Ever Decreasing Circles

Ever Decreasing Circles

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John Ahni Schertow
January 5, 2008
 

The following is a trailer for the film Ever Decreasing Circles, a documentary that outlines the ongoing health crisis and human rights disaster that’s been thrown on the backs of one traditional farming community in Berezovka, Kazakhstan.

The situation is said to be an example of “the typical environmental and social exploitation occurring in the Caspian region at the hands of western oil consortiums and corrupt local officials. What is not typical about Berezovka is that the citizens are fighting back.”

Located nearly five-kilometers away from the fields, the community has been exposed to toxins for over 25 years. An independent study performed in 2003 by the villagers–along with US-based Crude Accountability–made the consequences to such exposure abundantly clear.

The study showed that of the 1300 villagers, “688 members of the adult population were suffering regularly from headaches and memory loss; 599 had muscular-skeletal problems; 423 were suffering significant hair loss and were losing their teeth; 413 were suffering vision loss; 401 had cardio-vascular difficulties; 375 had serious gastroenterological problems; 308 had upper respiratory illness; and 260 were suffering from skin ailments.”

Another survey was conducted on the children. Of 100 high school students, “95 of them were suffering from overall weakness, 83 regularly experienced severe headaches, 77 were suffering from memory loss and had frequent fainting spells, 67 had skin ailments, 49 were experiencing feelings of aggression and 34 were experiencing regular nose bleeds.”

Among children ages 7 to 10, “45 had frequent headaches, 38 were suffering frequent stomach aches and weakness, 29 had skin ailments, and 24 were suffering memory loss, and 21 were experiencing regular chest pains.” Detailed information can be found here.

The community is facing this without any government support. That is, despite living within the five-kilometer “Sanitary Protection Zone,” which according to Kazakhstani law means they should at least be eligible for relocation… KPO (an international consortium comprised of British Gas, Italy’s ENI/Agip, American Chevron, and Russia’s LUKoil) convinced the government the zone can be reduced to three-kilometers, effectively barring the community from being relocated.

Not sure what else to do, community residents formed the Berezovka Initiative Group, and began “challenging the oil consortium active at the Field, the World Bank [who funds the project in part], and the local and national government of Kazakhstan, which has repeatedly turned the other way when the civil and human rights of the villagers have been violated.”

Today, the Berezovka villagers are demanding relocation to a safe and healthy location of their choosing; as well as compensation for their suffering.

Ever Decreasing Circles


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