By Boris MIKHAILOV
In spite of the expectations, the town hall meeting of Akims of Burlinsky and Berezovka districts Saginbek Mutashev and Radik Nurmukhamedov with the residents of Berezovka village went rather calmly. The question of relocation of this village located on former ‘virgin land’, which is being posed by an initiative group headed by Svetlana Anosova was not in the centre of the meeting’s agenda. This means that the residents of Berezovka themselves, with the exception of a small group of people, have tired from this continuous, or how the villagers call it, imposed dispute.
We would like to remind you that Svetlana Anosova’s group, which was provided support including financial assistance by various NGO’s for four years, is now sending letters to various organizations with a demand to relocate the residents of Berezovka to a more ecologically safe location. The conflict arose when the 5-km radius sanitary-protection zone at the Karachaganak deposit was decreased to 3 km. It was then said that the alteration of the SPZ border was coordinated together with the national chief sanitary specialist, and connected with the introduction of modern technology for the control of discharges.
It is interesting to note that under the first delineation of the SPZ, only the outskirts of Berezovka were actually located within the border of the SPZ. Accordingly, only the Tungush village was still included within the new border, and its residents were offered either to relocate to the Oblast centre, or to move to another village. As a result, in May 2003, 151 families celebrated a housewarming in Uralsk, in a new 9-storied building. Another 28 families preferred to remain in rural areas, and sound amount of compensation was paid to the resettled villagers.
At the time the Berezovka residents, or their initiative group that is lead by Svetlana Anosova to be more exact, asked themselves a question, why are we less important? Claims regarding the negative impact of the deposit on the health of the people have continued to be sent to government offices. There were no letters on actually improving the ecological situation. The initiative group sees a solution to the problem only in relocation.
Based on their own data, the reliability of which is highly disputed by the Berezovka Rural District Akim, Radik Nurmukhambetov, Svetlana Anosova affirms that following the beginning of development of the Karachaganak deposit, the condition of health of the village residents and domestic animals deteriorated seriously. In particular, according to the leader of the initiative group, Berezovka residents started experiencing symptoms that were unheard of at an earlier time, including nosebleeds, vomiting, skin diseases and others.
Of course, these claims regarding the deterioration of the health of local residents have not been left without attention. However, the data from official medical and other research do not support the reasoning being used by Svetlana Anosova. For example, data from the comprehensive medical examinations that were conducted by a team of specialists from the Oblast centre in May of the last year. 843 Berezovka residents out of a total of 1,365 participated in the examination. At the time of the examination, 94 residents had moved out of the region, 225 refused to participate in the examination, 215 engaged in the questioning, but did not show up for the doctors’ examination. The arguments of those who refused were all the same – we don’t believe you.
The majority of the Berezovka residents did believe however, and the following is what resulted Based on the results of the medical examination of the adults, 16.3% were found to be healthy; 65.3% semi-healthy; and 18,3% were recommended to receive regular medical check-ups. Among those persons who took the medical check-up, adults with eye diseases were the most prominent (12%). Cardio-vascular diseases, ischemia, and atherosclerosis of the brain occupied the 2nd place and legs’ vessels, all diseases characteristic of old age. Diseases of the locomotor apparatus, osteoarthritis of the large joints and the spine occupied 3rd place, and 4th place was diseases of the gastrointestinal and excretory tracts (chronic gastritis, ulcers, cholecystitis and pyelonephritis). 5th place was diseases of the central nervous system; at the 6th was a psychological disease, (2 cases of schizophrenia and one patient with acute psychosis).
During the examination of children aged 0 to 18 years, 27% were found to be healthy, 48.6% semi-healthy; 26.4% were recommended to receive regular medical check-ups.
Among the children recommended to receive regular medical check-ups, diseases of the nervous system were most common (23.6%), 2nd place was occupied by eye diseases (12.3%), and 3rd place were diseases of the respiratory organs (11.2%), 4th place was blood diseases including anemia at 10.4%, and diseases of the digestive system was 10.4%.
The content of harmful substances including hydrogen sulphide, sulphureous anhydride, nitrogen dioxide and carbon oxide in Berezovka does not exceed the MPC, which is why the Oblast commission, including medical specialists came to the conclusion that diseases connected with these substances were not found during the examination of 843 village residents.
And the Deputy Public Prosecutor of the Burlin Regional Medical Department, Utebaeva made conclusions as listed below. Her report is based upon the results of the analysis of the health condition of the population of Berezovka population for 2002-2004.
The birth rate increased from 11.2% (24 in 2002 and 17.1% (23) in 2003 up to 19.0% (26) in 2004. Infant mortality, 2002- no cases, in 2003 43.4% (1 was an inborn deficiency of segmented intestine), in 2004 there were no lethal cases. General mortality in 2002 totaled 23; in 2003 there were 18 cases, which reduced to 11 in 2004. In terms of social diseases one can observe reduction of the TB rate, totaling 2 cases in 2002, 4 cases in 2003 and 1 case in 2004. Oncological diseases totaled 5 cases in 2002, no cases in 2003, and 2 in 2004.
In 2004, the Berezovka Medical Centre was supplied with medical equipment and items through the Oblast Healthcare Department, a car was provided, an electrocardiography apparatus was allocated, an ultrasound inhalator, a distillatory, a mini-autoclave, a surgery set and others. These instruments were purchased at the expense of the local budget.
The KPO social development project includes an overhaul of a Berezovka clinic including the opening of 5 beds for daily care and a physiotherapy room. The number of physicians and paramedical staff is sufficient. Visits by a medical team, including a pediatrician, gynecologist and therapist, and single-functioned specialists and ECG cabinet are organised to render consulting and organisational assistance, and the number of trips has increased from 7 in 2003 up to 13 in 2004.
Having analyzed all this data, medical specialists came to a shared opinion, diseases, that could be associated with the hazardous impact of the deposit on the health of the Berezovka residents, were not present. In addition, the disease rate in Berezovka was actually lower than average in the Burlin region.
And what did the ecologists say? According to the head of the KPO Section of Atmosphere Protection and Ecological Monitoring, Gabdrakhim Gabdeev, the consortium regularly monitors the air, water and soil, and several automated stations have been installed for this purpose. The laboratory takes about 110,000 annual samples of atmosphere alone. The concentration of hazardous substances in the basin of the deposit and nearby settlements has been decreased to the maximum permissible concentrations. KPO B.V. has assigned a competent professional laboratory, IPC Gidromet LTD to conduct operational monitoring of the environmental facilities. It is the only such organisation that is nationally accredited in Kazakhstan with such a high profile. In addition, KPO conducts radiation and seismic monitoring as well as monitoring of the flora and fauna. The launching of the Waste Treatment Complex was one of the most significant measures within the KPO Nature Protection Measures Plan.
The Head of the Oblast Department of Environmental Protection, Robert Suerbaev has confirmed the conclusions on the part of the specialists. “The results of the environmental monitoring have not provided a basis for the relocation of the Berezovka residents, as over the last few years the condition of the environment at the KOGCD has been stabilised, and even some reduction of the pollution level has occured, he said. The measurement of the air samples is being done at nine settlements around the deposit four times per day. The operational monitoring of the soil covering in Berezovka demonstrates stable pollution in the surface soil layer. The content of oil related by-products is at a level of 0.8-0.9 of the MPC. The concentration of pollutants in the Berezovka River (oil byproducts, nitrates, nitrites, chlorides, sulfates) remains at the level of permissible norms”.
Government organizations demand not only the observation of norms on the part of KPO, but also openness with all data that they have obtained. And for this reason, tables with the results of all ecological studies are posted on special billboards in the settlements that are nearby the deposit, and are published in the local press.
In the meantime, based upon their own observations, Svetlana Anosova and the rest of the members of her initiative group refuse to believe this official data. Beginning from 2002, representatives from various NGO’s began visiting Berezovka. They are training Berezovka residents on fighting for their rights. An example is that in 2002, the representatives from the ecological NGO ISAR conducted here training for compiling written addresses to various agencies. In summer of 2003, there was a household survey conducted by Svetlana Anosova (who is working as music teacher) essentially done by herself alone, looking for presence of medical problems, as she herself has admitted. It is for this reason that Radik Nurmukhambetov has discredited the data that was used by Anosova.
Last year, representatives from the international ecological NGO, Crude Accountability visited Berezovka, US citizen, Kate Waters and a lawyer from Moscow named Olga Yakovleva, who is specialized in the legal education of citizens and the protection of their ecological rights. According to them, the purpose of the visit was to render support to the initiative group for village relocation and to teach Kazakhstani citizens the Kazakhstani Constitution. It is notable that a foreign guest, who undertook it upon herself to train Berezovka residents in legal literacy, has violated our laws herself. The Burlin Region Public Prosecutor, A. Arystanov reports that Kate Waters violated the rules of entry and stay for foreign citizens in Kazakhstan. This US citizen, who indicated that she arrived for private purposes, had no right to participate in such an event and moreover, she conducted the training seminars herself. Kate Waters thus violated the requirements of Section No. 394 of national Administrative Code, and was therefore subject to be deported from Kazakhstan.
One can understand the motivations of Kate Waters and Olga Yakovleva. NGO Crude Accountability exists due to the direct financing on the part of various western donors, and in order to prove their significance to their employers, these organizations must demonstrate at least some results in order to implement projects regularly and justify them continuing to receive grants and enable them to attract new generous sponsors.
Everyday Berezovka residents have been rushing around between two fires, and are tiring from their endless doubts, and expectations regarding whether the relocation will take place or not. Words spoken by of one of these, I. Dryga possibly reflect the opinion of the majority of residents in Berezovka:
-“I don’t want to leave my native village; I became accustomed to living on this land. I have a good house here, and I don’t want to lose my farmstead, as did the Tungush residents. We need work, and all of the endless rumors on relocation are just hindering us from doing so.”
The Chairman of the Village Veterans Board, Pyotr Fonyak expressed a similar opinion,
“People are being misled by the promises for relocation. The Akim of the Berezovka rural district, Radik Nurmukhambetov also believes that the long-drawn out relocation mood on the part of a portion of the population, albeit a small one, is doing harm to the continued development of the village.
“Compared with the villages that are more distant from the deposit, Berezovka is in an evidently better position, he says. All of the households have a central water supply, which helps them to provide themselves with vegetables. The village has been gasified at the expense of foreign sponsors, and an overhaul of school has been made, and the children and pensioners are provided with vouchers to go to sanatoriums without being put on a waiting list. The repair of the kindergarten and the House of Culture is scheduled for the current year. In general, there exist all conditions for a reasonable salary and life style.