Corruption and cynicism--these were the characteristics
used to describe KPO, B.V. and the government
administration during a public hearing on the subject
of relocating the village of Berezovka. The
bureaucrats and investors answered each of these
accusations with a smile.
The public hearing took place on May 25th in Uralsk.
The organizers were activists from the environmental
organization, "TAN" and the international
organization, Crude Accountability. As a result of
the hearing, it has become clear who is who. For the
participants of the public hearing it was like
watching the developing solution for a roll of film.
Before the hearing, one could only guess at the
position of the others; now--with the exception of KPO,
B.V.'s position--everything is crystal clear. The
leadership of the company accepted the invitation to
the public hearing, but they sent a young man who
introduced himself as simply, "Manager." The Manager
immediately stated that he did not have the authority
to address the hearing; he came only to listen. And
he sat, speechless, smiling occasionally.
The first to speak was Amanzhan Zhamalov, Deputy to
Parliament. Prior to the hearing, he sent an official
request to the Ministry of the Environment asking for
information about the emission levels at the
Karachaganak Field. The Ministry replied that during
the past three years the volume of emissions at
Karachaganak increased threefold. The level of zinc,
nickel and steel in the soil exceeded the maximum
allowable concentrations, and the amount of fines the
investors were required to pay for polluting the
environment had grown from 1.4 billion tenge [over
US$10 million] in 2004 to 5.2 billion tenge [over
US$42,200,000] in 2005.
The Deputy finished his presentation with the
following sensational statement:
"I believe that the reduction of the radius of the
Sanitary Protection Zone (SPZ) around Karachaganak is
proof of corruption. The decision of the Republic's
Senior Sanitary Doctor to reduce the radius of the SPZ
directly contradicts our law, which clearly states:
for a facility like the Karachaganak Field, the SPZ
must be no less than five kilometers. And we have a
situation where it has been reduced to three
kilometers." (In 2003, the reduction of the SPZ was
used as a reason to deny the relocation of Berezovka.
Elmira Umargalieva, from the Uralsk Environmental
Prosecutor's Office, supported the Deputy.
"By reducing the radius of the SPZ, the Senior
Sanitary Doctor made an illegal decision giving
preference to the commercial structure, KPO, B.V. By
doing so, he created prime conditions for corruption,"
"We are trying to present the situation, which is far
from ideal, to KPO, B.V. I wrote to Paulo Campelli
[General Director of KPO, B.V. Crude Accountability
note], but so far I have not received a response from
him." The Deputy gave a demanding glance to the
Manager, who looked at the representative of the
Ministry of Economy and again smiled enigmatically.
"By the way, their answer is already well-known to
everyone. Therefore, I came today to listen to the
villagers. Tell me what you would like. I know that
there is not a unified opinion in the village about
the future of Berezovka. Some would like to leave,
and some would prefer to stay." The Deputy's glance
fell on the five Berezovka residents. The five
members of the village who came to the hearing rustled
their papers. Because they have little experience in
public speaking, the villagers had written down their
comments. But, reading their prepared texts, several
of them became confused. Not from nerves, but from
shame. The women, reading data about the numbers of
sick children in the village were unable to maintain
their composure and began to cry. The Manager and the
representative of the Ministry of Economy again looked
at each other and exchanged smiles.
"Calm down. Everything is all right. But I don't want
to hear about that from you. I understand that your
children are sick, but can you tell me: is their a
unified opinion in the village?"
Svetlana Anosova, the leader of the Berezovka
Initiative Group came to the assistance of her fellow
"A variety of opinions does not mean that we can be
denied relocation. The people have the right to
choose what they would like. We are required to
demand relocation. But we are not happy about having
to relocate. Furthermore, we insist that the opinions
of the villagers be taken into account as relocation
is considered since we do not want to repeat the sad
experience of the village of Tungush, when the
villagers were pulled out of their homes and relocated
to the city. For people who are used to rural life,
that type of relocation was stressful and its negative
impacts are still being felt," said S. Anosova.
Finally the representative of the Ministry of Economy
stopped smiling and asked to speak. He stated that
the attacks by the Berezovka villagers on KPO, B.V.
were unfounded. He reminded everyone that the
investors provide $10 million annually for social
projects and that they provided thousands of dollars
for the reconstruction of the running water pipe in
Berezovka, into the repair of the village school, the
community center and the construction of a dam.
Listing the special services provided by KPO, B.V.
before the country and the villagers, the bureaucrat
possibly hoped to say, "Have some honor, gentlemen!
You should be grateful." But, for some reason, the
Berezovka residents didn't feel grateful, and even
started to object. It seems that of the $10 million
for social projects, not one cent has made its way to
Berezovka. The repair of the running water pipe is
still not complete; after the construction of the new
dike, the amount of water in the village is much less
than it used to be; and after the first rain the
repairs were washed away at the village school and in
the community center.
"We have the impression that all KPO, B.V.'s money is
distributed so that they can report: We are saving
Berezovka. All of their words are cynical assurances.
Even the fact that they sent a manager with no
authority to this hearing, who just came to listen,
demonstrates the relationship of the company to the
villagers. They treat us as if we are dogs that are
barking at a caravan," said Svetlana Anosova.
The floor next went to Kate Watters, founder of the
international organization, Crude Accountability.
This organization has been helping the Berezovka
residents protect their right to relocation for
several years. During this time, the local
authorities have blamed both the organization and its
founder for a whole series of deadly sins. It was not
surprising that Kate Watters started her presentation
with the words, "Why do international organizations
work in Kazakhstan?"
"Because the environmental problems connected with the
development of the Field impact the entire world.
Global warming is an accepted fact. Transnational
corporations, including KPO, B.V., receive profits
that are higher than the budgets of several countries
in the Central Asian region. The company has signed
agreements binding it to the highest environmental
standards, which allowed it to received $150 million
in loans from the World Bank. This money is not
private money; it is taxpayer money and I have the
right to know how they are using it and for what
"Today natural resources provide the high profits of
transnational corporations. And natural resources
provide us with our high standards of living. But, if
our comfort is built at the expense of the lives of
other people, then we should pause and think about
that. We should think about the sad circumstances
this causes in the countries of Latin America, Africa
and other regions of the world where the exploitation
of natural resources leads to the impoverishment of
the population. We all need to understand the truth
about the actual costs of oil and gas," said Kate
The next speaker was Vladimir Khon, a specialist of
the Territorial Administration of Environmental
Protection. Listening to him, it seemed that he,
along with the representative of the Ministry of
Economy, was very concerned about the reputation of
KPO, B.V. Vladimir Khon tried to convince everyone
that the emissions from Karachaganak did not exceed
the maximum permissible concentrations (MPC) of any
substance. Vladimir Khon repeatedly characterized the
activity of KPO, B.V. as "normal".
"You seem sure that the MPC was not exceeded. How do
you explain that the official letter from your
Ministry states that the MPCs were exceeded?" asked
V. Khon could not answer the question.
The public hearing ended with a discussion of draft
recommendations for the Kazakhstani authorities. In
part, it was recommended that environmental NGOs and
residents of the village of Berezovka be included in a
special commission of the Ministry of Health. The
second recommendation involved a final decision
regarding the Production Sharing Agreement. The
organizers of the hearing recommended that the
government of Kazakhstan reveal part of the agreement
so that it can be reviewed for content regarding
environmental safety. And, of course, it was
recommended that the villagers of Berezovka be
relocated to a safe area as quickly as possible.
Whether or not the authorities will pay attention to
these recommendations is unclear. However, the very
fact that the public hearing took place is the first
step to victory for the Berezovka villagers.
Translation by Crude Accountability
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