Environmental Activists Make Demands of the Almaty Akimat

Adamdar news Kazakhstan

Environmental Activists Make Demands of the Almaty Akimat

February 4, 2020

Almaty, Kazakhstan

On February 3, AUA (Almaty Urban Air) published an official letter by environmental activists and members of environmental NGOs and civic initiatives on its official page. The letter contains demands that the Almaty akimat recognize the catastrophic air pollution situation in the southern capital of Kazakhstan, as well as proposals to resolve this socioeconomic problem.

Smog over Almaty
Photo: Malika Autalipova

In their open letter and petition, Kazakhstan’s environmental activists demanded that the city authorities recognize the environmental catastrophe related to the “critical levels of air pollution” in Almaty. According to the activists, “The akimat’s strategy is based on faulty data on air pollution. The akimat is misleading people and ignoring a direct threat to the health of city residents.”

The open letter was published after the proclamation of the official development strategy “Almaty-2050.”

The activists demand that the following amendments be made to the strategy:

“1. The critical levels of air pollution in Almaty must be recognized as the city’s primary problem.

This is obvious to every Almaty resident. Cancer statistics and the epidemic of allergies, bronchitis, asthma, and hypertension testify to it. Almaty has the highest rate of respiratory tract diseases; the rate of primary infertility among youth has increased. The prevalence of cancer here is the same as at the Semipalatinsk Test Site.

Outbreaks of illness in Almaty coincide with increases in toxic emissions from three thermal power stations. This has been documented in a study by the foresight consulting firm EXIMAR published on auagroup.kz.

2. Without denying the negative environmental impact of cars on the local ecosystem, we insist that thermal power stations are recognized as the primary source of air pollution in Almaty.

This is our main challenge to the 2050 strategy. The akimat is evaluating the environmental situation in Almaty and developing plans for urban development, relying on data known to be incorrect...

3. Urban development strategy must be based on the findings of independent experts, not whatever numbers that suit the akimat. Research study results must be accessible to the general public.

The truth about those responsible for air pollution in Almaty, while known to the akimat, was hidden from the public until an interview with the director of EXIMAR, Aiman Tursynkan, was published on the site auagroup.kz.

The results of independent research run counter to the official data. The akimat’s statistics on the city’s environmental situation are false. And this means that the Almaty-2050 strategy built on these data is also wrong.”

In the text, the environmental activists laid out steps which “the akimat needs to take in order to stop air pollution”: an independent audit of thermal power stations; the development and implementation of a program to decrease the overall burden on thermal power stations and a transition to natural gas; the development of a program to subsidize the gasification of 15% of the non-gasified private sector; and other steps.

The open letter was sent to the akimat of the city of Almaty, as well as other governmental bodies of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

View of Almaty from Kok-Zhailau
Photo: Timur Nusimbekov


On February 3, the environmental activists’ statement was published on Almaty Urban Air’s official Facebook page with a link to a petition hosted on the platform AVAAZ.org.

Given that this platform is blocked in Kazakhstan, the activists also published a similar document on Google Docs for users from Kazakhstan.

The official letter and petition were posted online by Asya Tulesova. Asya Tulesova is an environmental and civic activist and one of the founders of the environmental organization AUA (Almaty Urban Air). For the past several years, she has been researching air pollution in Almaty and engaging in activist work to solve this environmental problem.

Asya Tulesova checking an air pollution sensor in Almaty
Photo: Malika Autalipova

On April 21, Asya Tulesova and Beybarys Tolymbekov held a rally at the Almaty marathon and were arrested by police. Tulesova and Tolymbekov were found guilty by the court and sentenced to 15 days in jail each. Tulesova also raised the issue of air pollution in her speech before the court.

Published: February 4, 2020