KAZAKHSTAN
For many years
according to the official data of Kazhydromet, the Almaty air has been characterized by "a high level of pollution"
The overall disease incidence among Almaty residents
exceeds the national average:

for respiratory diseases: 1.2 times,
circulatory system: 1.2 times,
endocrine diseases: 1.4 times,
neoplasms: 1.5 times.

The impact of air pollution on public
health is still poorly studied.


Sources of air pollution
in Almaty
are divided into three main groups:

● industrial enterprises (AlES Power Plant 1, Power Plant 2, and Power Plant 3 (two stations, Power Plant 2 and Power Plant 3, annually burn about three million tons of coal with a high ash content), KazFerroStal, AlmatyGazMontazh, Almaty International Airport, and others);

● road transport (as of early 2020, more than 540 thousand cars were registered in Almaty; about 100 thousand units enter the city every day, while many cars have been in operation for more than 10 years, exceed toxicity and smoke norms, and use low-quality fuel);

● heating systems in single-family home areas.

There is still no precise data on the contribution of all these sources to the pollution of the city's atmosphere.
The geographical location
of the city in a mountain basin, temperature inversions, and low ventilation due to chaotic construction exacerbate the situation by limiting the dispersion of pollutants. In addition, massive tree felling, dusting in open ground, and other factors affect air quality.
Dirty air
and Almaty residents


Zhamilya is 30 years old; she has been living in Almaty since birth. She first noticed the problem of air pollution in her student years. Three years ago, in 2017, Zhamilya developed health problems: she started suffering from coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

After examinations by an ENT and a pulmonologist, she was diagnosed with bronchial asthma (allergic).
Asthma is a chronic disease in which the airways become inflamed and narrow, causing a person to suffer from asphyxia episodes. Asthma is one of the serious non-communicable diseases; it cannot be cured!

According to WHO estimates, in 2016, more than 339 million people worldwide had asthma. It is the most common chronic illness in children. One of the main causes of asthma is air pollution.
After Zhamilya was diagnosed with asthma, her life changed a lot. She could not play sports or stay in gas-polluted places. She began monitoring air quality information on the airkaz.org website. Depending on the published data, she would make seemingly simple life decisions (whether or not to go outside or open windows to ventilate the room). She had to buy an air purifier for her home. In her purse, Zhamilya always has medicines that help relieve a fit. For control and prevention, she takes inhaled corticosteroids daily.

Zhamilya talks about
having to carry an inhaler with her

Zhamilya talks about
having to carry an inhaler with her

In late summer, I got new problems! Due to the quarantine in Almaty, there was a shortage of medicines necessary for the daily treatment of asthma. This turned out to be a serious challenge for me: I stopped taking medications every day, and frequent attacks of suffocation and coughing could not be relieved, so I had to look for new substitute medicines,"
- says Zhamilya.
Zhamilya began to go to the mountains more often, as the air in the mountains is much cleaner than in the city. In the mountains, it is easier for her to breathe; she doesn't get coughs or fits. In the city, fits happen both in winter and in summer, and it's particularly hard during the allergy season.

After analyzing various scientific articles, Zhamilya learned that one of the strong allergens that can cause bronchial asthma is sulfur dioxide.
Is that a problem?
Citizens and experts alike believe that the first thing city officials need to do is acknowledge the problem. For a long time, city officials did not acknowledge that air pollution in Almaty was a serious matter.

"THE AIR IN THE CITY IS OF COURSE POLLUTED. BUT I WOULD NOT CALL THE SITUATION TERRIBLE," said a representative of the local government in 2015.

After the launch of the Almaty Urban Air application and the airkaz.org website, officials stopped saying things like that, but no measures have been taken to improve air quality over the years.
According to the analytical portal Finprom.kz, no money was allocated for environmental protection in Almaty in 2019-2020.

The capital today needs a high-quality, reliable, and affordable air quality monitoring system with an operational warning system.
There is a need for government programs to improve air quality with measurable indicators, timing, and funding.
The public is ready to help develop such programs.
In early 2020, a group of independent experts Clean Air prepared and submitted their proposals to the Almaty local government.

What activists propose
Independent public environmental monitoring emerged in Almaty five years ago. In 2015, Common Sense Foundation created and launched the Almaty Urban Air website and mobile application, which show air pollution with fine dust (PM2.5).

In 2017, the airkaz.org website was launched; it shows information on the concentration of PM2.5 from 15 sensors in Almaty and in nine more cities: Nur-Sultan, Atyrau, Karaganda, Pavlodar, Petropavlovsk, Taraz, Temirtau, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and Bishkek (Kyrgyz Republic).
In February 2020, environmental activists from the AUA Group and other organizations published an open letter to the head of the local government of Almaty, in which they demanded that air pollution be recognized as the city's main problem and addressed. The letter has collected over 20 thousand signatures. In September 2020, another petition appeared demanding the construction of a new gas-based power plant in Almaty at the expense of the National Fund.
Experts' suggestions
To improve air quality in Almaty, serious political decisions are needed:
Complete abandonment of coal and transition to alternative fuels (natural gas)
Modernization of two coal-fired power plants with transition to gas or construction of new gas-based power plants
Provision of gas supply to all the houses in the single-family home areas of the city and the nearest settlements and a ban on the use of coal and wood, along with the implementation of government programs to support vulnerable groups of the population
Improving Almaty's public transport system and developing alternative modes of transport in line with sound transport strategies
Tightening the regulatory requirements for the emissions of enterprises and strengthening the government's control over their activities.
Air quality depends not only on the political decisions of government officials but also on the decisions that each of us makes in everyday life.
Please remember this!

Authors:

Muazama Burkhanova
Environmental organization "Foundation to Support Civil Initiatives" FSCI, Dastgirie-Center (Tajikistan)
Maria Kolesnikova
head of the environmental organization "MoveGreen" (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
Pavel Plotitsyn
author of the Airkaz.org project
(Almaty, Kazakhstan)
Nigora Salimova
editor of the Almalyksky Rabochiy newspaper and the Zametka.uz website (Uzbekistan)
Svetlana Kharitonova
"Green Salvation" Ecological Society
(Almaty, Kazakhstan)
Diana Svetlichnaya
Project mentor
Maria Kazakova
Layout designer

© The project is implemented by n-ost (Germany) and the International Center for Journalism MediaNet (Kazakhstan) in partnership with the Center for Media Development (Kyrgyzstan), and the editorial offices of Anhor.uz (Uzbekistan) and Asia-Plus (Tajikistan), as well as the online magazine Vlast (Kazakhstan) with the support of the Federal Ministry of Economic

Cooperation and Development of Germany.
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