UNCOVERED: Dirty impacts of Kashagan oil field

5 December 2007

Legal violations and health and environmental problems revealed by NGOs

Brussels, 5th December - Toxic chemicals linked to development of the Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan are polluting the Caspian Sea environment and damaging the health and livelihoods of local communities, reveals a report launched today by a coalition of NGOs.[1] The Italian energy giant Eni - the company ultimately responsible for operations at the oil field - will be directly confronted with the NGOs' findings at a public debate in the European Parliament this afternoon.

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The hearing takes place from 15.00-17.00 on Wednesday 5 December 2007 in Room ASP 1G2 at the European Parliament, Brussels.
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Darek Urbaniak, on behalf of Friends of the Earth Europe, Friends of the Earth France, CEE Bankwatch Network and Campaign to Reform the World Bank, said:

"We have reasons to believe that the development of the Kashagan oil field is causing unacceptable levels of pollution in the Caspian Sea region, which can only get worse once oil extraction begins. Fish, birds and mammals are dying and local people's health is suffering as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals from oil extraction in the region. On top of this, the field operator is refusing to disclose crucial information about its social and environmental impacts. It must release this data immediately."

"The European Commission must also conduct a full and independent assessment of the impacts of this project before providing support to companies operating the field and engaging in the negotiations."

The new report exposes violations of both Kazakhstan's constitution and the Aarhus Convention by Eni and its subsidiary Agip KCO - which directly handles the Kashagan operation. Both these laws require Agip KCO to make public all information it has about the impacts of the Kashagan oil field, but it refuses to do so.

Refused this information by Agip KCO, the NGOs gathered local data and testimonies themselves during a fact-finding mission to the region, with alarming results.

  • Biodiversity is dropping in the Northern Caspian area, including fish, marine mammals and birds.

  • Endangered Caspian seal [2] are dying as a result of sulphur and other pollutants.

  • The whole Caspian Sea could suffer a biological death if pollution continues at the same rate, according to a study of the Kazakh Oil and Gas Institute.

  • Villagers report drops in their fish catches and skin diseases on the fish they did catch, making them unmarketable. This has severe socio-economic impacts for local communities because in some villages up to 40 percent of the population is employed in the fishing industry.

  • Workers at Kashagan are exposed to sulphate and other pollutants, causing direct impact on human neurological systems.

  • There is a high risk of a catastrophic accident, which could kill tens of thousands of people through exposure to toxic gases.

  • Young people are suffering increasingly from cardiovascular illnesses, respiratory illnesses, anaemia and blood illnesses such as leukaemia.

  • Extraction at the Kashagan oil field is particularly risky because of the specific chemical composition of Kashagan crude oil - it contains very high levels of sulphur and other toxic pollutants such as mercaptans. There are also onerous exploration conditions - including very high oil pressure and temperature, a harsh climate and an offshore location.

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NOTES
[1] The full report "Kashagan oil field development" can be found at:
http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2007/KashaganReport.pdf
[2] The Caspian Seal is an endangered IUCN (World Conservation Union) red-listed species.