s Conclusion № 07-2 of Jan. 16, 2004, regarding the Dec. 25, 2003 amendments to the project “Sanitary-Protective Zone of the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field”, be overturned. RULING of the Board for Civil Affairs of the Astana City Court № 2а-1221 (in Russian).
On April 30, 2009 the Specialized Interregional Economic Court (SIEC) of Astana City issues its decision regarding the lawsuit by Green Salvation, the Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights, and the republican NGO “Shanyrak”. The plaintiffs’ demands were satisfied in part. The Court declared the conclusions of the Chief State Sanitary Doctor № 07-2 of Jan. 16, 2004 regarding the Dec. 25, 2003 amendments to the project “Sanitary-Protective Zone of the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field”, to be illegal. This means that the previous regime for the sanitary-protective zone (five kilometers, rather than three) was reinstituted. The plaintiffs’ remaining demands were left unsatisfied.
Lawsuit on the Government’s Failure to Act: A Complaint has been Submitted! (27.02.2009)
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 (27.01.2009).
On May 9, the Ecological Society Green Salvation and Crude Accountability submitted a joint complaint to the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to protect the rights of Berezovka residents (Burlinsky District, Western Kazakhstan Oblast). It is the third public complaint to the CAO regarding this problem. On June 5, the CAO announced that an assessment of the complaint will be undertaken.
Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan - Decree of the Court No. 4GP-64-08 (26.03.2008)
APPRAISAL REPORT. Case of Green Salvation / Residents in the Village of Berezovka II (15.01.2008)
ASSESSMENT REPORT. Case regarding the Green Salvation Ecological Society and Karachaganak Petroleum Operation (15.11.2007)
Letter from Office of the Compliance advisor/Ombudsman (25.07.2007)
Appeal of Kazakhstani and American NGOs to the World Bank (13.06.2007)
IFC Officially Confirmed That the Complaint Is Eligible for Further Assessment (02.05.2007)
Complaint to Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman International Finance Corporation (11.04.2007)