October 6-9, 2015, the Fiftieth Meeting of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee will take place in Geneva. The Committee plans to continue reviewing statements from the public, including those from Kazakhstan – ACCC/C/2013/88. At a closed session, it is planned to finish “conclusions drafts and, if necessary, recommendations” (http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/pp/compliance/CC-50/ece.mp.pp.c.1.2015.6.eng_as_submitted.pdf).
Let us recall that the statement from the public of Kazakhstan was submitted by a group of residents of the city of Almaty on May 31, 2013. The statement describes violation of the people’s rights on participation in a decision-making process concerning the project of construction of a mountain ski-resort “Kokzhailau” and about general failure of the state organs to ensure participation of the public in a decision making process related to plans, programs, and policies, in accordance with the Article 7 of the Convention.
Residents of the city of Almaty continue to protest against construction of a mountain ski resort on a territory which was unduly taken out of the territory of a national park. More than 15,000 people signed a Petition to the President and authorized ministries and departments against the construction. Nevertheless, the state organs ignore the public opinion and continue pushing the project ahead, even despite of the obvious violations of international conventions and national legislation.
At the present moment, on the territory of Kok-Zhailau, there are constructional works on sub-station to provide the resort with electricity. According to an official note, other works are not being performed, as “the budget means have not been allocated”. (Letter from the Department of Tourism No.084 dated on 07.13.2015).
Violation of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention became a norm for the Republic of Kazakhstan
The first time, a violation was confirmed on February 18, 2005, after a statement from the Ecological Society Green Salvation about failure to provide information by the NAC “Kazatomprom”.
Conclusions and recommendations made by the Committee at that time, stated:
“25. The Committee finds that, by having failed to ensure that bodies performing public
functions implement the provisions of article 4, paragraphs 1 and 2, of the Convention,
Kazakhstan was not in compliance with that article.
26. The Committee also finds that the lengthy review procedure and denial of standing to the non-governmental organization in a lawsuit on access to environmental information was not in compliance with article 9, paragraph 1.
27. The Committee further finds that the lack of clear regulation and guidance with regard to the obligations of bodies performing public functions to provide information to the public and with regard to the implementation of article 9, paragraph 1, constitutes non-compliance with the obligations established in article 3, paragraph 1, of the Convention.”
The second time, a violation is admitted by the second statement of the Ecological Society on the same day, February 18, 2005. The Committee stated:
“33. … that the Government of Kazakhstan did not comply fully with article 6, paragraph 1 (a), and annex I, paragraph 20, of the Convention, and, in connection with this, article 6, paragraphs 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8.”
The Committee recommended to the Government of Kazakhstan, with a view to fully implement the paragraph 1, article 3 of the Convention: “(i) Adopt and implement regulations setting out more precise public participation procedures covering the full range of activities subject to article 6 of the Convention, without in any way reducing existing rights of public participation;
(ii) Ensure that public authorities at all levels, including the municipal level, are fully aware of their obligations to facilitate public participation;
(iii) Consider introducing stronger measures to prevent any construction work going ahead prior to the completion of the corresponding permitting process, with the required level of public participation.”
The third time, the Committee admitted a violation of the Convention on June 16, 2006, by a statement of residents of the city of Almaty – L.Gatina, A.Gatin, and L.Konyshkova.
The findings and recommendations state: “35. The Committee finds that the failure by Kazakhstan to provide effective remedies in a review procedure concerning an omission by the public authority to enforce environmental legislation as well as failure to ensure that courts properly notify the parties of the time and place of hearings and of the decision taken constitutes a failure to comply with the requirements of article 9, paragraph 4, in conjunction with article 9, paragraph 3, of the Convention.”
On March 28, 2013, for the forth time, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee admitted incompliance by the Republic of Kazakhstan with the provisions of the Convention.
In March 2011, the Committee received a statement from a public association “National Analytical Informational Resource” (NAIR) from the city of Shymkent. The reason was a violation of the NAIR’s right to participate in the decision making process and limitation of opportunity to express their opinion during conducting of the state environmental assessment of a project “Reconstruction of auto road South-West. International transit corridor West Europe – West China”.
The Committee acknowledged that Kazakhstan did not comply with the following provisions:
– paragraph 2, article 6: “The public concerned shall be informed, either by public notice or individually as appropriate, early in an environmental decision-making procedure, and in an adequate, timely and effective manner”;
– paragraph 6, article 6: “Each Party shall require the competent public authorities to give the public concerned access for examination, upon request where so required under national law, free of charge and as soon as it becomes available, to all information relevant to the decision-making…”;
– paragraph 7, article 6: “Procedures for public participation shall allow the public to submit, in writing or, as appropriate, at a public hearing or inquiry with the applicant, any comments, information, analyses or opinions that it considers relevant to the proposed activity”;
– paragraph 9, article 6: “Each Party shall ensure that, when the decision has been taken by the public authority, the public is promptly informed of the decision in accordance with the appropriate procedures. Each Party shall make accessible to the public the text of the decision along with the reasons and considerations on which the decision is based.”
As can be seen, the trend continues, as the violations were found in regards to the main paragraphs of the article 6 – same violations acknowledged by the Committee back in 2005!
Thus, starting from 2005, Kazakhstan ignores the decision of the parties of the Convention. To the present day, “regulations setting out more precise public participation procedures covering the full range of activities subject to article 6 of the Convention, without in any way reducing existing rights of public participation” are not adopted!