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Almaty struggles to reduce CO2 emissions 19 ноября 2014, 12:43

Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan but the ecological damage from the city's growing vehicle usage exacerbated by the lack of high-quality public transport hangs like a smog over the country's cultural capital.
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Sairan couch terminal. Photo courtesy of sairan.kz Sairan couch terminal. Photo courtesy of sairan.kz

Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan with a population of 1.5 million people. It is a cultural and commercial center of the country, however, as it often happens in emerging economies, growth is accompanied by environmental problems.

Many of these problems are associated with extensive usage of personal vehicles and low quality of public transport. In Almaty, only 30 percent of all the journeys are via public transportation, according to Almaty Sustainable Transport Project of the United Nations Development Programme.

Information provided by the UNDP project also shows that motorised transport accounts for more than 80 percent of urban air pollution in the city. They forecast a 75 percent increase in air pollution by 2023 should the amount of carbon dioxide emitted upsurge from 2.65 million tons in 2012 to 4.99 million tons.

Comprehensive measures are need to be taken to transform transportation in the city in terms of the quality of vehicles, the share of public transportation in the overall traffic and optimization of flows in and around the city.

UNDP believes that the city needs to introduce an integrated system of high-speed public transport that would be based on electronic tickets for passengers. This would include two metro lines, two lines of light rail transit and five bus rapid transit lines.

But this is easier said than done. Even if the city residents agree to switch to public transport, which is not likely at least in the next decade due to the nation's mentality, the infrastructure of public transport requires serious modernization. This is true for both in city and intercity busses. 

Most of the buses at Almaty’s Sairan interurban coach terminal are outdated. The youngest of them are 19 years old, said Jan Van Hool, the founder of the Belgian bus manufacturing company Van Hool. The oldest date back to the Brezhnev’s Era – the 1970s.

Van Hool visited Almaty because his company was offered two deals by Sairan on acquiring buses. However, the Belgian company produces buses of Euro-6 standard, which is not compatible with the fuel used in Kazakhstan. He said that most probably the buses would be adapted to Euro-4 fuel. In addition, Kazakhstan's climate would also be taken into account.

The manufacturer added it was necessary to open a technical base and find engineers in Kazakhstan, who would be responsible for maintenance of the buses. And this many pose another complication.

Sairan’s lawyer Raisa Yadrina said that all the buses undergo a technical check before their are allowed to carry passengers. Moreover, it is not the couch terminal that executes transportation services but companies that win public procurement orders. There are more than 40 such companies operating from Sairan terminal. Tenders are offered for five years by city and Oblast transport administrations (the Ministry of Transport was responsible for this until 2010), so Sairan has no real power over who gets chosen.

The transfer of the powers from the central authorities to the local administrations is really an advantage from the standpoint of modernization since this provides tighter oversight from a state bodies if the goal is to really improve the ecology of the city.

Just recently, Mayor of Almaty Akhmetzhan Yesimov said that upgrading the public transport was one of the major projects to improve the ecology of the city.

“We have 400 buses in our communal ownership. We have purchased another 100 buses on gas, and by year's end another 100 environmentally friendly buses will arrive. In addition, we have purchased 195 trolleybuses, 17 trams, as well as mountain buses. In total - 850 units, which is exactly a half of the city's public transport fleet. Now we invite private carriers to also update their fleets and acquire environmentally friendly buses. These measures will not only improve the environment of the city, but also improve the quality of passenger services," Yesimov said as quoted by the press service of the Mayor's Office.

Next year, local government bonds will be issued to raise money and then offer the “cheap money” to private carriers for purchasing eco-friendly buses. Moreover, according to the agreement with Kaztransgas Onimderi, gas costs 40 percent less than gasoline. Yesimov added that more gas stations would be built in the future.

By Dinara Urazova

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