Population of Zhanaozen exceeds plans18 may 2014, 21:03
The population of Zhanaozen town in western Kazakhstan has exceeded the development plan, Tengrinews reports citing the Deputy Governor of Mangistau Oblast Sholpan Ilmuhanbetova. The population has grown by 22 thousand compared to 2011 year.
"The general plan approved 2 years envisages only 120 thousand people, whereas since then, the population has grown to 137 thousand people. The city is overpopulated. The growth was very rapid, and most of it is natural increase: 3.5 thousand children have been born every year,” Sholpan Ilmuhanbetova said in an interview at the sidelines of the international conference Opportunities, Conditions and Recommendations for Regional Development in Kazakhstan, arranged by the EU-sponsored Regional Development of Kazakhstan project and the Ministry of Regional Development of Kazakhstan.
Apart from the natural increase, migration also contributes to the population growth. But migration is a problem for the town. “Zhanaozen has traditionally been a destination of choice for oralmans (ethnic Kazakh "returnees") arriving from neighboring countries like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. 2 years ago we removed the town from the list of destinations for oralmans, however they have found another way: now they specify another region of Kazakhstan as their destination, register there, receive the citizenship, and after that, they move to Zhanaozen as citizens of Kazakhstan. This has become an internal migration issue,” Deputy Governor of Mangistau Oblast said.
An expert from the European Union is now studying the situation as part of the grant provided to Kazakhstan by the EU. For the Finnish expert, this case is quite unusual. He has never dealt with a town where inflow of population is a problem, not outflow. "We are especially interested in ways of regulating these issues (migration processes). Once we have the recommendations of the European expert we are going to develop regulations based on them," Ilmuhanbetova said.
The second issue that has to be dealt with is employment in Zhanaozen. "It is impossible to employ all these people with Ozenmunaigas being the only backbone enterprise in the one-company town. It is attractive to people, the wages are 2-3 times higher than the average city salary. But we are working hard to get people to start their own businesses, raising their awareness of the available government-sponsored tools. Our primary task now is to ensure employment,” Sholpan Ilmuhanbetova said.
Speaking about the Regional Development of Kazakhstan project Olga Broderick, Team Leader and Regional Policy Development Expert of the EU-sponsored project, said that it was started back in 2011 when EU provided a 6.3 million euro regional development grant to Kazakhstan. The project focused on three regions: Mangistau Oblast in western Kazakhstan, Eastern-Kazakhstan Oblast and Kyzylodra Oblast in southern Kazakhstan.
In the framework of the project EU provides technical, legislative, strategic and institutional consultations related to introduction of regional development policies by the Kazakhstan government. The project began its work on February 4, 2013 and is going to continue for 48 months until February 3, 2017.
For Mangistau oblast, the project's experts are searching for alternative sources of water in the desert areas. “The expert will arrive in late May or early June to consider adopting the ways Oman and Israel use to tackle this issue,” she said.
Reporting by Renat Tashkinbayev, writing by Assel Satubaldina, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina