Appeal to the President of Kazakhstan from the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (Germany) Regarding the Project “Kok-Zhailau”

On April 12, 2012, honorary president of the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union of Germany (NABU), alternative Nobel prize-winner, professor, Dr. Michael Succow, and vice-president of the NABU, chairman of the NABU International Fund, Thomas Tennhardt, addressed the President of Kazakhstan with an appeal to reject the construction of mountain ski resort in Ile-Alatau National Park. The appeal was also sent to the Minister of Environmental Protection of the RK, Kapparov N.D., Minister of Agriculture of the RK, Mamytbekov A.S., and Minister of Industry and New Technologies of the RK, Issekeshev A.O.
Dear Mr. President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev,

With this appeal we, first of all, welcome the desire of the government of Kazakhstan to expand and develop the network of specially protected natural territories (SPNT) of the country. Expansion of the territories and creation of new SPNT, as outlined in the program “Zhassyl Damu”, proves that Kazakhstan is on the right track towards fulfilling its goal of expanding the area of the SPNT to 11.5% of the territory of the country in the nearest future, which corresponds to the average international value. The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union of Germany (NABU) would like to assist the government of Kazakhstan in realization of these initiatives. That is why on July 25, 2011, in the signed memorandum with the Forestry and Game Committee which is responsible for the SPNT, the NABU offered several specific directions of collaboration. A high importance is given to development of ecological tourism and nomination of the territories of the SPNT into the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List. For many years already, the NABU has been promoting ecological tourism in Kazakhstan and provided a significant support in successful nomination of the territory of Sary-Arka into the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List. Out of the five territories included by Kazakhstan into the tentative list for the nomination for UNESCO World Natural Heritage, we give a special high value to the potential of the nature reserve Aksu-Zhabagly and national parks “Altyn-Emel” and Ile-Alatau. We are ready to actively facilitate their nomination into the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List.

However, with a big regret, we found out from the publications in international and Kazakhstan mass-media that a large area of Ile-Alatau National Park to the south of Almaty is planned to be withdrawn to be turned into a mountain ski resort. The lands chosen for the development in the area of Kok-Zhailau Hollow and large adjacent territories are the heart of the national park and are inhabited by many rare species of animals and plants. Specifically, rare types of insects and Sivers wild apple tree, being the world’s cultural and natural heritage of the humanity, play a special role for nomination of the national park into the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List. With construction of the mountain ski resort, the national park will lose its unity and will not be qualified as an object of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage.

We are convinced that nomination into the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List will increase potential for development of sustainable tourism in the park, and that on a long run, this will result in a bigger advantage that construction of the ski resort.

We certainly welcome the desire to develop tourism in Kazakhstan. Development of ecological tourism in the country is being supported for many years already with a help of the project ETPACK (Ecological Tourism and Public Awareness in Central Kazakhstan) and other projects of the NABU. Special attention is given to collaboration with the local rural communities, as development of eco-tourism can improve welfare of the socially vulnerable groups of population. Involvement of the SPNT in such projects and responsible attitude to the natural resources of the region allow us positively influence the condition of the natural environment, which is the most important asset for development of tourism in Kazakhstan. Unfortunately, we have to admit that development of the “mild” responsible tourism is not taken seriously on the state level yet. The primary attention is given to the so called tourism “mega-projects” which are associated not only with big financial risks, but also with serious threat to the nature (on the shores of Lakes Balkhash, Alakol, and Caspian Sea, in Borovoe, etc.). The plans of development of the mountain ski resort in Ile-Alatau National Park are not exception. This causes increase in environmental and financial risks. Climate change which by now has a stable tendency, reduces skiing season in Tyan-Shan and will lead to additional pressure on the natural environment, as a result of a change of vegetation zones in the mountains.

Despite of all efforts of Kazakhstan, the country is barely known among foreign tourists. The country is visited only by 40,000 tourists annually.

Therefore, we believe that the “mild” concept of development is the most suitable one. The existing skiing infrastructure near Almaty can be improved and used more efficiently. Issuing a single “skiing passport” and setting up of a shuttle connection between the skiing resorts could raise their potential. Such concept is not risky for investors and Ile-Alatau National Park.

Therefore, we strongly urge you to reject the construction of the large mountain ski resort in Ile-Alatau National Park. We are ready to assist in the further development of the park and its nomination into the UNESCO World Natural Heritage List.
Sincerely yours,

Professor Dr. Michael Succow,
honorary president of the NABU, alternative Nobel prize-winner
(Right Livelihood Award)

Thomas Tennhardt
vice-president of the NABU, chairman of the NABU International Fund

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Let us protect Kok-Jailau – one of the most popular spots in the Ile-Alatau National Park! (

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