At the northern edge of the vast Karachaganak gas condensate field sits a small village named Berezovka. Since 2002, residents have sought to be relocated, claiming that emissions from the field’s operations pose a health hazard.
The 1,400 residents of Berezovka won a significant legal victory in June 2010, when a Kazakhstani court partially upheld their demand for relocation. But nearly two years later, no action has been taken to implement the judicial decision. After 10 years of campaigning, the community remains in limbo.
Some environmental activists say the Berezovka case shows how justice can be subordinated to big business interests in Kazakhstan. Sergei Kuratov, chairman of the environmental group Green Salvation, said that when it comes to abiding by court rulings, the state has a spotty record. “The bigger the defendant, and the more [a case] concerns state organs, the harder it becomes to have a court decision fulfilled,” he said. Authorities, meanwhile, contend the settlement is dragging on because some residents are holding out for higher compensation.
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Nate Schenkkan is a Bishkek-based journalist.