On April 14, 2020, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Central Asia (IWPR CA) and CABAR.asia held an online expert discussion on mechanisms and ways to address environmental problems and urban planning issues by the case of Kazakhstan.
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The “Environmental Regulation Mechanisms: The Experience of Kazakhstan” online discussion was held on April 14, 2020. The discussion involving Kazakh environmental experts was organized by the representative office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Central Asia (IWPR CA). The discussion was comprised of thematic reports, presentations, and resulted in a list of recommendations.
In her welcoming speech, the editor of the CABAR.asia analytical platform Nargiza Muratalieva said that regional policymakers did not pay due attention to hindering environmental problems. “It was agreed to fill this gap by discussing environmental issues that require priority action,” said Muratalieva. She also added that Kazakhstan’s experience in handling environmental issues can be instrumental for the region.
Adil Nurmakov, the co-founder of the ‘Urban Forum Kazakhstan’ fund, proposed a rational way in fostering a dialogue on urban development issues between government and the population. “The first stage is obtaining concrete figures for the professional side of the dialogue; the second is drawing conclusions and developing recommendations with due regard for expert opinions, and then holding of dialogue fostering activities; the last stage is promoting the recommendations, ” said Nurmakov.
Adil Nurmakov highlighted that urban planning requires an advisory body in the form of an expert council that will facilitate not only better and more sustainable solutions, but also a way to avert conflict situations. According to him, fostering a dialogue should be institutionalized in the format of expert advice.
The next speaker to contribute to the discussion was the representative of the Clean Air civic group, Elena Erzakovich. She argues that currently, state bodies hold few awareness-raising events on air pollution for the people. “The effectiveness of interaction depends on personal factors both from the side of the city administration and the leaders within civil society,” said Erzakovich.
During the Q&A session, Elena Erzakovich emphasized that civil society should be able to freely express their opinions on environmental issues. “Any environmental action, including the one on social media, have an impact on decisions of policymakers,” the civil group representative added.
In her turn, the chairman of the public association ‘Ekom’ Svetlana Mogilyuk highlighted the importance of holding awareness-raising campaigns on a better environment. “The broad public participation forces policymakers to consider the recommendations put forward by supporters of environmental causes,” said Mogilyuk.
The public association chairman then discussed ways for better communication between stakeholders. Mogilyuk used the Aarhus Center as an example; the center’s goal is to engage all stakeholders to collectively address the issue. “Business representatives initiate, state authorities regulate, and the public reacts; the association’s goal is to seek mechanisms for a mutually acceptable solution,” explained Mogilyuk.
Ecoblogger and the PaketamNet project’s author Mikhail Belyakov shared his opinion on the conservation of natural resources. Belyakov gave various examples of a poor level of public awareness on resource management. He argues that this trend is observed both locally and globally.
The eco-blogger has proposed several recommendations on environmental sustainability:
- The best waste management is reduced waste production. We need to become conscious consumers, given that the greater the demand, the greater the pollution;
- There is a need for environmental education activities for the population. People should understand that lowering the carbon footprint does not mean lowering the living standard and comfort;
- Implementation of environmental initiatives, such as an ecological subbotniks (waste sorting), darmarks or freebie fairs (giving used stuff for free) as well as various types of flash mobs.
In closing of the online discussion, the director of the ‘Orange Apple’ and the meeting’s moderator, Nadezhda Chervyakova concluded that ‘work on greening the mind’ remains a very important issue along with the air and water pollution. According to her, “new behavior patterns in public spaces impact environmental thinking and alter the attitude to what we do.”