Children’s Rights and the Environment

The Problem of Berezovka’s Poisoned Children is Discussed at The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

On September 23, Geneva, Switzerland hosted the annual discussion forum of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. The goal of the forum was to promote understanding of the relationship between the child’s rights and the environment and to define steps that need to be taken within the framework of laws, policies and practices in the field in order to improve the situation of children’s rights to a healthy environment. Special attention at the forum was paid to the influence of the business sector on the rights of children, as large companies often contribute significantly to the pollution of the environment, thus adversely affecting the health and well-being of children.

According to WHO estimates (2012), nearly one in four people die each year because of living or working in a polluted environment. More than 1,700,000 of them are children under the age of five years. Each year, 127,000 children die from air pollution. Baskut Tunchak, UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, notes that “1,700,000 deaths is only the tip of the iceberg, as there is a hushed pandemic of disability and disease associated with exposure to toxic substances and pollution of children.”

“International law requires states and companies to protect the rights of children and minimize harm caused by their activity. In the case of the poisoning of the children of Berezovka by toxic emissions from the Karachaganak gas condensate field in Kazakhstan, the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating (KPO) BV consortium not only violated and ignored the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Committee’s recommendations, but it also, in conjunction with the State, refused to acknowledge its responsibility for the tragedy or to provide adequate medical examination and treatment for children. Moreover, parents and community activists have received threats. The problem of the influence of the Karachaganak gas field on health is obvious. Eighty percent of Berezovka children suffer from pulmonary diseases. This situation is not acceptable for a country aspiring to join the ranks of the 30 most developed countries in the world,” said Sergei Solyanik, consultant for Crude Accountability, co-coordinator of the Children or Oil? coalition.

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On November 28, 2014, 25 children and 4 adult residents of Berezovka fainted, developed strong cramps, became dizzy, and experienced blood pressure surges and severe headaches. The village of Berezovka is located in the West Kazakhstan region, in close proximity to the Karachaganak oil and gas condensate field, one of the world’s largest. On the eve of that day, there was an accident on the field. Since then, children have continued to feel ill. Some of them have been able to afford paid medical services in Russian and Kazakhstan private clinics and have been diagnosed with toxic poisoning of the brain (toxic encephalopathy), a difficult and not fully treatable disease. At the end of 2015, the resettlement of villagers to the nearby town of Aksai began. The resettlement was achieved after 14 years of fighting for it. KPO consortium includes Chevron, ENI, BG Group, Lukoil and KazMunaiGaz.

 For more information:

Sergey Solyanik, Crude Accountability                                   Children or Oil? Coalition

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