Chinese Investments Kazakhstan recent news

Independent Journalists Document  Pollution of Drinking Water Reserves in Kazakhstan by Foreign Oil Companies

On September 22, 2021, the “Prosto Journalistika” (Simply Journalism) team, in collaboration with Crude Accountability, presented a special investigation on Kazakhstan’s drinking water deposits that are threatened by oil company operations. 

Oil or Water – What Are We Going to Drink in 10 Years? premiered on YouTube. The film explores the pressing dilemma of modern-day Kazakhstan, which is exploited by oil companies that threaten the country’s major drinking water reserves. In particular, the documentary features two of the country’s largest freshwater reserves – Mynbulak and Kokzhide. 

Both reserves have the capacity to provide millions of Kazakhstan’s residents with clean drinking water, but due to oil drilling near the reserves, silence from the country’s authorities, and obstacles to public monitoring, an environmental catastrophe may be ahead, warns the documentary. 

The team of independent local journalists first attempted to visit the Mynbulak reserve. However,  the Kazakh-Chinese oil company PetroKazakhstan is operating close to the reserve and the company restricted the team’s access to the waters. The journalists were unable to travel to the territory of the aquifer, even after a long debate with PetroKazakhstan’s public relations department.

PetroKazakhstan’s operations in the immediate vicinity of the Mynbulak water reserve create a potential threat of groundwater pollution, warns the hydrology expert featured in the film. The shareholder of the PetroKazakhstan group of companies is the Chinese National Oil Corporation (CNPC).

The journalists also visited the Kokzhide freshwater reserve in Western Kazakhstan, a protected natural area of national significance. At present,  the waters of Kokzhide are being used by nearby villages, and the locals already report interruptions in the drinking water supply. 

Hydrological experts cannot accurately determine the extent of water deposit pollution due to scattered and incomplete information provided by the oil companies and the geological complexities of the site, but they agree that a decline in water quality has already begun, becoming more irreversible every year.

Seven extractive companies operate on the territory of Kokzhide.  The largest operators include Kazakh-Chinese CNPC-Aktobemunaigas, KMK Munai, and South Korean Ada Oil.

“The price of active oil production in present-day Kazakhstan is prohibitively high,” says Lukpan Akhmedyarov, one of the authors of the documentary. “While foreign companies are pumping black gold out of Kazakhstan, and corrupt officials sign papers to please them, we, the ordinary people, may soon be left without the most important thing… water.”

“Both underground water deposits are under threat of pollution and destruction. In Kokzhide, these threats are already being implemented by oil companies, and in Mynbulak they may become a reality in the near future,” says Sergey Solyanik, Crude Accountability consultant.

Oil or Water – What are We Going to Drink in 10 Years? is available on YouTube in Russian. For auto-generated English subtitles, select English closed captioning in the video settings. 

The film was made with support from Crude Accountability. Oil or Water? is the first feature documentary of the Prosto Journalistika project.

Additional Information:

Sergey Solyanik –

Elena Sorokina –