Astana: elites discuss climate change, while children get sick and faint
Seminar on environmental challenges and the use of hydrocarbons in Almaty. Academic and scientific experts discuss economic development of Central Asian nations. But the oil industry is poisoning the land. Dozens of people suffering from fainting because of toxic fumes.

Astana (AsiaNews) - "Before, he had convulsions. Now, the boy’s blood pressure falls sharply, his legs become numb and he loses the ability to speak".  This is the testimony of Tlek Temirgaliyev, the father of a child of the Kazakh sixth grade hit by a strange disease that causes the boy to faint. While the top academic and scientific experts discuss the development of hydrocarbons and the challenge posed by climate change during a seminar organized in Almaty, new cases of children sick from pollution caused by the oil industry emerge.

The largest Central Asian hosted a scientific seminar April 16th, organized by the Foundation for the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) in collaboration with the National Technical University of Kazakhstan (ZazNTU). The seminar - entitled "Central Asia: the development of hydrocarbons and the challenge of climate change" - is one of the initiatives promoted by the "Asia Centre" Research Institute (based in Paris), which has been conducting research for the past two years on how combine economic development of the countries of Central Asia with environmental protection.

The problem of pollution is felt particularly in the poor villages of the west of the country, where for years there have been numerous cases of "strange diseases", like that of sudden sleep, which cyclically continues to affect village of Kalachi. Or the "strange fainting" affecting children of the village of Berezovka since November 2014, in which Temirgaliyev’s son is just one of many cases. All patients - about 50 people since the appearance of the first episodes - reported the same symptoms: dizziness, cramps and nausea.

New cases of fainting occurred on April 11, when two children of the fifth and sixth grade were at school. Their teachers and fellow pupils tried to help them regain consciousness, without success, until they were taken to hospital. Residents blame toxic waste products from the nearby Karachaganak field, where the foreign company Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV extracts oil and gas in an area that  covers 280 km². Residents fear that their health problems are linked to the poisoning of the environment and have asked the local authorities to be transferred to settlements far from the polluted area. So far they have received no response.