In summer 2011, the Forth Meeting of the Parties of the Aarhus Convention will take place in the city of Kishinev (Republic of Moldova). The Parties prepared reports about their compliance with the Convention to be presented during the Meeting. From our opinion, the document prepared by the Republic of Kazakhstan does not reflect some important aspects. Moreover, the document does not answer many questions which needed to be covered, in accordance with the reporting requirements of the organs of the Convention.
The report was prepared by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) which used its own data and materials from a number of governmental bodies and some non-governmental organizations. In accordance with the recommendations of the Aarhus Convention’s Compliance Committee, the report preparation shall involve public at its very early stages, in order to establish an effective participation in the process.
The Committee offered a schedule for the report preparation. It stipulated that the consultations on the report content shall be held in July-August; preparation of the first draft – August-September; discussion of the draft for 30-60 days from September till beginning of November; preparation of the final version of the report from the beginning of November till beginning of December 2010 . On December 8, 2010, the final version of the report had to be submitted to the Secretariat of the Convention and presented to the public.
But the Ministry violated the schedule. No consultations on the report content were held. The draft report was published for an open public discussion on the web-sites of the Aarhus Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Ministry of Environmental Protection on October 28 and November 3, 2010, respectively. The document was published in an unfinished version, some of the sections were missing or were incomplete.
All of this significantly lowered the opportunity for an effective public participation, thus, the open-wide discussion of the report did not take place. On November 5, 2010, in his interview to the “Caravan” newspaper , vice-minister of the Environmental Protection M.Turmagambetov replied to the question on preparation of the national report: “Anyone willing to express their opinion regarding any arguable points related to the environmental protection will be given such an opportunity during the consultations and “round tables” with the public and non-governmental organizations which will be conducted for a month in Kazakhstan.”
So, how was the draft report discussed? On November 4, 2010, in the office of the Aarhus Convention in the city of Atyrau, a discussion was held with the representatives of the West Kazakhstan non-profit organizations: G.Chernova, M.Khakimov, A.Shakhnazaryan, N.Ivaskevich. Resident of the city of Almaty, A.Tonkobayeva, prepared her personal comments. Ecological society Green Salvation sent its brief comments to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and to the Aarhus Center. Practically, the discussion ended up on it, which later was confirmed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection .
Because of the violation of the report preparation schedule, there was only a single and final version of the document presented, which probably, explains why the public was so passive. Any comments had to be submitted to the Ministry before November 19. People had only 22 days to get acquainted with the document and to write their comments on it, while the report was more than 50 pages long. The passiveness was also partially explained by mistrust to the governmental authorities who grossly violate the provisions of the Aarhus Convention, and unclear position of the Convention’s organs towards the country which does not follow the requirements of the international agreement.
Official statements about discussion of the draft report were not published. The report was submitted to the Secretariat, and it was unclear how the public comments were considered, as the final version of the document was neither published in January, nor in February 2011.
In this situation, Green Salvation had to make an inquiry to the MEP with a request to provide the final version of the report and information about results of its discussion. No answer followed, therefore, the Ecological Society had to address to a court.
In the beginning of March 2011, a civil lawsuit was initiated. On March 28, we finally received the text of the report and answer to our request from the MEP signed by the vice-minister of the environmental protection M.Turmagambetov. He confirmed that an open-wide discussion of the document did not take place .
Approximately in the same time, the report was published on the MEP web-site. In the final version of the report, despite of the requirement to include description of how the consultations with the public were held, such information is missing. According to the Aarhus Center, there are more than 200 environmental organizations in Kazakhstan. So, how do the Convention’s organs know which of those organizations and how they participate in the report preparation?
One more important aspect. Kazakhstan needs to prepare a special report on execution of the decision III/6c of the Third Meeting of the Parties “Compliance by Kazakhstan with its Obligations under the Convention” to the Forth Meeting of the Parties. But the official organs do not say anything about it, and it is unknown if this document has been prepared or not.
1. Guidance on Reporting Requirements:
2. http://www.eco.gov.kz; http://www.aarhus.kz.
3. Caravan // «There is no money for clean air», №. 45, November 5, 2010: http://www.caravan.kz/article/7369.
4. Letter of the MEP dated on March 18, 2011 № 03-02-12/563-и.
5. Same as above.
6. Adopted at the Third Meeting of the Parties held in Riga on 11-13 June 2008, http://www.unece.org/env/pp/mop3/mop3.doc.htm.