Sinkholes

Kazakhstan: Minister of Environmental Protection identified the conditions for relocation of the residents of the village of Berezovka, which is falling into the earth
International Information Agency “Fergana”
January 26, 2011

Kazakhstan’s Minister of Environmental Protection, Nurgali Ashimov, confirmed that the residents of the village of Berezovka (Burlinsky Raion, Western-Kazakhstan Oblast) may be relocated, according to a report from the Agency for International Information “Novosti-Kazakshtan”. We remind the reader that sinkholes have formed in the village of Berezovka, which is located inside the Sanitary Protection Zone of the Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate Field.

The first sinkhole underneath one of the village homes appeared at the end of December 2010; three other sinkholes were discovered in close proximity to Berezovka. The local environmental organization “Zhasil Dala” sent an inquiry to government bodies at all levels in Kazakhstan. However, the local authorities did not display much interest, and did not begin an investigation. The environmental organization “Green Salvation” reported that representatives from the international consortium Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V. (KPO), which is developing the field, have not reacted to the sinkholes either. “They photographed the sinkhole and left. Representatives from the local department of Emergency Situations suggested filling up the sinkhole.”

However, once the Berezovka story was widely covered by the media, the head of the Ministry of Environmental Protection stated: “In order to make an objective decision (regarding Berezovka), objective data are needed. Two meteorological stations will be purchased at KPO’s expense; they will be installed in places identified by the population of Berezovka. If a meteorological station shows even one instance in which the emission norms are exceeded, then according to the laws of the Republic of Kazakhstan, local executive bodies, the government and the natural resource users must provide the population of Berezovka with other residences, in another region, perhaps in Uralsk.”

The necessary instruments have already been ordered and are being made. These meteorological stations, in the words of the Minister, will not be controlled by KPO: “The instruments will be connected to Kazgidromet, for the duration.” Moreover, all of the data will be instantly accessible on the Internet in an online format that will enable anyone, including the residents of Berezovka, “to view all of the data. The norms and parameters of the monitoring will be written there,” noted the Minister.

KPO is carrying out its operations in accordance with the Final Production Sharing Agreement signed by the partners of the consortium with the government of Kazakhstan in November 1997. Under this agreement, KPO will manage the Karachaganak project until 2038.

Karachaganak, which has 1.2 billion tons of oil and condensate reserves and more than 1.35 trillion cubic meters of gas reserves, is one of the largest active oil and gas condensate fields in the world.

Translation by Crude Accountability