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KAZAKHSTAN PROTECTED AREAS:
THE CURRENT CONDITION AND DEVELOPMENT PERSPECTIVES

Hearings on “Problems and Development Perspectives of the State Nature Reserve Fund” will be held in the Parliament of Kazakhstan in the first quarter of 2004. The event will take place during the fundamental reconstruction of the nature conservation framework: new versions of the Acts “On Fauna Protection, Restoration and Use” and “On Protected Natural Areas” are currently developed; in 2004, PA funding will be almost doubled; involvement of conservation NGOs is going to be more considerable.

The International Conference on biological and landscape diversity “Reforms for Wildlife” took place on November 20—22, 2003 in Karkarala National Park in the framework of preparations for the hearings (for more information see the previous article).

The analysis provided below is anticipatory; data on which the material is based are available at: http://www.caresd.net/~parliament_hearing

Currently, there are 113 national-level PAs of various categories, including so-called “urban” PAs represented by 5 botanical gardens and 3 zoos. Real wildlife conservation is carried out in areas having the legal entity status: 9 zapovedniks, 7 national parks and 2 nature reserves. Most of Kazakhstan PAs are managed by the Committee of Forestry and Hunting of the Ministry of Agriculture (CFHE MA), the botanical gardens are managed by the Ministry of Education and Science (MES), and the zoos — by the Ministry of Culture, Information and Public Consent (MCIPC). Zapovednik zones (except North-Caspian) are managed by OkhotZooProm company, a division of the CFHE MA working on the cost-accounting basis. Burabai National Park, Akmolinsk region, is managed by the Administration of the Kazakhstan President.

Kazakhstan PA-related legislation includes lots of documents; the basic law is the Act “On Protected Natural Areas”. The Act had three editions, and the fourth one seems inevitable. Such poor law-making could not but influence negatively the current condition state of protected areas.

Zapovedniks (STATE nature reserves) were most typical PA category for all former Soviet Union republics. The key purpose of zapovedniks was the preservation of ecosystems and species inhabiting them. Zapovedniks are most strictly protected areas where any economic development is prohibited, while recreation is possible only in the buffer zone. Only conservation and population maintenance activities are permitted in zapovedniks.

The first Kazakhstan zapovednik, Aksu-Djabagly, was designated in 1926. Today there are 9 zapovedniks: Aksu-Djabagly, Alakol, Alma-Ata, Barsakelmess, West-Altai, Kurgaldji, Markakola, Naurzum, and Ust-Urta. Two more zapovedniks are to be designated in the nearest future: Karatau and Yereimentau.

The zapovedniks are spread all over the country. Problems the reserves are facing today are very specific; however one problem is common — lack of funding: to protect 1 ha of land in Ust Urta, the government allocates $0.24, in Kurgaldji — $0.27, in Markakola — $51, and in West-Altai — $91. Average salaries of zapovednik staff range from 10,000 to 14,000 tenge per month ($68–95).

The zapovedniks usually lack facilities, including means of communication and anti-fire equipment. Research studies are run on sheer enthusiasm of the staff with improvised means. In West-Altai zapovednik there are 4 thousand ha per 1 protection service inspector, in Kurgaldji — up to 15.2 thousand ha per person. However, the zapovedniks fulfil their functions and serve as secure refuges for rare and endangered plant and animal species.

Some PAs successfully develop tourism in their buffer zones. However, tourist groups visit regularly only Aksu-Djabagla and Kurgaldji zapovedniks. It is worth mentioning that without support of foreign organisations the results would be not as successful as they are now.

National parks (NP) and nature parks exist in Kazakhstan only for two last decades. The first national park was designated in 1986. The key objective of a NP is to conserve unique wildlife sites and provide people with the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature, learn more about nature, and recover health by breathing fresh air.

Kazakhstan has 7 national parks: Altyn-Emel, Bayabaul, Burabai, Ile-Alatau, Karkarala, Katon-Karagai and Kokshetau. In the nearest future, 3 more national parks will be designated: Djungaro-Alatau, Kolsai Lakes and Charyn. The NPs are located, basically, in mountains in the East and South-East of Kazakhstan as well as in intra-zonal mountain forest ecosystems of the Central and North Kazakhstan.

Budget funding for NPs is somewhat higher than that for zapovedniks. In 2002, Kokshetau National Park received $0.35 per 1 hf, Katon-Karagai — $0.4, Burabai — $3.5. The average monthly salary of a NP staff member is 5,330 – 14,430 tenge ($36—98). We should mention here that NP authorities have the right to pay extra fees to staff from NP own funds gained from additional visitor services. Non-budget funds could be earned through organising tourist routes, holding hunting tours (including hunting tours for foreigners), production and sale of souvenirs, etc.

Problems the NPs are facing today are much more diverse in comparison with zapovedniks because NPs also run recreation and tourism. NP problems include: illegal development in buffer zones (for cultural and consumer purposes), illegal land seizure, illegal sales of land, pollution, cattle grazing, and other violations.

In 2003, first 2 nature reserves were designated in Kazakhstan (according to the Kazakhstan legislation, this PA category exists since 2000): Ertys Armany (Pavlodarsk region) and Arka Armany (Eastern Kazakhstan region). The main purpose of these PAs is to ensure conservation of unique ribbon forest of the lower Irtysh. According to the Kazakhstan legislation, natural reserve category (except some clauses) refers to the generally accepted concept of a biosphere reserve. However, these PAs could hardly be called genuine biosphere reserves.

Zapovednik zones, although are not new in Kazakhstan, began to develop actively only recently. Northern Caspian zapovednik zone was designated in 1976; however its Statute and “Special Ecological Requirements…” were approved by the Kazakhstan Government only in 1999. Northern Caspian is the only particular PA honoured by a specific article (#48) in the Act “On PAs”. Conservationists’ attempts to exclude this resource-use permitting article from the Act met tough resistance of resource mining companies backed by the populist position of some political and public leaders.

The other three zapovednik zones (Zhusandali, Kenderli-Kayasan and Karakatau-Aryss) were designated specifically to protect Houbara Bustard and make possible exclusive “currency-bringing” Houbara Bustard hunting tours for Arabian sheikhs. However, some financial issues are not settled yet, and the reasonability of such form of conservation is uncertain. Perhaps, collected fees for limited withdrawal of Houbara Bustard could help to facilitate the bird protection and artificial reproduction. The documents to legally enable the project are still waiting for approval in the CFHE MA.

Zakazniks are another PA category in Kazakhstan. Generally, these areas are designated to protect populations and landscapes without land withdrawal from economic use – only through regulation of economic development. There are 57 zakazniks in Kazakhstan. Zoological zakazniks prevail (36, or 63%), then go botanical zakazniks (13, or 23%), and multi-purpose zakazniks (7, or 12%); there is also one botanical-geographical zakazniks. Four zakazniks are located within national parks or they are attached to NPs: Alma-Ata (Ile-Alatau NP), Karkarala (Karkarala NP), Kyzyltau (Bayanaul NP) and Rakhmanov’s Springs (Katon-Karagai NP). These four zakazniks ensure more or less regular protection and monitoring. Most other zakazniks, normally, managed by local CFHE MA divisions, are protected ad hoc by occasional raids of inspectors and game keepers. Therefore, we can say that there is no good protection system in the zakazniks.

Nature monuments are normally small PAs – their areas do not exceed few hectares. For this PA category, the area is not as important as the site value for the conservation of unique natural, cultural and historical heritage. Today, there are 26 national-level nature monuments in Kazakhstan. In addition, there are 53 regional nature (58 together with East Kazakhstan nature monuments that have lost their status). Real protection is ensured only in zakazniks attached to national parks.

Botanical gardens in Kazakhstan function as branches of the MES Institute of Botany and Phyto-Introduction. There are five of them: Chief (the city of Alma-Ata), Altai (the city of Ridder), Djezkazgan (Karaganda region), Iliy (Alma-Ata region), and Mangyshlak (the city of Aktau). Karaganda Botanical Garden, after re-subordination to the Institute of Phyto-Chemistry actually ceases to exist. The key problem of this PA category is linked with a legal collision: according to the national legislation, botanical gardens have the legal entity status. However, as branches of the MES Institute of Botany and Phyto-Itroduction, they lose this status.

There are 3 zoos in Kazakhstan: Alma-Ata, Karaganda, and Chimkent. In the given list they are ranked according to their degree of “welfare”. The current situation in Chimkent Zoo is dangerously critical. It is necessary either to close the zoo, or take urgent measures to restore the establishment.

Kazakhstan legislation gives the right to designate PAs not only to the central government, but also to local authorities (regional akimates). It is possible to designate regional PAs, such as nature parks, nature monuments, zapovednik zones, zoo-parks, botanical gardens and arboreta.

Currently, there are only two regional PAs that have the legal entity status. These are nature parks in the city of Alma-Ata (Medeu) and in Karaganda region (Buraitau). In addition, Kustanai region has 13 regional nature monuments, Karaganda region – 10, East Kazakhstan — 7, and South Kazakhstan — 23. In the East Kazakhstan, the duration period for 5 nature monuments has already expired, and in the North Kazakhstan, 2 regional zakazniks continue to function illegally. Five regional zapovednik zones and one arboretum exist in the South Kazakhstan region.

The geography of regional PAs is mixed and uneven. The situation in regions is determined by such factors as understanding of conservation priorities by local authorities and availability of initiative and nature-caring professionals or enthusiasts.

The total area of national PAs in Kazakhstan is 13,527,100 ha, regional PAs occupy 203,900 he. The total area of PAs constitutes 5% out of the total area of the country. From our point of view, the overall protected area is completely insufficient to maintain the ecological balance and ensure biodiversity conservation.

In 2000, the Kazakhstan Government had issued Decree #1692 in order to affirm “The Concept of PAs Development and Location in Kazakhstan until 2030’. In 1998, the public association EcoProject (Alma-Ata) had developed the Scheme of PAs Location in Kazakhstan until 2030. Most of experts admit that this volumetric document have become hopelessly outdated in 5 years. Rapidly changing social, economic, and environmental conditions in Kazakhstan dictate totally different principles for the scheme development: islands with wildlife conservation are not sufficient any longer — an integral PA network is necessary. Not only scientists and public organisations, but also authorities of all the levels understand it.

Recently Kazakhstan adopted a new Land Code legalising private property on land. Thus, ubiquitous purchase and sale of land is on the way. This is why, it is critically important to urgently evaluate and designate lands for future PAs. Otherwise, many unique landscapes and ecosystems could parish forever. Generally, such work is ongoing. However, we still did not complete the assessment of lands uniqueness and assessment of their value for PA designation.

For Kazakhstan, it is time to create a PA framework in steppe and desert zones since protection there is arranged poorly. Though forest and mountain ecosystems are more or less presented in the all-Kazakhstan PA location scheme, it is still vitally important to integrate PAs into one ecological network. Still, the most urgent issue is conservation of the Caspian. Instead of the amorphous zapovednik zone with practically uncontrolled nature use within it, it is necessary to develop a workable wildlife conservation system. It is especially actual to designate Seal Islands a protected area to conserve the whole Caspian biota complex threatened by oil mining corporations.

Vladimir Krainyuk,
Resource Informational Analytical Center
“Wildlife Laboratory”,

Orynbasar Shaimukhanbetov, Manjit Buketovâ, Lev Faustov
Arlan Public Wildlife Conservation Center

Maria Ovchinnikova,
Center for Coordination and Information
On Ecological Education “EcoObraz”

 

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