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Controversy around future hazardous waste recycling plant in Pavlodar

25 june 2015, 20:39
0

Construction of a hazardous waste recycling plant is planned in Pavlodar, Tengrinews reports.

Aidar Makhmetov, Chief Expert at the Waste Management Department of Kazakhstan's Ministry of Energy talked about the new specialized plant at the YertysInvest International Form.

The plant for recycling hazardous wastes will be the first of its kind in Kazakhstan. It will process hazardous wastes from industrial enterprises, including the wastes accumulated in the plant's dumping sites.

"Today in Kazakhstan we have an enormous amount of accumulated persistent organic pollutants and industrial production wastes. In particular, in Pavlodar Oblast there are a lot of hazardous wastes dumped not far from the city on exposed areas unattended and accessible for public. The wastes have been accumulating for years and no one took care of them. The new plant will be burning all the production wastes including oil and oil sludge wastes along with contaminated soil," Makhmetov said.

$10 million has been allocated for the project already. The construction of the recycling plant is going to be funded from the state budget and by the World Bank.

"The area for the plant has already been allocated within the boundaries of the Pavlodar Free Economic Zone. The new plan that costs $100 million will recycle dangerous wastes accumulated not only in Pavlodar Oblast but also in Southern Kazakhstan Oblast, Karaganda Oblast and Western Kazakhstan Obast," Makhmetov said.

However promising the new project sounds, the locals do not share the excitement of the Ministry. In addition to protests from local environmentalists, who fear deterioration of the ecological situation in the area, the Pavlodar Oblast Akimat (Municipal authorities), too, have not officially agreed to host the hazardous waste recycling plant.

"Pavlodar Oblast Akimat has not given the official consent for the construction of the hazardous waste recycling plant. The decision was made in Astana. On our part, as the local authorities, we have written a letter to the Ministry of Energy where we pointed out that the meeting on this issue in December that was supposed to be a public hearing was held with a number of violations (and cannot be considered a legitimate public hearing)," the Head of the Subsurface Use, Environment and Water Resources Management of the Oblast Albek Nessipbekov said.

According to Nessipbekov, the Oblast Akimat reported that the public hearings were illegitimate and insisted that an additional round of hearings had to be organized.

"Representatives of the Ministry of Energy wanted to conduct public hearings here, but they failed to meet the deadlines and held the meeting in the form of a presentation. Currently, they are now planning to make a feasibility study for the project," Nessipbekov said.

In turn, local social activists also expressed disapproval of the Ministry's plans.

"We have officially requested the World Bank to send us presentation materials, but instead they sent us a protocol of the public hearings. Although when we attended the presentation, we were told that it was an ordinary informative meeting (not a public hearing)," a representative of Ekom non-governmental organization said. 

Local environmentalists are mostly concerned with the location chosen for the construction of the plant. According to environmentalists, the future plant will be constructed near Balkyldak mercury waste pound used by local plants to discharge their wastes.

Deputy of Akim of Pavlodar Oblast Nurzhan Ashimbetov believes the project of the hazardous waste recycling plant construction requires a thorough consideration. "Since no public hearing has been held or it was conducted with violations, then consider the issue unsettled. Mr. Shkolnik's (Kazakhstan Minister of Energy) statements that the plant will be constructed anyway is his sole responsibility. But we have to treat this project very carefully; all the more considering the district is a chemicals manufacturing zone," Ashimbetov said.

The reassurance of the local authorities have done little to convince the environmentalists that construction of the plant can be avoided.

The city dwellers protested against the new plant and started gathering petition signatures against the construction of the plant online. "We have gathered 120 thousand petition signatures from Pavlodar locals. I am happy that people are actively expressing their stance. We have enough manufacturing enterprises here and there should not be another one constructed," the Chairman of the Civil Alliance of Pavlodar Oblast Zhanna Borozina said.

In response to local activists, the municipal authorizes called them to stop organizing "flash mobs with elements of farce". "The project has not been approved yet and requires additional work. During the meeting, Pavlodar locals were given a preliminary feasibility study made by French EGIS. The project of the construction of the hazardous waste recycling plant requires thorough and rigorous study by experts from competent ecological authorities. That is why we are asking everyone to abstain from such methods of expression of civil stance," the Akimat's message said. 

Later, on June 16, during the Oblast Environmental Committee meeting, Ashimbetov of the Oblast Akimat said that the officials were not giving up on construction of the plant near Pavlodar. "On this stage, we are not happy with the presented documentation. We will revisit this issue when all the required documents are presented and all the legislative norms are met. But we won't let anyone build the plant just for the sake of building it," Ashimbetov reassured. 

After the public outcry against the construction of the plant, Senator Vladimir Bobrov also assured that the opinions of the locals would be taken into consideration.

"Today the environmental situation in Pavlodar does not permit adding more hazardous load. Today Pavlodar is overloaded by emissions from operating plants. You know that there are a lot of plants there. It is a matter of the effect that the project will have on the region's ecology. The region cannot develop without production. Opinions of Pavlodar residents will be taken into consideration," Bobrov said.

Kazakhstan's Ministry of Energy commented by saying that the project of the recycling plan was proposed by international experts to address the problem of the extensive amounts of accumulated persistent organic pollutants and industrial production wastes in the region.

Beibut Shakhatov called the project an environmental endeavor. "I think Pavlodar natives have such a view on the project due to disinformation. In fact, the technologies to be used and the project we are proposing will provide the best solution. It is an environmental project financed by a global environmental fund that funds only projects aimed at protection of the environment. Here we want to decrease the amount of accumulated wastes produced by the already operating and future plants in the region. That is why we will try to get across the correct information about the plant to the public," Shakhanov said via InformBuro.

According to Shakhanov, there are 93 plants recycling hazardous wastes in Europe, while Kazakhstan has to transport wastes outside the country for recycling.

"Last year we removed 80 tons and this year we removed 152 tons of persistent organic pollutants and industrial production wastes to Leon, France. If those wastes were dangerous, affecting the population and environment, then a country like France would not have brought them in for recycling. It is a great example of state-of-the-art technologies  that allow safe recycling of wastes," he said.

Vladimir Shkolnik, Kazakhstan's Minister of Energy, agreed that the matter had to be publicly discussed before any final decision is made. 

At the sidelines of the Majilis (Lower Chamber of the Kazakh Parliament) meeting yesterday he said: "No public discussions of the construction project have been held. So they have to be held. Before selecting a site for the construction we have to discuss everything. Officials gathered to talk to people, but they didn't want to listen and no public hearings took place eventually. International experts agreed that no public hearings effectively took place. Instead people were rallying. There was a meeting, but there was no discussions," he said.

"No one is going to make the decisions without the people. We need to select the best place. According to the law ratified by our Parliament, we must scrape the wastes that are poisoning our children and build a plant to address the problem. People are saying they don't want the plant. So let's build it elsewhere. There are 90 plants like this in Europe and everyone is OK with it. We, too, need to fight our waste before we start suffocating in it," Minister Shkolnik said.         

Reporting by Assel Satayeva and Aidana Ussupova, writing by Gyuzel Kamalova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

 


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