Kazakhstan still recovering 60 years after Soviet bombing

29 Aug 2009

Astana, Kazakhstan — On this day 60 years ago, the first Soviet nuclear  bomb was tested at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, which then became the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons with more than 450 nuclear tests at the site.  Despite the fact that the test site was closed in 1991, it continues to have a negative influence on the region, which includes some rayons of East-Kazakhstan, Pavlodar and Karaganda Oblasts of Kazakhstan.

“Negative consequences include the degradation of environment, an increase in different diseases, decrease in the standard of living, economic depression and psychological difficulties, as a result of which the population of Semipalatinsk region continues to suffer and to bear the burden of responsibility for nuclear tests,” said Haoliang Xu, UNDP Resident Representative in Kazakhstan.

The Government of Kazakhstan has implemented numerous programmes,  including the Comprehensive Rehabilitation programme for 2005-2007,  to address the problems of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, and  the substantial assistance was provided by  the donor community since the Tokyo Conference in 1999, but the region still needs help. 

More than 1.3 million people were negatively affected by the tests, and many continue to suffer today. Closure of the Test Site in 1991, and overall economic depression  undermined the local economy.  As a result, economic insecurity increased, with rising unemployment, wage gaps and arrears, inflation and difficulty with saving for the future.  With economic restructuring and social service reform, many state institutions handling social welfare and services had to shut down as the government’s budget could no longer support them. Due to low quality of education and health care, infrastructure breakdown and shrinking budgets, the level of human development in the region drastically declined.

To help the country to response to those challenges, UNDP together with UNICEF, UNV and UNFPA with the financial support from the Japanese Government in 2008, launched a joint three-year programme, "Enhancing Human Security in the Former Nuclear Test Site of Semipalatinsk.".

According to UNDP National Project Director Zhanna Zhibraeva, “the objectives of the projects are in line with the priorities, identified in the Government programme for 2009-2011. Rehabilitation of the region and development of social infrastructure are among the key issues to be solved in order to help people to overcome lingering problems and to start building new life in the region.”

The project focuses on the key areas: health and social services, economic development and social infrastructure, and has three main objectives: to ensure access to quality basic health and social services for vulnerable groups, to build capacities for entrepreneurship and business skills, and to provide economic and employment opportunities and to mobilize communities and support NGOs and CBOs in providing community services and in acting as agents of change within society.

The project activities cover the cities of Semey and Kurchatov; former Abralynksky, Zhanasemeysky, Abaysky and Beskaragaysky regions of East-Kazakhstan Oblast; Maysky, Lebyazhynsky and Bayanaulsky regions of Pavlodar Oblast; and the former Egyndybulak region of Karaganda Oblast.

“We will stay here, in our land, as well as our children and grandchildren," said Mr. Syngat Syzdykov, a rural entrepreneur from the Kainar village in the Abralynsky region.  "And we are ready to rebuild and rehabilitate our region. We just need help.”

The United Nations General Assembly adopted six resolutions between 1997 and 2009, calling on the international community to assist the Government of Kazakhstan in its efforts to overcome problems related to the Semipalatinsk polygon.

Contact Information

Shynar Jetpissova: +7 7172 592550 shynar.jetpissova@undp.org
Nazira Wimmer: +7 7172 32 64 30   nazira.wimmer@undp.org
Snizhana Kolomiiets: +7 916 1079416 snizhana.kolomiiets@undp.org