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New Kok Zhailau road in Kazakhstan raises eyebrows 22 января 2015, 17:26

Construction of a road to a resort-to-be Kok Zhailau in Kazakhstan's Almaty raises some complicated questions.
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Public hearings regarding the environmental impact assessment of the draft road project to the future site of the ski resort Kok Zhailau have taken place in Almaty on January 19, Tengrinews reports citing BNews.kz.

About 200 people came to the meeting. Among them were opponents of the construction of the ski resort and representatives of environmental organizations.

The project of the road was presented by the developer Kazakh Promtransproekt. The new road will be located in place of the old one, 6023 meters in length and seven meters in width, 3.5 meters for each of the two lanes. According to Chief Project Engineer Igor Sukhov, the new road will be built in 32 months, but the period may be reduced depending on the number of contractors and funding. It is estimated to cost 16.5 billion tenge ($90 million).

"The existing road has asphalt surface only on its 4.2 kilometers, the rest is unpaved, making it unfit for use by emergency services even in the summer time. The new road will be equipped with lighting, parking areas, garbage cans and toilets," Sukhov said. 

One of the major concerns on the meeting's agenda was the possible unsettling of the natural habitat of animals and vegetation near the construction sites. But the developers claim there are no known migratory routes of wild animals near the construction area.

"The balustrade railing installed along the route will have gaps. (...) The vegetation at the construction area has transformed away from its original state to varying degrees. Instead of the trees the would have to be cut during the construction, the project envisions transplantation of 1967 trees and compensatory planting of 47 600 bushes. In addition, we plan on planting 50 thousand square meters of flowering lawns," the speaker said.

The next issue was raised by a well known Kazakh social activist Peter Svoik. He spoke about the logistics of Kok Zhailau. According to the feasibility study, the resort plans on hosting about a million visitors per year and more than 10 thousand skiers a day during the winter season. In addition, it is assumed that there will be relatively few foreigners living right next to the slopes in hotels. From this Svoik concluded that about 9 thousand people would be arriving from Almaty. Which means that access communications and the logistics system has to be far more massive to accommodate all these people, whereas the road planned in the discussed construction project has only two lanes and is too small. 

“If you build a large resort for Almaty residents, then the road should be not just good, it must be large enough to accommodate thousands of cars at peak hours,” Svoik said. “It should not be just two lanes, it must be much wider and should end in a large car parking zone at the top. But no one seems to be concerned about it. Besides, the road goes through a wonderful place, people will want to stop in various gorges and enjoy the views. But apart from emergency exits here, there is nothing.”

Representatives of the developers promised that the road to Kok Zhailau will have a capacity of 2,000 vehicles per hour. According to the project it is mostly meant for technical transportation rather then to accommodate all the skier driving up to the resort in their cars. All the visitors are expected to use gondola cableway to get to Kok Zhailau skiing resort. The cableway will be able to carry more than 3.5 thousand people per hour, they said.

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

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