Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate field, Kazakhstan

Local inhabitants and EJOs have long denounced severe environmental and air pollution without being heard. On November 28, 2014, a mass poisoning of children at the school of Berezovka occoured.

The village of Berezovka is located 5 kilometers away from Karachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate field, operated by Karachaganak Petroleum Operating (KPO), a joint venture between KazMunaiGaz, Eni, BG Group, Chevron Corporation, and Lukoil. For several years now, the villagers along with a number of organizations ( for example Green Steppe) have struggled to obtain the right of villager’s relocation to “a safe and healthy location of their choosing based on the toxic exposure they suffer”[1] as well as to get compensation for their suffering. In 2003, KPO appealed to the government, which resulted in reducing the sanitary protection zone from 5 km to 3 km, claiming that 5 km was for old Soviet-time technology, while for new technology used by KPO 3 km is adequate. KPO and the government have repeatedly claimed that no damage is being done to the environment, while independent studies launched by villagers and NGOs have produced opposite results, revealing numerous health problems including muscular-skeletal problems, headaches and memory loss, vision loss, and cardio-vascular problems [2]. In relation to the quality of air and water, independently conducted monitorings [3] concluded that over twenty-five toxic substances were present in the air and the water was not of drinking quality.  In response to the villagers’ and activists’ officially filed complaints, several legal proceedings have followed, including fines that thus far have totalled around 56 million dollars. In 2004, Western Kazakhstan Oblast environmental authority denied KPO an operating license based on the data of heavy polluted environment and improper storage of waste. In 2008, in response to an NGO’s access to information court appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that information concerning KPO’s environmental harm was to be made public and it was illegal to deny such knowledge to the residents [4]. In April 2009, in response to a submitted lawsuit “On Government’s failure to act”, an Astana court ruled that according to the Aarhus Convention and Kazakhstani law, the reduction of the sanitary zone from 5 km to 3 km was illegal [5]. However, the second complaint, that the government shall act and settle the issue of relocation and compensation, was not satisfied by the court. Later plaintiffs went on to appeal that decision in the Supreme Court. In 2010, it was decided that KPO was not responsible and the local administration had to relocate 2 families that reportedly were the only ones in the sanitary zone (other houses ‘made it’ outside the 5km radius). The problem persists until today where local administration does not have adequate funds to move villagers. At the end of 2013, KPO introduced new air quality monitoring technology that sends the information directly to the local weather forecast station, which in turn is publicly available through the Internet to demonstrate that they are no longer withholding information related to KPO's environmental impact.   Additionally, over the course of the years activists fighting on the side of Berezovka residents have been recursively targeted, according to the NGO Crude Accountability. Svetlana Anosova, a local villager and an activist, was reportedly pursued and harassed by Kazakhstani security police after having met with IFC (International Finance Corporation) representatives in Washington, DC. The meeting that produced no significant results [6]. On November 28, 2014, a mass poisoning of children ( around 25 children) occurred while they were at school. The children were hospitalized as many of them lost consciousness, fainted, felt lightheaded, and nauseated [7]. On the evening before, on 27th November 2014, a large emission of poisonous gases was detected on the Karachaganak station [8], so a large commission consisting of regional ecology, health, and prosecutor's office were summoned to conduct an investigation and detect possible connection between the two events. But flares are important safety practices. They safely burn excess gases which are not used in the KPO processing plant.  That is why KPO believes it is an error to assume that on this day there was a release, emission or leak of gas, including hydrogen sulphide, in excess of permitted levels. While the cause of the incident remains unknown, KPO was actively participating in the Berezovka incident investigation and worked in close cooperation with WKO authorities as well as other relevant RoK authorities.  KPO provided all relevant data including information from operational facilities and environmental monitoring stations to the investigating authorities. On January 20th, a public consultation with the public was held where the findings of the report were presented. Parents reported on numerous statements by the local doctors that their kids were 'faking it' and expressed their distrust in the doctors who seemed to ignore the evidence [9]. The regional health ministry report found that over 80% of kids and roughly 50% of the adult population of the total 1357 residents examined had serious pathologies. However, they were attributed to poor diet, obesity, and genes [10]. Residents concluded that once again they would not be relocated and no conclusive link between the operations of the KPO and the mass poisoning of children and poor health of most of the population was established by the official commission [11]. Damiano Ratti, an official from KPO, promised that 30$ million will be invested in social programs over the next two years in the region [12]. The authority said that the KPO doesn’t have responsibility on the poisoning of the children, but at the same time KPO wants expands his activity in the area, so  to guarantee sanitary safety, the local population of Berezovka must be relocated to the cities Aksai or Uralsk. Until now the children continue to have the same symptoms but only the Semashko clinic of Moscow has declared toxic encephalopathy.
Basic Data
NameKarachaganak Oil and Gas Condensate field, Kazakhstan
ProvinceWestern Kazakhstan
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
-KPO (Karachaganak Petroleum Operating) is not an independent company. It is rather a joint venture among 5 companies: KazMunaiGaz, Eni, BG Group, Chevron Corporation, and Lukoil.
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)28000
Level of Investment (in USD)17,600,000,000.00
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population1,200-1,400
Start Date01/03/2003
Company Names or State EnterprisesKazMunaiGaz (KMG) from Kazakhstan
Eni group from Italy
BG Group from United Kingdom
Chevron Corporation from United States of America
Lukoil from Russian Federation
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Kazakhstan
International and Financial InstitutionsCompliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO)
Corporación financiera internacional,
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPublic organization Jasil Dala

Crude Accountability EJO

Green Salvation EJO

Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law

Public association Shanyrak


Green Steppe, environmental organization of Berezovka.


Sergey Kuratov, Chairman of the Ecological Organization “Green Salvation”

+7-7272-536256, <[email protected]>

Sergey Solyanik, Consultant, Crude Accountability

+7-707-7011271, [email protected]

Local Journalist: Lukpan Akhmedyarov; journal “Uralskaya Nedelya”, Uralsk
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Othercardio-vascular, muscular-sceletal problems; vision loss, memory loss
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Violent targeting of activists
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Relocation of 2 families, air quality alert system
Development of AlternativesCurrently no official proposals are in place as the old ones could not be realized due to inaction of legal respondents (KPO and local and regional governments)
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Despite the lawsuits and ejo activism nothing has considerably changed in the quality of life of the villagers, and even though the court ruled in favor of villagers' relocation, nothing has been done.

However, KPO has brought forward a few changes to make the information about their environmental impact more transparent
Sources and Materials

[5] Supreme Court Ruling from 2008
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[6] Court Ruling from 2009
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Proceedings from the latest court ruling
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Aarhus convention
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[3] 2003 health report
[click to view]

News Report about KPO fines:
[click to view]

2005 WKO decision:
[click to view]

Karachaganak Field Info:
[click to view]

KPO Investment Info:
[click to view]

KPO Air quality technology implementation
[click to view]

Crude Accountability Consultant's report from May 2014
[click to view]

[1]NGO Crude accountability description of the campaign
[click to view]

[4] Report on the results of the independently-conducted toxins test
[click to view]

[7] Info about targeting of Svetlana Anosova:
[click to view]

[9] Official Kazakhstani portal reporting on the gathering of ministers on the federal level
[click to view]

[8] Western Kazakhstai regional news source reporting on the November 28, 2014 incident:
[click to view]

[2] KPO's response about Berezovka case from 2005
[click to view]

Crude Accountability, Mass Poisoning of the Children in Berezovka: Causes of the Emergency and the Account of Events, December 10, 2014
[click to view]

13) Business-humanrights, Kazakhstan: Local residents blame Karachaganak oil & gas field (operated by KPO) for mass poisoning of children; company denies allegations, [10-02-2016].
[click to view]

14) Dinara Urazova, Kazakh Vice Prime Minister visits Berezovka village after mass poisoning of children, Tengrinews.kz, 16 December 2014
[click to view]

15) Tatyana Kuzmina (Gyuzel Kamalova contriibuted to the story), 29 school students and teachers faint one after another in Western Kazakhstan, Tengrinews.kz, 1 December 2014
[click to view]

Joanna Lillis, Kazakhstan: Major Gas Field Suspected in Children’s Poisoning, December 4, 2014.
[click to view]

Media Links

5 Kilometers of Indifference, a film made by NGO Crude Accountability:
[click to view]

[10] A mother of one of the poisoned kids at the meeting with the public held on January 20,2015:
[click to view]

[11] Regional health authority report:
[click to view]

[12] Final official remarks on the meeting where links between KPO gas emissions and poisoning were deemed 'inconclusive':
[click to view]

[13] KPO official Damiano Ratti’s statement:
[click to view]

17) Video: Crude Accountability, Berezovka: Exodus, December 19, 2015
[click to view]

18) Video: Crude Accountability, The Forgotten Children of Berezovka, December 24, 2015
[click to view]

Other Documents

Bucket Brigade Locals gather to conduct independent testing of the environmental pollution
[click to view]

Children hospitalized Source: Tatyana Kuzmina (Gyuzel Kamalova contriibuted to the story), 29 school students and teachers faint one after another in Western Kazakhstan, Tengrinews.kz, 1 December 2014
http://en.tengrinews.kz/emergencies/29-school- students-and- teachers-faint- one-after-another-in- 257706/
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorYevgeniya Yatsenko, MICLA McGill University, [email protected]
Last update13/05/2016