The Town of the XXI Century
Series of reports on ecological situation in Central Asia
INFLUENCE OF BAIKONUR COSMODROME
Scientists and communities are alarmed - humanity is at the brink of an
ecological catastrophe. The world community realizes this threat and has
developed various strategic initiatives aimed at decreasing the negative
impacts on the environment.The global conference held in Rio-de-Janeiro
introduced the term "stable development", which means development of the
humanity rationally using natural resources in order for future generations
to have more than a planet burnt to ashes. But any global environmental
protection strategy may remain not more than just a piece of paper unless
everyone of us will make his or her own, may be small, contribution into
Think global, act local - this principle is good for everyone who thinks
about the future of his or her children and grandchildren. To do this it is not
necessary to be a professional ecologist. It is necessary to change the way of
thinking and to take active and knowledgeable actions. Everyone of us dreams of
living in a blooming and wonderful world. "The town of XXI century" is dedicated
to unification of all of the efforts.
The footprints are left not only on the remote planets
Mr. Valery Aleksandrovich Yakovlev is a head of the laboratory of ecosystem
research of the State scientific-production union of applied ecology "Kazmechanobr".
Mr Yakovlev's activities related to ecological problems started about thirty
years ago. Among one of his first works was a chapter in the "Project of complex
utilization of the shore line of Kapchagai water reserve". He participates in
development of the "national program of rational nature-using".
Valery Aleksandrovich is one of the first specialists who were at the very
start of the native ecology. And he is, probably, one of the first people who
researched the ecological situation after conduction of tests and launches of
military and civilian missiles. His analytical reports devoted to the
destructive consequences of the launches, were published by several of the media
agencies. These publications, probably, provided the readers with the most
complete and striking information about activities of the military-space complex
(MSC). For the first time, newspapers published truthful and alarming facts
about world famous space center "Baikonur".
In our report we offer to our readers a brief overview of Mr Yakovlev's
research. Unfortunately, it is difficult for anyone to say for sure that
worsening health conditions of Kazakhstan's population are related to the
worsening ecological situation. But the information of the Ministry of health
care of the Republic of Kazakhstan devoted to the health conditions of
kazakhstan's population confirms the fact that citizens of the Republic and
especially of the disadvantaged areas are not renown for extremely well health
After each missile launch out of each kilogram of fuel's toxic substances,
800 grams are moved toward Pacific ocean and 200 grams - toward Atlantic ocean
Ships stuck in the sand: beginning of the ecological catastrophe
Several years ago one of the Almaty scientific research institutes sent its
expedition to Aral Sea. Scientists of this institute studied dust storms. Aral
Sea provided a limitless source of information for such kind of research - here
steppe winds were blowing sand and salt left on the bottom of the Sea and
carried them for hundreds of kilometers. After this expedition one of the young
staff members of the Institute was telling about ships and boats, which were
firmly stuck in the sands, at the places where water was splashing some time
ago. She told about people who had lived in fishermen's villages and who had
been leaving their homes, about an aksakal who had not want to leave his home
and had been living alone on a small piece of land, which some time ago was an
island surrounded by playing sea waves.
In those years it seemed that Aral's death was the only trouble, which
suddenly became vivid and very painful for everybody. And also at that time
seemed that newspapers had become very brave. They were not only writing about
deaths of fish and other species they also were trying to find those, who were
responsible for this catastrophe.
Gradually the theme of Aral Sea faded overshadowed by other tragedies, which
were staged by people on one of the planet's "scenes", which is called
Newspaper editors were not nervous anymore when they saw articles about a new
ecological catastrophe laying on their tables and they were not afraid to loose
their jobs anymore.
Everybody was inspired by "Glasnost" and "perestroika" - the words, which
appeared at the edge of the shift in economic formations. Society's "abscesses",
including the ecological ones became wide open. People started to realize, that
the man was cutting the branch on which he was sitting.
In 1995 in Kazakhstan collection of articles entitled "Kazakhstan: human
development report" was published. The report contained many figures (including
the ones for which ten years ago an editor of any statistical report could have
gotten into a big trouble), photo pictures and facts about the Republic covering
such a vast area, about which any European country could only dream.
For example, there is a picture of an old man selling something at a
spontaneous market. The old man has an extremely small pension. What is he
selling? Maybe, "Philip Morris" cigarettes? This company a few years ago,
probably, even did not know about the very existence of such country as
Kazakhstan. And now arrays of colorful boxes are in the windows of all
commercial kiosks and even at the tops of rudely made wooden boxes laying on the
ground. At any time in the city it is possible to find bottles with appealing
labels promising a heavenly taste of the drink contained in those bottles
(however, sanitary inspections say that practically in each of the bottles there
is only a cheap mixture, which cost some of the citizens their lives). Attention
of drivers and pedestrians is attracted by huge billboards standing in the
center of the city and advertising cigarettes "Only for real men". Are these the
traits of the new market economy? Unfortunately, these are not. Somebody is just
making money (and not small ones) on the willingness of the citizens to try the
surrogates of the pretty life. And the cost of trying is often health and
sometimes - life.
The conquest of space and nature: the other side of the "medal"
In the "Kazakhstan: human development report" there is a chapter entitled
"Ecology and human development". A few lines in the chapter are devoted to the
item, of which the former Soviet Republic was extremely proud - "Baikonur" space
center. The space center, which for a long time was used to launch objects
called "the pride of Soviet rocket science" now is just a source of poisonous
space wastes. "Scientists have established the extreme character of destructive
influence of "Baikonur" space center on environment and population of the
region: 11 thousand tons of space scrap metal, polluted by especially toxic
dimethylhydrozyne, heptyle is still laying on the falling grounds," - writes
More and more often the word "sapce" is put beside the word "military".
Military-space complex (MSC) is the main polluter of air, water and soil. Mr.
Yakovlev's name has been put under many texts related to MSC. "Ecological
genocide" that is the term used by Mr. Yakovlev to characterize the facts, which
take place in Kazakhstan, a large country by European standards, but a
disorganized one, unlike European states.
Let us turn to the documents of Ministry of ecology and biological resources.
"A strong source of pollution is represented by Military-space complex
installations - "Baikonur" space center and testing ranges "Sary Shagan", "Emba",
Flaying-testing range, Semipalatinsk range, and Kapustin Yar. Four large testing
ranges and one flying center occupy 13,8 million hectares of land. Greece, which
has given the world the antique culture and the foundations of democracy, is
situated on the same amount of sapce. In Kazakhstan more than 500 explosions
were carried out over and underground. These 13,8 million hectares cover the
territories of six regions - Aktubinsk, Atyrau, Jambyl, Zhezkazgan,
Western-Kazakhstan and Kyzyl-Orda. Until recently populations of these regions
did not know all the truth about consequences of the tests. With the appearance
of glasnost the situation has changed and the heads of administrations started
to write long letters to the government in the capital. Probably, the truth
about "Baikonur" - the pride of the country and the reflection of progress - was
Here is information gathered by the staff of Ministry of ecology and
biological resources and presented using objective scientific language:
"pollution of the biosphere by rocket fuel is continued. The most dangerous of
all fuels is non-symmetric dimethylhydrozyne (NDMG) - a highly-toxic, explosive
substance, which has cancerougenous, mutogenous and therratogenous properties.
If we translate these terms into regular human language, this will mean that
this poisonous substance may become the reason for cancer or birth of children
with abnormalities. "In the environment NDMG appears, while it is produced,
transported, poured into the tanks and used at the tests of military and space
missiles, when the heads of the rockets are separated and are falling on the
ground, NDMG is carried by wind and later by water, wild and domestic animals,
people, vehicles. It is concentrated in underground waters, soil, plants,
organisms of wild animals and people. All types of manufactured products and raw
materials (used for medical and other purposes), gathered from polluted
territories are dangerous for the health of people.
Rocket stages falling on the ground, objects returning from space, various
targets fill the territory with scrap metal, which often needs to be cleaned
from toxic substances. Falling rocket stages can explode both in the air and on
There have been 5 thousand objects which have been launched only into space
and only from "Baikonur" space center. Mr. Yakovlev writes in his papers that
there are more than 20 thousand tons of military and space scrap metal laying
only in Zhezkazgan region.
This is only a small portion of the harm done by the military and space
complex. This makes an impression that people decided to destroy themselve using
all possible means. And it seems that this trend is present in many places.
The orange sky, the orange mother, the orange me …
A year ago Russian newspaper "Trud" wrote about yellow children, who became
victims of hepthyle, which has been mentioned above. The children were dying of
destruction of brain, liver, blood, tissues of their organisms were yellow.
These facts were revealed in the Republic of Saha, at Asrahan, Vladimir, Tomsk,
Novosibirsk, Tumen regions, in Altay, in Atyrau region of Kazakhstan.
This is far from being a complete picture of the destruction caused by
military "games" of the grown-ups. Valery Yakovlev estimates that ecological
damage caused only by "Baikonur" space center is about two trillion dollars. It
is possible to say for sure that the vast majority of people does not feel the
magnitude of these figures. For the majority of the citizens of the Republic, in
which many people lose their jobs, many do not get paid for months and others
get paid not in cash, but in clothes or food items, even a hundred dollars seems
to be a fortune.
In accordance with the agreement signed by Russia and Kazakhstan the military
and space testing ranges will be poisoning the land and everything living on it
for at least ten more years.
At Soviet times we were blaming capitalists suppressing poor peoples of
Africa, India and Malaysia. We were blaming them for turning Asia and Africa
into annexes supplying raw materials and for using cheap labor of the people
living on these continents and for polluting the land and air by harmful wastes
of their industries. Today we find ourselves in the position of the country
which needs to be protected. But who is going to take care of the poor citizens
of almost all of the Republic? And from whom do they need to be protected? If we
continue to develop the defined topic, then we can quote Mr. Yakovlev, who in
one of his articles says: "In the conditions of development of market relations
it is suitable to put a question of the importance and usefulness of keeping
military and space complex installations going, the same way as the question is
put in relation to civilian plants. For the factories, living at the expense of
the people and at the same time destroying their health it is necessary to
develop ecological, social, economic, military and other criteria of
effectiveness, alternatives must be reviewed and the possible scenario prognosis
must be done."
Maybe it is better not to suffer from ecological genocide, but to take
actions to try to rescue ourselves? Because if we believe into that same
collection of articles "Kazakhstan: human development report", by the level of
education of its people Kazakhstan is approaching well developed countries. One
thing remains - to come closer to them in terms of the self-respect criteria.
Who will protect the health of citizens of Baikonur?
It is not possible to say that the government of the Republic does nothing to
improve the ecological situation. In accordance with the decision of the cabinet
of Ministers of the Republic of Kazakhstan #58 dated by 26.06.93 "On urgent
measures for orderly divisioning of ecological regions of the Republic of
Kazakhstan", Ministry of ecology and biological resources started in 1995 and
continued in 1996 to divide the terrtory of the Republic into ecological
regions. As a result of the research the borders of ecologically disadvantaged
regions were determined.
The official status of ecological disaster zones was given to Aral and
Semipalatinsk regions of Kazakhstan.
The first ecological disaster zone - Aral region - includes the
territory surrounding the Kazakhstani part of Aral Sea.
The second ecological disaster zone - Semipalatinsk region - includes
all teritory of the Semipalatinsk region and the parts of Pavlodar, Karaganda
and East-Kazakhstan regions adjacent to the testing range.
In its turn the two ecological disaster zones are divided into several
sub-zones in accordance with the risk levels. They include regions which were
attributed to the zones of ecological crisis and near-crisis conditions, extreme
and maximum radiation risk, minimal and heightened radiation risk, territories
with privileged social and economic status.
Unfortunately, territories adjacent to "Baikonur" space center and other
military and space complex's objects have not been reviewed by the leadership of
the Republic and by those who have the decision-making powers. If the population
of Aral and Semipalatinsk regions is at least formally protected by law, it is
not possible to say the same about people who live near "Baikonur" space center.
Alarming statistics: more people die than are born
Scientists have gathered huge amounts of experimental material proving that
"ecologically disadvantaged environmental conditions" have negative impact on
For example, wastes of metallurgical plants seriously influence the increase
of the level of heart diseases, psychological diseases, cancer-related
illnesses. Wastes of metallurgy factories and power plants increase the level of
lung diseases. In the regions where chemical industry plants are located,
allergies, endocrine system diseases and diseases of sexual organs are widely
spread. Pollution of the atmosphere of the cities by nitrogen oxide stimulates
development of diseases of the lungs and breathing system.
However, currently it is not possible to find a precise relation between
environmental pollution and human health. There are no direct proofs of the
negative influence of military-space complex on people's health.
In 1995 a high percentage of new and chronic diseases of the breathing system
was registered. In 1995 one out of every five people suffered from a breathing
In 1995 among the cities and regions most disadvantaged for people's health
were Almaty, Eastern-kazakhstan region, Semipalatinsk and Karaganda regions.
Here the majority of wastes from vehicles and metallurgy plants are thrown into
the atmosphere, and, as it has been already mentioned, East-Kazakhstan,
Semipalatinsk and Karaganda regions were affected by the harmful consequences of
the explosions at the former Semipalatinsk nuclear testing range.
Citizens of Kyzyl-Orda suffer from the lack of quality drinking water, people
living in the city get three times less fine quality drinking water than it is
determined by the standards and those living in the villages - 5 times less.
Many of the quality parameters of drinking water do not meet State standards.
Without any doubt this has significantly affected the health of the people
living in the region.
More than half of the population on the territory of the Republic is affected
by cancer-related diseases. The highest level of diseases was registered in 1995
in those regions where chemical, metallurgical, oil and gas factories are
located, the same as in the zones of high radiation risk and intense traffic.
In 1995 the highest birth rates were registered, the same as during the
previous periods, in southern regions of Kazakhstan: South Kazakhstan region
(27,4), Kyzyl-Orda (24,8) per 1000 of the regions' population: the lowest birth
rate was registered in the city of Almaty.
The highest death rate was registered in Eastern-Kazakhstan and
Northern-Kazakhstan regions, where the number of death was respectively 13,6 and
12,1 per one thousand of the regions' population. In 1995 in all other regions
except Mangystau, South-Kazakhstan, Kyzyl-Orda and Almaty regions the death rate
was ranging from 9,0 to 11 and the Republic-wide average was 10,2.
In 1995 the highest natural increase in the number of people was registered
in South-Kazakhstan and kyzyl-Orda regions.
Increases in the number of people at the level below the Republican-average
(6,8) were registered in Zhezkazgan (5,4), West-Kazakhstan (5,7), Kokshetau
(4,8), Semipalatinsk (4,4) and several other regions. In 1995 there was no
increase in the number of people in Karaganda and Kostanai regions, and there
was a decrease in the number of people in East-Kazakhstan, North-Kazakhstan
regions and the city of Almaty, where the death rate was higher than the birth
rate. In 1995 all over Kazakhstan for every 1000 people the natural increase was
at the level of 6,6 persons.