Bozjyra Under Threat Again

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Bozjyra Under Threat Again

February 1, 2021

Mangystau, Kazakhstan

Locals and environmental activists from Mangystau are reporting that large-scale technical projects have started at the Bozjyra site. Work began without public hearings or an independent environmental assessment and in violation of other legal and environmental norms. According to experts, Bozjyra, one of the most beautiful and unusual places on Earth, may suffer irreversible damage. 

On January 31, Mangystau residents recorded evidence of large-scale technical projects and special equipment near the unique site. Information about the aforementioned projects was also published by the Aktau publication “Lada.” The Mangystau regional akimat’s press secretary accounted for the presence of machinery at the site as part of “geological engineering investigations.” However, according to eyewitnesses, construction trailers have already been set up on the territory, and construction on a road from the village of Senek to the site has also started.


Azhar Dzhandosova, a public figure and environmental activist, wrote on her Facebook page: “There is no information, no notice boards about exactly what kind of work is taking place and by whom, which in and of itself is already breaking the law. We can only guess...There have still been no public hearings on the project; they’re scheduled for February 5. But work is already underway, and the access road to Bozjyra is closed for unknown reasons…”

Azhar Dzhandosova
Photo by Timur Nusimbekov

The Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan made an official statement back in November 2020 about the irreversible damage that construction in the Bozjyra area will do to the environment, soil, and ecosystem. The Association warned that construction will “inflict immediate severe damage to the populations” of urial (Ustyurt mountain sheep), jeyran, karakal, and other rare species included in Kazakhstan’s Red Book of Endangered Species. Furthermore, Bozjyra, as part of the Ustyurt reserve, has great potential for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Construction, however, will inevitably destroy its integrity and natural beauty.

The independent environmental group Save Bozjyra (Bozjyrany Saqtaiyq/Сохраним Бозжыру) came together in December 2020 in response to this threat. Residents of Mangystau, Atyrau, Astana, Almaty, and other cities in Kazakhstan joined the group. On December 11, the group presented its demand to halt any work or technical interference in Bozjyra and grant it official status as a specially protected territory of national significance. On December 12, the Minister of Ecology tweeted, “Construction will be moved to outside of the Zhabayushkan reserve.” However, as it turned out, this decision does not technically preclude construction on the territory of the Bozjyra site, so the threat to this unique natural object still remains.

View of the site from one of the key viewing platforms. The area marked on the photo is the location where hotel construction is presumably being planned.
Photo by Malika Autalipova

According to authoritative cultural experts and historians, the territory of Ustyurt and Bozjyra hold great meaning for Kazakh history and culture and are considered sacred land. Zira Naurzbayeva, a famous cultural scientist and specialist in Mangystau history, wrote about the “threatened desecration of the peninsula’s spiritual and natural monuments” in November. 

Hotel construction in the Bozjyra area has been linked to Turkish businessman Fettah Tamince and his company, Sembol. According to the publication The Black Sea, Tamince acquired the bulk of his capital “through government contracts in Kazakhstan.”

In January, Radio Azattyq published an investigation of Fettah Tamince’s background, his activities in Kazakhstan and Turkey, and his connections to high-ranking officials and oligarchs in Kazakhstan. 

Independent journalists, experts, and environmental activists often compare the situation surrounding Bozjyra to Kazakhstan’s most famous environmental case: Kok-Zhailau. Beginning in the early 2010s, Kok-Zhailau’s ecosystem was also under threat, due to non-eco-friendly and corrupt activities by the developer and several senior officials who lobbied for the development. Thanks to many years of work by the activists and experts of the Save Kok-Zhailau movement, its ecosystem was saved.

Public hearings on the hotel project in Bozjyra are scheduled for February 5, 2021, 15:00 Aktau time.

The hearings will be conducted online via Zoom
Login: 979 9919 9294
Password: 538181

In the event that quarantine is lifted, the hearings will take place at the following address: Mangystau region, Karakiya district, Kuryk village, Central House of Culture.

Background and other materials on this topic:

“Saving Bozjyra” — interview with Azhar Dzhandosova
“Bozjyra: On the border between the earthly and the otherworldly” — essay by cultural scientist Zira Naurzbayeva on the cultural and sacred meaning of the Bozjyra site
“Activists demand protection for Bozjyra”
“Breakthrough in Efforts to Protect Bozjyra”

The editors of Adamdar/CA continue to follow the situation surrounding Bozjyra.

Published: February 1, 2021