Berezovka, Kazakhstan, a small village
located on the periphery of the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate
Field, provides a clear example of the typical environmental and social
exploitation occurring in the Caspian region at the hands of western
oil companies and corrupt local officials. What is not typical about
Berezovka is that the citizens are challenging the oil consortium active
at the Field (British Gas, Chevron, ENI/Agip and LUKoil), the World
Bank, and the local and national government of Kazakhstan, which has
repeatedly turned the other way when the civil and human rights of the
villagers have been violated. Because of toxic exposure in their
community, which is causing serious environmental and health damage
among the residents, the Berezovka Initiative Group—a committed group
of villagers—is demanding compensation and relocation to a safe and
environmentally clean location of their choosing.
The Berezovka Initiative Group reached
out to Crude Accountability,
an international environmental justice organization, for help in 2002.
Since then, Crude Accountability has been providing training, information
and campaign support to the villagers, including training on the Bucket
Brigade methodology for air monitoring.
Independent Bucket Brigade monitoring
conducted by the villagers from September 2004 to August 2005 registered
over twenty-five toxic substances in the air, including hydrogen sulfide,
methylene chloride, carbon disulfide, toluene and acrylonitrile. The Bucket Brigade air monitoring proves what
the villagers had long suspected—that activities at the Field are
contaminating the environment and contributing to the villagers’ health
The initial Bucket Brigade results have
brought much-needed attention to the devastating environmental situation
in Berezovka. Notably, the courageous Kazakhstani newspaper, The
Uralsk Weekly, published an article titled “They’ve Recorded It!
It’s Proven!”, characterizing the monitoring data as “irrefutable evidence of a foreign
company’s participation in the destruction of the villagers’ way
of life and the poisoning of their health”. The data has also
attracted the attention of government leaders, including a Parliamentary
Deputy who called for investigation into the environmental health problems
The struggle for environmental justice
in Berezovka continues and many obstacles remain, but the villagers
are now armed with the first independent data about the air they breathe.
Crude Accountability and the Berezovka Initiative Group continue to
fight for relocation of the village using a combination of monitoring,
human rights and legal strategies.
visit Crude Accountability