November 20, 2009

Kazakh military firing range an ecological disaster area

Madi Asanov

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — On Nov. 16, Kazakh Environmental Defence Minister Nurlani Ashimov announced before the deputies of the lower house of parliament that the former Daryal-U firing range (used by Russia until 2003) would be declared an ecological disaster area. He said there was a risk that poisonous substances left at the firing range could spread over a wider area.

According to the minister, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) seeped into the walls of the warehouse, where the toxic condensers were kept. He declared that an emergency would allow Interior Ministry forces to be deployed to the firing range, both to protect local residents and carry out an investigation into the causes of the seepage.

The inquiry may be connected with a sentence handed down on Oct. 16 to former Environmental Defence Minister Nurlan Iskakov, who was found guilty of abuse of office in connection with the spending of approximately US$6.7 million that had been earmarked for demolishing Daryal-U. Iskakov’s appeal of his four-year sentence will be heard on Dec. 9.

Ashimov added that after his department received the necessary financing, the warehouses would be dismantled, transferred to a remote location and completely buried.

The condensers are to be dismantled by a German firm that earlier removed some of them from Daryal-U. The minister said he understood the remaining condensers would be transported to Germany for dismantling by the end of the year, at the expense of German investors.

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