The Village of Berezovka
Berezovka is the closest of ten villages located near to the Karachaganak Field; in the case of Berezovka a mere five kilometers away. Once the Field became active, the health of this traditional agricultural community of 1300 began to decline precipitously, triggering pressing questions about Karachaganak’s operations. Witnessing the unprecedented development of chronic health problems in their children and grandchildren, a group of committed villagers created the Berezovka Initiative Group, which was later registered as the public organization Zhasil Dala. Led by Svetlana Anosova, a dynamic music teacher, community leader and a mother and grandmother herself, the Initiative Group was created to discover why the health of this community is deteriorating and to attain justice. Though Berezovka is the only home most have ever known and they are not eager to leave their roots, Zhasil Dala’s members have come to the painful decision that they must attain resettlement to a safe and environmentally sound location—to which they are legally entitled under Kazakhstani law—to ensure the health of future generations. They are also fighting for compensation for their suffering at the hands of Karachaganak.
The Berezovka Initiative Group reached out to Crude Accountability for help in 2002. Since then, Crude Accountability has been providing training, information, and campaign support to the villagers, including independent air monitoring training, human rights workshops, environmental health trainings, communication with the IFC and World Bank, and interaction with other international human rights and environmental justice NGOs and the press.
The Ecological Society Green Salvation
Green Salvation is an NGO that was founded in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 1990 with the goal of improving Kazakhstan’s socio-ecological conditions, and has since established itself as one of the most respected and influential groups in Kazakhstan. Green Salvation is working in partnership with Crude Accountability to provide the villagers of Berezovka with legal consultation and support, pursuing a variety of legal strategies in the Kazakhstani court system.
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
KIBHR was founded by a group of human rights activists in 1993 to protect human rights and advocate for democracy in Kazakhstan. The Bureau is headquartered in Almaty and has six branches throughout Kazakhstan, which monitor the human rights situation in their respective region. The Bureau is working in partnership with Green Salvation, Zhasil Dala and Crude Accountability to attain justice for the villagers of Berezovka in the Kazakhstani court system.
Nationwide Public Association “Shanyrak”
Shanyrak was established as a citizens’ initiative in 2008. The organization’s goal is to realize and defend the economic, social, cultural and political rights and freedoms of the citizens of Kazakhstan. Working together with Green Salvation, the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, and Crude Accountability, Shanyrak is defending the rights of the residents of Berezovka in Kazakhstan’s legal system.
Based in the oil boomtown of Atyrau, Kazakhstan, Tan is an environmental NGO that has provided support to the village of Berezovka. Tan has raised the concerns of the villagers at various levels of government, and worked with Crude Accountability to organize a public hearing in Uralsk, Kazakhstan in May 2006 on the question of relocation.
Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V. (KPO)
KPO is an international consortium comprised of British Gas (32.5%), Italy’s ENI/Agip (32.5%), American Chevron (20%) and Russia’s LUKoil (15%). In 1997, KPO took over operation of the 280 square kilometer Karachaganak Field, which contains more than 1,200 million tons of oil and condensate and over 1.35 trillion cubic meters of gas. According to KPO’s website, the expansion of the Field has involved an investment of $5.5 billion and it is currently one of the biggest internationally funded projects in Kazakhstan. Under the Production Sharing Agreement signed in 1997 between KPO and the government of Kazakhstan, KPO will operate the field through 2038.
KPO has been fined by the Kazakhstani government numerous times for environmental damages. In 2004, KPO paid the Western Kazakhstan Oblast Treasury 2 billion 100 thousand tenge (more than USD 15 million) as compensation for environmental violations (See the 2005 Uralsk Weekly article “Environmental Dregs”). In 2008, KPO was fined by the government 1 billion, 840 million tenge (USD 15 million 300 thousand) for violations of environmental safety standards. Thus far in 2009, KPO has paid 8.5 billion tenge in fines (USD 56 million 403 thousand), of which 4 billion tenge is for pollution of the atmosphere and over 500 million tenge is for violating land use regulations. (Read this April 2009 Kazinform article for more details.) According to the Western Kazakhstan Department of Statistics, KPO has violated toxic emissions standards 39 times in the period 2001-2006, with exceedences of hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, methane and other toxins. (See the table “Emission of Pollutants by KPO into the Atmosphere from 2001-2006.”)
International Finance Corporation (IFC)
The IFC is the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. Its mission is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. In 2002, it provided $150 million in loans to LUKoil for development of the Karachaganak Field. These loans were repaid by LUKoil in January 2009. The IFC has violated its own standards at the Karachaganak Field on numerous accounts, including by failing to adequately report air monitoring (Download the March 2008 Auditor’s Report).
Compliance Officer/Ombudsman (CAO) of the IFC
The CAO is the independent recourse mechanism for the IFC. According to the CAO’s website, it is committed to enhancing the development impact and sustainability of IFC projects by responding quickly and effectively to complaints from affected communities and by supporting the IFC in improving the social and environmental outcomes of its work, thereby fostering a higher level of accountability. Three complaints have been filed to the CAO by or on behalf of the residents of Berezovka. The details of each complaint and the ensuing CAO investigations are described in the Campaign section. However, over the course of almost five years, the CAO’s investigations have failed to result in concrete benefit to the local community.
Government of Kazakhstan
On the National Level:
In March 2008, Kazakhstan’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Green Salvation in a precedent setting lawsuit seeking access to environmental information about atmospheric emissions at the Karachaganak Field. For the first time in its history, the Kazakhstan Supreme Court considered the terms of the “Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters” as mandatory in its ruling. (See Press Release on Access to Information Victory.)
In May 2006, the Ministry of Health created a special commission to study the health impacts of Karachaganak on the community. Unfortunately, the commission’s findings were simply a rewording of environmental monitoring conducted by KPO. No new information was released as a result of the commission’s work.