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Public participation experience of the public association “Angel” in identifying a lack of effective measures taken by government to manage multiple flooding situations, and developing new measures to help reduce the risk of flooding

Sub-title: Public monitoring of flood management measures: causes of floods in the city of Atbasar, the impact of floods on the environment and human health, the development of measures to reduce the risk of floods, and compliance with international conventions. 

Country: Kazakhstan (city of Atbasar, Akmola region)

Date: 2016-2020

Category: Project, Measures

Tags: Disaster Risk Reduction, Flooding, Public participation, Public access to information

Organization(s) involved: Public Association “Angel” (initiator of the public consultations) in partnership with local NGOs: “Bereke” from Shymkent city, “Ecocenter” from Karaganda city, “Celina” from Atbasar city, Kokshetau State University (Ualikhanov from Kokshetau city), the National Aarhus Center, and support from Irina Smirnova – a member of Parliament

The city of Atbasar has been regularly flooded over the past few years, with major floods in 2009, 2014, and 2017. In 2017, the flooding was declared a state of emergency, and a significant amount of damage was caused. 

Although there are no major industrial/chemical facilities operating in the city, as Atbasar is predominantly an agricultural area, the farmers often use fertilizers and pesticides which are stored in private warehouses with chemicals, stocks of fuels and lubricants. During the flooding, these substances, including hazardous chemical wastes, were released into surrounding soils and water bodies. In addition to environmental damage caused by the flooding and chemical releases from the private warehouses, the residents were also exposed to chemical substances during the reconstruction period.

According to public opinion, the flooding in the city of Atbasar was mainly caused by ineffective flood management measures, the government ignoring the public’s concerns, violation of the provisions of the UNECE Aarhus Convention, a lack of readiness to adapt to climate change, the breaking of a dam wall, river pollution and its shallowing, a lack of discharge facilities to capture waste during the construction of the highway Almaty - Yekaterinburg, and corruption. 

The public association “Angel” carried out public consultations on the flood management measures, prepared recommendations and conducted a number of activities. It was proved that ineffective measures were taken to prevent and mitigate the effects of flooding. Numerous officials were convicted and penalised due to the findings. Residents of Atbasar who suffered from the 2017 flood received compensation and a new neighbourhood was built specifically for them. A proactive dialogue between the residents and the new local government management was established.

Flooding affects many sustainable development issues and prevents the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the case of flooding in Atbasar: SDG 1 - the residents suffered the loss of basic human essential needs (such as housing, food supplies, property, business, cattle, gardens, transport and equipment); SDG 2 - many people found themselves in extreme conditions as the local residents already have low incomes and there is unemployment, and during the flood period there was not enough food, and there were a lack of volunteers, rescuers and public catering facilities for the victims, leading to people being undernourished; SDG 3 – Residents developed respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis, heart disease, infectious diseases and mental illness due to the flooding situation; SDG 5 - Affected women and girls were particularly vulnerable during the flooding situations; SDG 6 - During the flood period, contaminated water was released into drinking water and the entire city of Atbasar was left without clean drinking water for the first couple of days; SDGs 10 and 11 - it is the small cities and villages that are subject to flooding, leading to greater economic and social disparities; SDG 13 - climate change and the increase in extreme weather events means a greater prevalence of flooding in places such as Atbasar; SDG 16 - local people were not adequately consulted or listened to prior to 2017, leading to poor flood management measures and a lack of safe and sustainable communities.

This example highlights the importance of public involvement and the crucial role that the public plays in disaster risk reduction and shaping the environmental protection measures, which must be ensured by the respective authorities.   

The details of this good practice can be found at: The Public Association Angel’s webpage on Public Monitoring of Programs and Projects (OMPP), available (in Russian):

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