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Kazakhstan: Case study of Chinese project reveals a number of problems with accessing environmental information through litigation

"Litigating Access for Environmental Information", 23 July 2021

As part of China’s move to transfer industrial capacity to Kazakhstan, Chinese investors have been investing in two projects to construct cement and tomato paste production facilities in Kyzylorda Region...A joint venture was set up between Kazakhstan’s DANAKE Corporation and the Chinese Gezhuba Shieli Cement Company to implement the first of the two projects, an oilwell cement production plant in Shieli District of Kyzylorda Region.

...Environmental activists decided to take a closer look at the documentation available for the project...In particular, the environmentalists were interested in the following documents: report from the State Environmental Review, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), [and] minutes of the public hearings.

...Both Ministries refused to disclose the requested documents, stating that they contained confidential commercial information...Kazakhstan's law makes it possible to take a public authority to court over a refusal to provide environmental information or failure to provide full and accurate information.

...The court dismissed the applicants' argument that the requested information could not be subject to confidentiality restrictions, because it concerned everyone's right to a healthy environment...The applicants appealed the district court's decision to Nursultan City Court in February 2021...The court refused the appeal, but the appellants have not yet received the text of the ruling and are therefore unaware of the court’s reasoning.

...[T]his case illustrates the need to inform and educate regional executive authorities and judges about standards concerning public access to environmental information.