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The Town of the XXI Century 

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


Sooner or later market economy will develop in Kazakhstan. It will be followed by the growth of the industrial economy and as an irreversible effect by increase in the negative pressure on the environment. Of course, structural changes will follow, the industrial complex will be modernized and (people of Kazakhstan really count on this) will help to introduce hi-tech, resource saving, low waste technologies, start using highly effective nature protecting equipment. But this will happen in the future, in our wealthy, prosperous future, when there will be opportunities to finance large-scale ecological projects. But we can not just sit and wait for this to happen. We have to search for and make conclusions regarding the ways to solve problems of ecological stabilization of production, which does not require significant amounts of capital. The measures may include introduction of the ecologically clean production based on prevention of exhausts and drains of pollutants and development of production wastes.

In Kazakhstan per capita amount of used substances is 50 tons, out of which 95 percent are thrown into the atmosphere as industrial and hosehold wastes. These wastes are hidden in the air, water, soil and at any moment they can remind about themselves by a throw out, explosion, splash.

As a result secondary dusting of Bayaldyr tail storage place in South-Kazakhstan region, within 15 days 1,2 tons of toxic dust were blown away and thrown on the cities of Kentau and Turkestan, where 220 thousand people live.

In East-Kazakhstan as a result of overwhelming pressure on the cleaning devices (2-3 times) inadequately cleaned sewage (BPK - 5-5,1 Maximum limits of concentration (MLC), nitrogen ammonium - 174 MLC, zinc - 3,1 MLC, oil products - 5 MLC) enter the waters of Irtish river. Drained water annually brings more than 500 tons of zinc, 10 tons of copper, 3 tons of cadmium into Ulba river (the branch of Irtish). Ishim river is the source for more than 12 thousand kilometers of mainstream water supply systems (about 600 cities, towns and villages) that is why the quality of water here must be a priority. However, the water is characterized by the presence of oil products (up to 50 MLC), copper (28 MLC), phenols (6 MLC). There is information about high levels of cadmium (2-3 MLC) in the water supply system of the city of Petropavlovsk, an in South-Kazakhstan region because of the insufficient power of the cleaning devices (197 thousand cubic meters while the actual amount is 300-350 thousand cubic meters) non-cleaned sewage is drained from Burzhan water reserve into Badam river. In 1996 68 tons of pollutants were drained.

In many regions pollution of the soil by radioactive substances causes development of the difficult ecological situation. For example, 267 areas of radioactive pollution caused by spills of underground waters were registered at the 22 major oil wells in West Kazakhstan. The power of radiation caused by radium and torium contained in the spills is 100-17000 micro roentgen/ hour. The total number of people affected is 100 thousand.

At the uranium extraction and processing sites radioactive wastes are accumulated in the form of leftovers and tail storage places. About 80 thousand sources of ionizing radiation, which must be buried, are concentrated in 100 storage places.

There are local underground water pollution problems in Kazakhstan, which may grow into regional problems, if urgent measures are ot taken. In Semipalatinsk region oil accumulated near a military airport (6460 tons on the square of 42 hectares) may be carried to Irtish river by the stream of underground waters and may lead to an ecological catastrophe in the lower basin of the river, including some regions of Russia. Mercury pollution of underground waters (900 tons on the square of 50 hectares) was registered in Pavlodar region.

The latter fact is well-known. Moreover, the situation may become worse. Large amounts of mercury are accumulated under the mercury electrolysis shop of Pavlodar JSC "Himprom" and this may turn the situation into an emergency. Ecologists and hydrologists say that mercury will be carried to Irtish. And then the people living in Altayskii krai and Omsk region will be hit first. The latter ones offered to purchase a 380 thousand dollar Swedish made device to liquidate mercury pollution. But everything remained as it was and the plant fights the problem using its own forces. Engineer networks and equipment are demolished. It will be necessary to remove the shell of the building and then to build a storage facility to bury the soil and concrete constructions and to build an 18-meter deep wall to block mercury from entering underground waters. It will be necessary to demercurialize more than 430 tons of mercury. For this purpose the government will provide 2 million tenge.

Here is one of the multitude of examples proving that Kazakhstan is an ecologically vulnerable country with a transitional economy. Soon entering the club of ten largest energy suppliers Kazakhstan may remain an ecologically dirty province of the world. If the uncoordinated fight of the "greens" for clean production do not make the work of the state more planned and better financed. What is the "ecologically clean production"? This terms was introduced by UNER in 1989, when the Ecologically clean production Program started to develop in countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Ecologically clean production means constant implementation of the complex preventive environmental protection strategy in development of technological processes and products in order to lower the risk for people and to improve conditions of the environment.

In relation to technological processes ecologically clean production includes rational use of raw materials and energy, exclusion of use of toxic raw materials and energy and decreased volume and the toxic level of all exhausts and wastes before they exit the technological process.

In relation to products the strategy is concentrated on establishment of relationships between the influences during the whole life cycle of the product starting from extraction of raw materials and ending with disposal of the end product or its recycling.

Currently there are several signs reflecting the meaning of ecologically clean production:

  • Prevention of appearance of the sources of pollution
  • Decreased volumes of the pollution source
  • Utilization
  • Division and concentration of wastes
  • Exchange of wastes
  • Recuperation of energy/regeneration of materials
  • Burning/recycling of wastes
  • Final disposal of wastes.

We are not alone in trying to solve the problems of ecologically clean production. The same or similar tasks have been solved by other countries and not once. Large experience has been accumulated by UN environmental program UNER and UN industrial development program UNIDO.

Center NPDOOS/UR (National plan of environmental protection actions of the Republic of Kazakhstan) in cooperation with TACIS experts developed an introductory seminar on clean technologies for heads of ministries and agencies of the city of Almaty. The seminar was attended by specialists, representatives of the Ministry of ecology, JSC "Inalmazzoloto", "Etalon" plant, Mining institute. At the seminar two Almaty plants were reviewed as pilot projects (JSC "Merei" and JSC "Asfaltobeton") with the audit of these plants' wastes conducted by English consultancy firm ERM.

The use of knowledge acquired at the seminar will allow the plants to increase cost-effectiveness by decreasing water and energy consumption, exhausts thrown into the atmosphere, amounts of sewage drained and the amounts of accumulated wastes, while simultaneously increasing the quality of products and job security.

Development of the ecologically clean production program represents the main goal in the sphere of environmental protection management at the plants. The government of the Republic of Kazakhstan approved the importance of the ecologically clean production program as an element of the National plan of environmental protection actions for stable development of the Republic of kazakhstan and considers it important to take the program in the account, while implementing the plan of actions of the ecological security concept. A special group works at NPDOOS/UR Center to prepare the National program, the support of which will require the establishment of the National Clean Production center.

The priorities have been defined and the shortened list of them includes:

Installation of dust consumption systems and filters at non-ferrous metallurgy plants (lead, copper, zinc, aluminium) situated in the distance of 5 kilometers from the cities.

Installation of the equipment reducing levels of steam, dust, ashes and carbon oxides thrown by ferrous metallurgy plants.

Replacement of coal by gas or non-smoke solid fuel for Heat Power Plants, for commercial plants and households in the cities, where the average level of concentration of aerosols exceeds 150 mg/cubic meter.

Installation of preventing processing devices for sewage of small and medium size plants, such as galvanic and metal processing, working in the areas, where heavy metal pollution represents a significant problem.

Assistance to the proper placement of locally-produced septic tanks and proper cleaning of manure from intensive animal growing installations of the agricultural sector, where the level of nitrates in the water of wells exceeds 10 mg/liter.

Monitoring of disposal of dangerous wastes and control over their leakage from storage places. Especially in those places where the risk of drinking water pollution exists.

Replacement of the out-of-dated railroad equipment and cars as an alternative to the increase in the number of automobiles.

But thi again is only in the future, an now:

*The level of electricity consumption for production of each ton of copper in Kazakhstan is 3 times higher than the level of the main world's producers of copper, for production of a ton of steel - 4 times higher. For each dollar of produced coal carbon raw materials the losses of these raw materials reach the level of 4 dollars.

*In 1990-1995 annually 15% of electricity were lost while it was transmitted through the common electricity networks (In germany - 2,3%).

*At the heat power plants only 40 percent of the heat energy are used to produce electric energy, while the rest of the water is removed into the surrounding environment. At the same time, in accordance with UNER estimates, using technically justified and economically beneficial technologies, it is possible to prevent the appearance of 70% of all industrial wastes before they are produced. The experience of 150 Polish firms representing 20 industrial sectors shows that it is possible to decrease the amounts of wastes by 20-40 percent without any or with very limited capital investments. Further 30% decrease is possible if investments are made into technically reliable and cost-effective equipment or into the change of technology.

So, ecologically clean production is not a utopia. It is the magic tool. And the implementation of ecologically clean production is not only the concern of the tops, but also the test of our creativity, our group generation of ideas and suggestions. But do ot forget that there are ten obstacles on the way to creation.

  1. The fear of making mistakes
  2. The fear of being considered a fool
  3. The fear of being criticized
  4. The fear of being misunderstood
  5. The fear of being alone
  6. The fear of breaking traditions and introducing changes
  7. The fear to agreement with setting bans
  8. The fear of everything new
  9. The fear of loosing the group support
  10. The fear to remain the Individual

We have nothing to be afraid of because we are losing the planet.

Aluminium recycling is possible

Aluminium cans were the first products, which were recycled on a large-scale in the USA, and they still remain as one of the leading recyclable products. In 1990, 88 billion cans were produced and 55 billion cans were recycled, which constitutes 62,5 percent of the total amount. And this number continues to grow thanks to educational programs for the people and to state laws regarding the use of special containers.

Within last 20 years serious achievements were made in the sphere of aluminium recycling, which can be explained by the influence of market economy. In the beginning of 1970s producers of steel cans widely advertised the fact that steel cans, unlike aluminium ones, can be biologically disintegrated. At that time, garbage collecting campaigns were popular and aluminium cans producers were afraid of lsoing their market shares, so they decided to unfold an unprecedented network of aluminium cans collection. Currently this network supported by endless public relations campaigns serves as a foundation for recycling of half of the produced, sold and used cans within two months from the moment of their production. Based on this system aluminium has won the largest share of the market and 85% of the cans ar made from aluminium.

Now other producers are entering the fight creating the infrastructure for collection of their own products. Steel industry has set a goal to achieve 65 percent recycling level for its products.

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