Almaty residents applied to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

On November 23, 2021, residents of the Kairat microdistrict of Almaty and the Ecological Society Green Salvation appealed to the management of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (hereinafter—EBRD). They informed the bank about the violation of the residents’ rights to clean and healthy environment by the bank’s client, the Almaty’s electric public transport company.

According to the information posted on the EBRD’s website, the bank plans to provide a loan of 57.4 million Euro for the Almaty Public Electric Transport project with the municipal public transport company LLP “Almatylectrotrans,” (hereinafter—LLP) a municipal enterprise 100 per cent owned by the city. The company owns 4 bus and 1 trolleybus depots. One of the bus depots is located in the Kairat microdistrict.

The Bank considers the Public Electric Transport of Almaty project as a “trigger project” within the framework of the Green Cities Concept, in accordance with which the Green City Action Plan for Almaty is being developed.

The essence of the problem

In mid-2019, a bus depot was organized in the Kairat microdistrict on the territory of the Semirechye market, which is located next to residential buildings.

More than 100 buses leave the territory of the bus depot daily on city routes. Drivers’ working day starts at 5.30 am. The buses run on diesel fuel. When drivers start their engines to warm them up, a cloud of exhaust fumes covers the apartment buildings, and a loud noise rises. The working day ends at 23.00. Buses return to the park, and residents get another batch of noise and smoke.

The Kairat bus depot was established in breach of the Sanitary and Epidemiological Requirements for the Establishment of a Sanitary Protection Zone of Production Facilities, approved by order of the Minister of National Economy No. 237 dated 20.03.2015. The regulation states that:

– facilities for servicing automobiles, such as trucks or urban transport buses, are facilities of III hazard class;

– they must have a sanitary protection zone of at least 300 meters (Appendix 1, paragraph 48, subparagraph 4).

The sanitary protection zone around the vehicle fleet in the Kairat microdistrict has not been established. A few meters separate residential buildings from smoking buses. For several years, local residents have been trying to relocate the fleet, but without success.

In order to establish the legality of the location of the car park, at the end of 2019, the Ecological Society, at the request of residents, sent inquiries to the departments of green economy, urban planning control, land relations, urban mobility, to the Department of Quality Control and Safety of Goods and Services, the Department of Ecology and the Specialized Environmental Prosecutor’s Office of Almaty.

From the answers, it became clear that the decision on the location of the vehicle fleet was made without appropriate approvals from the authorized bodies. This is a violation of environmental, sanitary and land legislation.

The Department of Ecology for the city of Almaty said that the project for assessing the environmental impact of the bus fleet has not been submitted for consideration by the state environmental expertise.

On December 23, 2019, the Green Economy Department reported that the company did not receive project documentation for conducting a state environmental review for organizing a bus fleet.

On December 30, 2019, LLP announced that the land plot on which the bus depot is located belongs to “Status construction” LLP. The purpose of the land plot is “for the construction and operation of a multifunctional logistics center.”

Placing a car park on this territory on the basis of a lease agreement without changing the designated purpose of the land plot is a violation of Articles 4, 49-1, 65 of the Land Code.

The Department of Quality Control and Safety of Goods and Services of the Turksib District carried out an unscheduled inspection. During the inspection, it was established that the sanitary protection zone was not observed (there should be at least 300 m from the nearest residential building); the project of justification of the sanitary protection zone was not presented. Experts carried out air intakes and noise measurements. Based on the violations identified, on February 27, 2020, they drew up a protocol on an administrative offense and issued an order to the park management to eliminate the violations.

On March 11, 2020, the Mobility Department reported that in March the Akimat of Almaty city signed a new agreement on the lease of a land plot in the Kairat microdistrict for the “temporary” location of the bus fleet. After the completion of the construction of a new park in the Alatau region, the buses will be moved there.

In the fall of 2021, the situation worsened. With the onset of cold weather, the rumble from the roaring engines of buses does not stop all night. Residents suffer greatly from noise pollution and exhaust fumes that penetrate into the interior of the living quarters. Vibration is felt in some homes. The physical and psychological health of people is deteriorating.

Contacting the EBRD

On November 11, the Ecological Society sent a request to the Bank with a request to provide the following information:

  1. Was the project Almaty Public Electric Transport approved by the board of directors? If yes, then when?
  2. Was there a public hearing on the project, including consultations? If so, detailed information of the course of the consultation should be disclosed.
  3. The Ecological Society asked for project documents including social and environmental information.

On November 23, the Bank announced that the approval of the project is scheduled for the first quarter of 2022. The Non-Technical Summary and Stakeholder Engagement Plan will be updated prior to project approval and will be open for review.

The Bank’s 2019 Environmental and Social Policy states:

2.3 The EBRD does not knowingly finance projects that contradict national laws, countries’ obligations under relevant international treaties, conventions and agreements, the scope of which is determined during the preliminary project appraisal;

2.4. The EBRD is committed to respecting human rights in EBRD-financed projects. The EBRD will require clients to respect human rights in their business activities, avoid infringing on the human rights of others and address the adverse human rights risks and implications of clients’ business.

The Bank’s 2019 Information Access Policy states: “1.2 Accountability.

The EBRD respects the right of people to make comments and suggestions on the Bank’s operations and activities, and to request and receive information about operations and activities that may affect themselves or their communities. The EBRD seeks comments and suggestions from a wide variety of sources, hears comments and suggestions from stakeholders and engages in dialogue.

On November 23, residents of the Kairat microdistrict and the Green Salvation Ecological Society, guided by the above provisions of the Bank’s policy, appealed to its management with the following requirements:

– to postpone the conclusion of an agreement on project support with the municipality of Almaty and LLP “Almatylectrotrans;’’

– to postpone the provision of a loan in connection with the violation by the Bank’s client of the right of residents to a healthy and prosperous environment.

The vehicle fleet must be relocated to another location that fully complies with the requirements for placing an object of III hazard class. Only after the transfer of the vehicle fleet can a contract be signed and a loan granted. The appeal was signed by 27 people.

We believe that the Bank must reaffirm its commitment to the principles of respecting the human rights to an environment adequate to health and well-being. We hope that the Bank will consider the appeal of the public and take effective measures to restore the violated rights of residents. This will contribute to strengthening the credibility of the Bank and the successful development and implementation of the Green City Action Plan for Almaty.