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951 Berezovka villagers sign appeal to President

Teenager taken by medical personnel after suddengly starting to feel weak ©Sanat Urnaliyev Teenager taken by medical personnel after suddengly starting to feel weak ©Sanat Urnaliyev

More than a half of Berezovka villagers in West Kazakhstan Oblast have supported the appeal to the President and Prime-Minister of Kazakhstan asking for a relocation from the village situated near Karachaganak, a large oil and gas field, Tengrinews reports citing a Kazakhstani lawyer and Crude Accountability consultant Sergey Solyanik.

Solyanik himself went to the village Berezovka and spoke to the residents about the details of the recent series of incidents involving dozens of children passing out one after another.

"What happened was the last straw of the villagers’ patience. They have been asking for a relocation for ten years, since they are living very close to the Karachaganak field. (...) The appeal was signed by 951 villagers out of the total of 1,580 people who live here. That is, more than a half of the residents are asking to be relocated. We are sending this appeal soon,” Solyanik said.

He noted that the villagers had no specific requirements for where to be relocated. He said that in such cases the government usually either builds a new village and moves the people there or provides monetary compensation individually.

"This case should be qualified as a forced relocation. It is not the people who came near the plant and started living next to it," the activist stressed.

The local residents are sure it is the ecological situation around the field and the practices used at the Karachaganak field are to blame for the mass fainting of school children. Back in 2012, Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V. was fined $50 million after an inspection found that it discharged 1.9 extra tons of polluting substances.

In this case the Prosecutor of West Kazakhstan Oblast also confirmed that there were several hydrogen sulfide emissions at the field shortly before the mass poisoning of children. However, the company declared that their mobile environmental monitoring station did not record any excessive amounts of harmful substances.

According to the chairman of the Ecological Society Green Rescue Sergei Kuratov, the sanitary protection zone that separates the plant from the village should be much wider than the existing 5.5 kilometers.

"Gas doesn't just stop after approaching the boundary of 5500 meters, it just doesn't work this way. Why not make a radical step and just relocate this small village 10-20 kilometers away from the field, so that there is an absolute guarantee that people are not exposed?” Kuratov wondered.

“The established sanitary protection zone does not provide ecological safety of the people from the field's emissions. Moreover, since 2011, the villagers have been concerned about cavities appearing in the soil in and around the village. People connect it with the development of the field," the ecologist said.

Meanwhile, the poisoned children from the village would spend some time in a sanatorium to improve their health and speed up the recovery.

Reporting by Vladimir Prokopenko, writing by Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

 

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