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The Town of the XXI Century 


The Town of the XXI Century
Series of reports on ecological situation in Central Asia



Information about any event was filtered by numerous censors, and only in very rare cases citizens of the country got it in an almost complete format. This secrecy was related even to weather conditions. If there was a flood or a storm in any of the country's regions, then these facts were reported with plenty of reservations. Citizens of the former Soviet Union remember the catastrophe at Chernobyl very well. The reports about this tragedy were broadcasted by the All-Union radio and appeared on the front pages of central newspapers several days after the explosion in the reactor. Specialists suggest that, if the information about the explosion had been timely given out to the people living in surrounding towns and villages, then the number of injured could have been lower. To liquidate the consequences of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, hundreds of thousands military personnel were moved into the region. Many of them currently have various kinds of disabilities. The secrecy regime prevented victims of radiation from proving the fact that they had become disabled people because they had been involved into the liquidation operation.

"Silence is a crime", - this is what doctor of mathematical sciences Ivan Chasnikov stresses in one of his books. For example, he writes: "Hiroshima, Semipalatinsk, Chernobyl … Tragedies, which are now counted by tens and hundreds. More than 690 space objects with nuclear reactors and radio isotope generators are flying over our heads. Emergencies and throws of radioactive substances into the atmosphere, on the ground or into the ocean take place all over the planet. It is a crime not to hear these alarm signals, which are sent to the humanity. It is even a bigger crime to keep silence about them…"

Silence also means huge economic losses, which could have been prevented, if appropriate information had been timely distributed among the people.


Below listed some of the provisions of the Orhus convention:

  • Each person has the right to live in the environment, which is beneficial for his or her health and well-being and must individually or together with others protect and improve the environment for the benefit of the current and future generations.

  • To secure the opportunities to protect this right and to fulfill this duty citizens must have access to information, the right to participate in public decision-making process and to have access to justice on environmental matters, and, in connection wit that it must be admitted that citizens may need assistance to fulfill their rights

  • In environmental matters, the improved access to information and public participation in decision-making increases the quality of the decisions made and improves the process of their implementation, assists in better distribution of information on environmental matters, provides the public with the opportunity to express concerns and allows government agencies to appropriately account for these interests.

  • The public must be aware of the procedure for participation in the decision-making process in cases of issues related to the environment, must have free access to them and know how to use them.

  • Complete consideration of ecological aspects is very important, when decisions are made at the government level and this leads to the importance of possession of the most precise, complete and up-to-date ecological information by the government agencies.

  • It is desirable to assist in ecological education to deepen the understanding of processes related to the environment and stable development and to stimulate wide distribution of information about decisions influencing the environment and stable development and its participation in adoption of these decisions.

Of course, this does not represent all the texts of the Convention, but its main provisions are related to the Right to:

  • get information

  • participate in decision-making

  • justice on environmental matters.


It is interesting to find out how prepared are citizens of Kazakhstan to use such kinds of rights.

Association of sociologists and political scientists of Almaty has conducted comparative analysis of the responses presented by 4 groups of people regarding the levels of their awareness of and concerns related to the level of the society's ecological consumption. The survey showed that for all groups of people information presented by the media and personal experiences represent the main sources of information.

Evaluation of the respondents shows that the ecological issues have not been considered as priorities of the state policies. This tells us that state ecological agencies are not occupied with raising the issues of state ecological security, they are not resolving these issues and even have no capabilities to attract public and governmental attention to these issues.

The majority of respondents (57,2%) do not know about activities of the state environmental protection services. A quarter of them knows about the fact of existence of the Ministry of ecology and biological resources. One respondent mentioned UNDP. Three respondents for some reason added State Auto Inspection to the ecological protection agencies. The predominant attitude toward activities of state ecological agencies is: in 70% of the cases - the quality of activities is low.

People know even less about activities of the ecological non-government organizations. 61,6% stated that they did not know anything about their activities.

So, people are not really ready to use their rights related to restoration of order in their, so to say, "own house", if we refer back to the etymology of the word "ecology".

In connection with these facts it is appropriate to recollect the almost detective story, which happened with the toxic wastes, which were moved into Russia at the beginning of last year. The story is entitled:


The appropriately informed "greens" decided to prevent the shipment. And the desperate customs officials finally found a way to deal with the lots of wastes - sold them to the commercial firm "Stroymontazh", which decided to process the wastes in Ust-Kamenogorsk. It has not been possible to find out whether the wastes reached their new destination, but the probability of this happening is quite high, says the Head of the department of state control of protection and exploitation of the mineral resources and plants of the Ministry of biological and ecological resources of Kazakhstan, Sandybek Omarov. He considers that in the Republic there are no opportunities to ensure full-scale control over import and export of toxic wastes. So far Kazakhstan has not signed the Bazel Convention of 1989, which allows to control movements of almost each kilogram of wastes taken in or out of the country.

Let us look at this story from the standpoint of the Orhus Convention. It requires government officials to inform the citizens of Ust-Kamenogorsk about the fact that toxic wastes will be processed in their town and this may cause certain negative consequences. This was the way to execute the right of the people to get information.

The second aspect is related to the fact that people or public unions. After long unclear trips from one customs point to another it was decided that these toxic wastes will be processed in Ust-Kamenogorsk.

At first, an Israeli firm "Lev Gubenko" moved the wastes through France to Russia. It was planned that they would be processed at "Uzhuralnikel". However, as soon as the ecological departments of the plant analyzed the samples of the wastes, they immediately refused to accept the wastes. The interesting detail is that the wastes were registered as nickel and cobalt raw materials, however, in reality the wastes contained highly toxic substances. The dangerous cargo was moved back to the supplier. It was stopped at the Baltic customs line.

Despite the fact that the Minister of ecology of France ordered the cargo to be shipped back to France, "Lev Gubenko" was not going to take care of the lots of toxic materials.

After several failed attempts to sell the toxic wastes the Baltic customs officials made a decision to bury the wastes at the Krasniy Bor testing range near Saint-Petersburg. However, had to inform the government officials about their attitude toward processing of toxic wastes in Ust-Kamenogorsk. And the government officials had to consider the opinion of the people. That was the way to execute the right of the people to participate in solution of ecological problems.

And, finally, the right to justice could have been executed in the following case. Let us imagine that, in the end, toxic wastes arrived in Ust-Kamenogorsk. As a result of the fact that the wastes were processed, people living in the city started to get sick more often and allergic reactions became more wide spread. People have the right to send an appeal to the court in order to require those responsible for the situation to compensate the moral and material damage caused to the people living in the city.


The Town of the XXI Century 

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