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“Protect Kok-Zhailau”, Ile-Alatau State National nature park, Kazakhstan


The leadership of Kazakhstan made the decision that mountains have to make profit. They decided to construct a world level mountain-skiing complex with all infrastructure, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, entertainment centers and playgrounds in the middle of a natural park.

The "Kokzhaylau" ski resort is planned in the center of National natural park Ile-Alatau, 10 km. from the city of Alma-Ata. To allow this, the government and the the president Nazarbayev decreed that part of National park planned as the first stage of construction, is attached to an urban area and is now considered the municipal property of Alma-Ata.

The total cost for development of the feasibility report, including the concept of this project was about 20 million dollars. The cost of construction of the resort and communications is $750 million allocated from public funds for infrastructure, while the state is seeking $2.1 billion in private investment. This has led to concerns about the potential for corruption and cost-overruns with opponents claiming that this sum is considerably higher than similar projects in developed countries and would cut into the country's social spending.

NGOs are strongly criticizing the development of the resort and claim that Kok-Zhaylyao tract is one of the most affordable and favorite places for Almaty native citizens and guests who are fond of hiking, trekking, biking, skiing, and equestrian tourism and Almaty citizens will lose their favorite place of leisure and get first the roar of construction equipment and then a ski resort and solid fences around the private land holdings, instead of calm and beautiful wild nature.

Local NGOs believe that construction of a new resort in the national park contradicts not only with the national legislation on protected areas, environmental protection, water, forest and land resources, but with international law as well - in particular, with the Convention on Biological Diversity. Animals under threat include the endangered snow leopard – a symbol of both Kazakhstan and the city of Almaty.

The mountain Kumbel is in a zone of ecological stabilization, but its slopes will be remade for skiing runs and gondola roads. Cutting down of 27,5 hectares of a relic coniferous forest for construction of the mountain-skiing village is planned.

Water shortages in the city of Almaty will be exacerbated by the need to make snow on the slopes and the water retention function of the slopes will be impaired. It is assumed that the snowmaking system will be installed on 75% of the slopes. In the absence of precipitation, artificial snow can take up to 326,000 m³ of water . For this they plan to build four underground tanks . It should be noted that according to United Nations standards for one person to 20 liters min. of water is necessary per day . Thus, it turns out that 326,000 m3 of water could provide 16,3 million people, or 94 % of the population of Kazakhstan.

The project is supported by the ministry of environmental protection and the president Nazarbayev. At the same time civil activists have organized the civil movement "Protect Kok-Zhaylau".

On January 11, 2013 the Alma-Ata municipality carried out formal public hearings about the resort. The official read the report, and didn't allow the public to express their opinion, referring to regulations. The public was thus debarred from decision-making process.

Activists sent an open letter to President Nursultan Nazarbayev against the project signed by over 8,000 people about the need for intervention in the illegal actions of regional officials and the ministries. However, they have received no response. Various actions of the public in protest were held, with no reaction from the state. Mass media, trying to publish information on the harmful aspects of the project, received summons and were even closed.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:“Protect Kok-Zhailau”, Ile-Alatau State National nature park, Kazakhstan
Location of conflict:Alma-Ata
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Ecosystem Services
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

According to the feasibility report prepared by Ecosign, 77 ski slopes will be constructed stretching 63 kilometers, with 16 lifts capable of carrying 10,150 skiers at a time. In addition, hotels with a total of 5,736 beds will be built. The goal is to attract a million visitors a year from within a four-hour flight radius of Almaty, spanning areas of India, China and Russia.

The area of dwelling of the inhabitants who have been written down in the Red list of Kazakhstan and IUCN is liable to destruction include:


Snow leopard (Unica Unica), Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctor issabellinus), Indian porcupine (Histrix indica), Stone marten (Martes foina), Turkestani linx (Linx Linx isabellinus), Lutra Lutra seistanica, Felis manul (Pallas`s cat)


Black stork (Ciconia nigra), Booted Eagle (Acuila pennata), Golden Eagle (Acuila chrisaetos), Himalayan Vulture (Gyps Himalayensis), Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides), Ibisbill (Ibidorhincha struthersii), Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo hemachalanus), Saker falcon (Falco cherrug), Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), Great rosefinch (Carpodacus rubicilla)

amphibious animals:

Pseudepidalea oblonga (Bufo danatensis), Central Asiatic Frog (Rana asiatica)


Bradybaena sinisrorsa, Pseudonapaeus schnitnikovi, Turcomilax tzvetkovi


Cordulegaster insignis Schneider, Calopteryx virgo Linnaeus, Bolivaria brachiptera, Sega pedo Pallas, Callisthenes semenovi Fabricius, Colias erschovi Alpheraky, Anax imperator Pallas, Phillorgerius jacobsoni Oschanin, Chilocorus bipustulatus Linnaeus, Stethorus punctillum Weise, Dorcadion grande Jakovlev, Parnassius boedromius Pungeler, Parnassius patricius Niepelt, Otnjukovia tatjana Zhdanko


Malus sieversii, Atraphaxis muschketowii, Sibiraea tianschanica, Tulipa ostrowskiana Regel, Iris alberta, Gimnospermium altaicum, Erysimum perofskianum, Oxytropis almaatensis, Hepatica falconeri, Saussurea involucrata, Pastinacopsis glacialis, Iridodictium kolpakpwskianum

Project area:170920,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project750 million (from public funds) $2.1 Billion in Private investment sought
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:Inhabitants of National natural park. Residents of Alma-Ata and region.
Start of the conflict:17/06/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd. from Canada - One of two feasibility studies has been conducted by this Canadian international leader in ski resort design
Kok-Zhaylau from Kazakhstan - Owned and operated by Almaty's City hall
Relevant government actors:Municipality of the Alma-Ata city, Management of tourism, Management of natural resources, Energy division
International and Finance InstitutionsUNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) from France
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN )
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Protect Kok-Zhaylau, Green Salvation, Keep a snow leopard

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Recreational users
Local ejos
Social movements
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of a network/collective action
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Referendum other local consultations
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Media based activism/alternative media
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Occupation of buildings/public spaces


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Soil erosion
Potential: Genetic contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Other Environmental impactsDestruction of the animals and plants which are in the Red List of Kazakhstan and IUCN.
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts, Accidents
Potential: Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:According to a petition from Green Salvation:
It is more logical to develop already existing resorts, which currently are not working at full capacity. In the neighborhood of Almaty in the radius of 50 km there are existing ten ski resorts: "Shimbulak", "Ak-bulak", "Tabagan", "Almatau", "Yelik-Say", "Shybynsay", "Enbek", "Tau-Turan", "Forest tail", "Dinamo", a resort in Kaskelen gorge and other less known resorts .
The main attraction of Kazakhstan for European tourists - pieces of virgin nature such as Ile-Alatau National park. The tourism trend of latest years is popularization of ecotourism - tourism with the minimal impact on the environment. And ecotourism could become a hallmark of Almaty district.
Development of ecological tourism (scientific ecotourism, exploring ecotourism, bird watching, botanical tours, video and photo tours, ethnic tourism, etc.) is the prior task of the National park, which is stated in the General plan for development.
We claim for abandonment of ski resort construction on Kok-Zhaylyao on the territory of the Ile-Alatau National park. Along with that we are not against tourism development in the region. We are for development of ecotourism (that will not damage unique ecosystems of Trans-Ili Alatau), for development of already existing ski resorts and against development of elite tourism sector for public financing (i.e. our taxes) and leave thousands of Kazakhstani citizens with no favorite place for leisure and recreation! For the construction of ski resorts there is a set of the places which don't have the status of reserves.
- Include the Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Resignation of the mayor of Almaty.
- Refusal in carrying out the Winter Olympic Games 2022 in Almaty.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:In 2014 the earth for construction was aloof from the territory of National park and construction of the resort began.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Arhus Convention,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=89&cntnt01detailtemplate=news01detail.tpl&cntnt01returnid=51

Protect Kok-Zailau

Green Salvation

Snow Leopard

My favourite Kok-Zhaylau!lukina-plants/c204f Kazakhstan: Green Zone on Slippery Slope

Petition to Director General UNESCO Irina Bokova

Little citizens of Kazakhstan unanimously oppose barbarous destruction of National parks!-vystavka/cywp

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Pray together with us!

Kok-Zhailau SOS!!!

Alma-Ata is a zone of ecological catastrophe.

Help us!


Good morning Kok-Zhailau!

Photo Ile-Alatau

Photo Ile-Alatau

Photo Ile-Alatau

Photo Ile-Alatau

Photo Ile-Alatau

Photo Ile-Alatau

Photo Ile-Alatau

Photo Ile-Alatau

Welcome to Alma-Ata.

Protect Kok-Zhailau

Other documents

World Heritage Centre UNESCO Information request about the project

UNECE Information list Kazakhstan ACCC/C/2013/88

Communication to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee Communication to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee

Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee DATASHEET Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee DATASHEET

Petition to Nazarbayev Petition to Nazarbayev included more than 10000 signatures

Letter to Biodiversity Convention Letter to Biodiversity Convention

Statement of the European ECO Forum Statement of the European ECO Forum

Civil Hearings Civil Hearings

Summary of the feasibility report of the project Summary of the feasibility report of the project

World Heritage Centre UNESCO Information on the construction project is requested by the secretariat of UNESCO repeatedly. However the government of Kazakhstan keeps silence.

Petition to Director General UNESCO Petition to Director General UNESCO Irina Bokova has more than 14000 signatures

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1361



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