Mangystau – 12 - 19 May 2014

To what extent will citizens be able to participate in the decision-making process regarding construction permits and other plans that can have an impact on the quality of their lives is a question now being discussed not only in the Czech Republic. These days, similar topics are very popular in Kazakhstan as well. Arnika, a Czech NGO, is launching a three-year project there whose aim is to encourage the local people to actively participate in the decision-making processes in their area, find places contaminated by industrial pollution, identify endangered habitats and show them where to get information about the environment. Similar cases from the Czech Republic can serve as guidance. 

Photo coverage: Martin Plocek/Arnika

The Dead Lake extends just behind the borders of the capital city of Mangystau Province – Aktau. The water is salty and radioactive. The probable cause of contamination is uranium enrichment plant, which is closed nowadays.
 
In the surroundings of the Dead Lake is rampant dump. In all of this live people – mostly resettled Kazakhs from neighbouring countries of the former Soviet Union and Iran. Currently, they have more essential problems than environment.
 
In the surroundings of the Dead Lake is rampant dump. In all of this live people – mostly resettled Kazakhs from neighbouring countries of the former Soviet Union and Iran. Currently, they have more essential problems than environment.
 
Koshkar Ata. One of the biggest ecological threats of the region. Drying up artificial lake of 66 square kilometres contains dozens of tonnes of radioactive waste and heavy metals. Preserving strong wind spreads contaminated sand and dust on two-hundred-thousand town.
 
Not to be short of problems, there is town canalisation flowing into the Koshkar Ata Lake. Sewage treatment plant was not finished yet. Canalisation is one of the few sources of water in this desert area and so the farm animals group along the stinking river.
 
Radioactive sludge lagoon Koshkar Ata is not surrounded by any fence. So the contamination endangers not only inhabitants by the dust but probably it also gets into animals´ bodies. Horses are bred for meat here, camels for refreshing fat milk.
 
Former municipal waste dump resounds just behind the borders of the town Aktau. After the years, the biological waste decomposed and building waste disintegrated. So glass bottles and pieces of metals predominate.
 
Polygon of waste dump is not surrounded by any fence. Recently, someone started to interrupt the old dump and dig holes there. Maybe they are going to put new waste into the old dump...
 
There is neither system of returnable nor separated refuse collection in the province. Literally everything ends up in the dump.
 
Collecting channel drains sewage water from industrial area of Aktau into the Koshkar Ata Lake. Heavy metals and radioactive matters get into the lake right from there.
 
New municipal waste dump of the town Aktau. While glass bottles predominate in the old dump, new dump is full of plastics.
 
Wind spreads waste from the dump to the endless steppes and semi-deserts.
 
Fence of municipal dump reminds desire tree. There are often fires in the dump, from which likely arise toxic matters.
 
Karagiya graben on Mangyshlak peninsula is one of the deepest of its kind in Asia. It reaches 132 meters below nearby Caspian sea level. Its name could be translated as “a black trap“.
 
Oil fields around the town Zhetybay supply constituent part of state budget. Thousands of pumps are working in the desert for twenty four hours per day.
 
Clouds of sand are flowing around desolated landscape, power lines and pipelines connecting oil wells stretch out of sight.
 
Also among oil wells and industrial facilities live farm animals.
 
 Landscape is arid. In Kazakhstan, water costs generally more than petrol.
 
 The old quarry is used as a tank for oil sludge. Sediments are dried out here and then stored. As any isolation of subsoil is missing, we can deduce that the sediments are leaking through.
 
 
Mine number 4. Uranium was mined here during the Soviet era. After Soviet Union’s disintegration the mine was abandoned without any recultivation or security measures.
 
Zhаnauzen´s city surroundings belong to the oil industry. We can find oil spills that apparently nobody is bothered about.
 
Large lake with a scenic mountainous background lies close to main road from Aktau to Zhаnauzen. Was it formed by nature, or is it sludge-drying bed for industry?
 
Marine Supply Base. Consortium of oil corporations lead by of Italian Agip built several halls there containing costly equipment for oil spills cleanup in Caspian Sea.
 
Marine Supply Base near Atash town. Water, food and equipment are supplied from here to deepwater oil platforms. All waste is brought back here.
 
Although substantial part of the oil industry waste is not properly disposed of, there are some examples of properly managed landfills. Close to Atash village, trees were planted, fence erected and wells drilled to monitor ground water.
 
Saura Canyon is one of few oasis in west Kazakhstan, where in the middle of the dessert, shadow and drinking water can be found. Livestock grazing can easily damage this fragile nature.
 
Saura. Cattle is grazing in the vicinity of abandoned fishing village. Favourite food of locals is lamb.
 
Town officials have decided to close down the popular beach café Ravil, built around a historical boat. Brand new sports ground will replace it.
 
Ravil closure caused uproar among inhabitants, together with plans to cut down adjacent small park. But the majority protests takes place only on online forums and discussions.
 
Martin Skalský from Arnika, Alija Tonkobajeva from EcoMuseum and Kiril Osin, director of Eco Mangystau, at a press conference to launch new three-year project financed by European Union.
 
Eco Mangystau operates a consultation centre for citizens. Immediatelly at the very first day after opening, experts were called to check illegal waste dump near Akshukur village.
 
Small towns do not have any waste management system. Inhabitants can bring themselves their garbage to the city landfill, but it costs money. Therefore a majority of waste is burnt or thrown out to steppe.
 
The illegal waste dump near Akshukur begins just behind the wall of local cemetery. Its area is almost the same as an overall area of the village itself.
 
Illegal waste dump is full of household garbage, but dangerous materials can also be found, such as fluorescent tubes with toxic mercury.
 
Sewage water canal from abandoned uranium enriching factory. High concentration of hydrogen chloride can be smelled in the air, probably from uranium ore leaching site.
 
Uranium enrichment factory in Aktau was closed down just after Soviet Union disintegration. Not even today contaminated buildings are safely conserved.
 
Drinking water for 200 thousand inhabitants of Aktau city is provided by seawater desalination. Factory complex (also generating electricity) was formerly powered by experimental nuclear reactor. This one is not in service anymore, but has to be cooled for the next 50 years.
 
We are saving the tortoise, that got wedged in factory pipelines.
 
Waste water streaming from desalination factory is very hot and has to be cooled down. Discharge created a huge lake – Karakol. Tens of bird species reside there and lake was declared as a man-made nature protection area.
 
 
 

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