Gulsym Nazarova, a teacher, is excited about the prospect of decorating her brand-new home in Araltal, northwestern Kazakhstan. “Twenty years ago, I couldn’t even imagine having my own house,” she says, imagining the curtains and lights she will install when she finally settles in.

Nazarova is among 464 families who are being resettled from the villages of Berezovka and Bestau in northwest Kazakhstan after the government’s decision to expand a safety perimeter around the nearby Karachaganak oil and gas field.

As a partner in the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV consortium (KPO), Shell is part of the group helping villagers like Nazarova to resettle.

Ensuring safety

When resettlement is unavoidable, Shell works closely with local communities to help them relocate with a view to maintaining or improving their standard of living in line with international best practice. Shell’s resettlement work is a crucial part of its core commitment of working without causing harm to people or the environment.

The resettlement in Kazakhstan is being led by the regional government and funded by KPO. In late 2015 the first 82 households were successfully resettled. Now the remaining 373 households are moving from Berezovka, which has been in slow decline since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

“Some of the closer villages in the original safety perimeter relocated years ago, but with the expansion of this perimeter more villages were affected,” says Martin Rhodes, KPO’s Plant manager.

KPO’s operators, including Shell, recognise the economic value of the site to the wider region. The field contains 1.2 billion tons of oil and gas condensate and more than 1.35 trillion cubic metres of gas, making it one of the largest oil and gas deposits in the world.

Every contractor related to KPO’s operations must meet the consortium’s high health, safety and environmental standards with KPO providing training support to contractors.  

A new life

Nazarova says she already feels the benefits of the time she has spent in Araltal.

Located just 5km from the town of Aksai in northwestern Kazakhstan, Araltal has good access to shops, hospitals and employment opportunities but still retains a village feel, with garden plots for each house.

As part of its commitment to the resettlement process, KPO and partners have also funded the construction of a new school and kindergarten, where half the places will be available to residents of the relocation.

Each family was provided with a moving allowance of $1000 per household in addition to $200 per person. Residents were also compensated for any property that could not be moved in the resettlement.

KPO and partners will continue to consult with the affected residents and local authorities to ensure people thrive in their new home.

Every move has its challenges. For Nazarova, who will upgrade from her former two-room apartment to a house, being located further away from her mother’s grave is difficult.

Svetlana Geimur, 43, is also moving from Berezovka. Despite feeling nervous about the big change in her life, she is pleased that the residents have been kept informed with regular consultations.

“We are comfortable with this. We are resettling together with others from our village and many people from there will be next to us as neighbours.”

Geimur has now planted trees around her new house in Araltal. “My hope for the future is that everything will be better and we will get new opportunities.”

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