KAZAKHSTAN | Floods – Nature and Capitalism Combine to Cause Mass Suffering

Image: Ministry for Emergency Situations of Kazakhstan

From the very beginning of spring this year, a catastrophic tragedy has been unfolding in Kazakhstan – whole villages and cities are being devastated by floods. Tens of thousands of houses have been literally submerged in water and people have had barely enough time to be rescued. The regions most affected have been Abay, Akmola, Aktobe, Atyrau, West Kazakhstan, Karaganda, Kostanay, Pavlodar, North Kazakhstan and Ulytau. A state of emergency was declared.

More than a hundred thousand people have been evacuated from their homes; more than thirty thousand of them are children. Natural disasters in themselves cannot really be blamed on the bosses and their system. But we can blame them for not predicting the disaster and not taking urgent action.

They knew

There is adequate proof that the authorities were totally aware of the danger of future floods. The Minister for Emergency Situations, Mr. Sharipkhanov, actually said at a government meeting in early January: “The total amount of this year’s precipitation is expected to be higher than normal. Snow coverage in five regions is already up to 70% and in 12 regions – over 90%. The southern and northern regions need to go into a state of heightened readiness”. The minister showed he was even well aware of the solution to this problem:

“Last year’s analysis showed that houses built in lowlands and located in close proximity to rivers or in water conservation zones were the ones mainly affected by waterlogging. The location of buildings in water protection belts is a widespread problem. As a result, the state has to make compensation payments to citizens affected by water damage… The authorities must prioritise the protection of these settlements or consider the possibility of their resettlement and further prohibit construction in these zones”.

In reality, things are much worse. They knew about the extreme amount of precipitation falling in Kazakhstan as early as last December. Kazhydromet itself – the state meteorological service – would later complain that the issue of the dangerous level of soil saturation had been pointed out since December.

“Both at the level of Kazhydromet and at the level of ministries, at briefings, at meetings, this issue was raised and everyone was warned that due to high levels of saturation, there will be high risks of flooding,” said Zhekizhanov, head of the service. So the country’s flooding had been predicted as early as last year.


The situation in the city of Kulsary, Atyrau region, is illustrative here. Because of the flooding, houses there literally began to collapse, several thousand of which were flooded. The evacuation was complicated by the almost complete flooding of the Dossor-Aktau road, the main road out of the city.

The most horrific thing is that this very road was closed back in December due to the same high precipitation that saturated the soil – that Kazhydromet had warned about. There is literally no reason why this disaster at Kulsara should not have been widely known to local authorities. It is clear, the city and its people were not prepared for the obvious disaster either in December or even in March. As the affected residents affirm, no training was carried out with them for the event of an emergency, not just months, but days before the flood.

The history of the Buzuluk reservoir also shows how well the state prepares for floods. Back in 2017, the then prime minister, Sagintayev, ordered that the floods be dealt with “once and for all” in the North Kazakhstan region. It was the construction of a “huge reservoir” that was supposed to ensure this, according to the prime minister. And three years later, the design of the reservoir was begun. And another three years later, the new prime minister assured that it would soon be ready… The reservoir project. They could not even complete the design stage in six years!

But the main horror of the situation is that the consequences of the flood could have been prevented not months, but years before the current situation arose. Kazakhstan suffers from floods every year, but the state encounters each new disaster as if it were the first time.

Who is guilty?

Agency of Financial Monitoring representative, Alibek Abdilov, said at a presidential Central Communication Service briefing that investigations are already underway against three entrepreneurs on whose shoulders the state has placed the responsibility for protecting the people from floods. And how did they cope?

During an inspection of a mud flow retention dam in the Aksai Basin, it was discovered that a private contractor had not performed the necessary work on the construction of the facility. Thus, he had exposed 30,000 inhabitants to danger in case of a flooding disaster. Individuals to whom our state entrusted the lives of tens of thousands of people, instead of giving government agencies the responsibility, are now suspected of embezzling public budget funds of up to 775 million tenge.

The collapse of the Magadzhan dam has also led to the flooding of a number of villages in the Aktobe region, forcing the evacuation of 215 people, including 96 children. And how surprised the state functionaries were when they remembered that the dam, which put so many lives in danger, had been in the hands of a private company since 2014? It was a privatised dam. Residents of the affected villages have already seen the results of management by a big private owner. And now we have to ask how many other important concerns are similarly in private hands.

The same AFM report gives us a new example of the quality of interaction between business and the state. The Ulytau authorities have transferred responsibility for cleaning the Zhezda River into private hands – the protection of nearby villages from floods. The private owners coped appallingly – 26 houses were flooded, 174 people were evacuated. But, of course, that could have been their ultimate goal.

The figures show that out of 485 million tenge allocated to them for their services, private owners did not even complete work worth 282 million tenge, despite the fact that they have already been paid 400 million.

Capitalism to blame

This is the face of the national bourgeoisie, which our ‘respected’ president so longed for. And these are the results of the trust and hope of state functionaries in the capitalist class – destruction and lost lives. When will the gentlemen ‘leaders’ stop submitting to the rich class and get the state itself to take responsibility for the safety of its citizens? Power must be taken from the clutches of the rich into the hands of the workers.

Why is the opposite happening? Why is it accepted that the state will deal with the consequences of disasters rather than minimise the damage they can do? What is the reason for the state’s criminal failure to prepare?

The only way to minimise the damage from ‘natural’ disasters is the mass relocation of people from flood zones and other dangerous areas. The state authorities and capitalist politicians know this very well. But it costs a lot of money. Preparing reservoirs and other water drainage facilities also requires funds. Our bourgeois state depends on the investment of capitalists in the construction of anything – be it reservoirs or houses. And capitalists will not invest in something that does not provide a guaranteed profit, even if the price for it is human life. What capitalist would invest in relocating entire cities to safety? What will he gain from this?

In a market economy, it is impossible to do anything that requires centralised planning measures. Even though the consequences of disasters are no less expensive, investing in capital-intensive measures to prevent disasters is unprofitable. That’s why It is impossible under capitalism and shows how vital is the struggle for state ownership with democratic workers’ control and management.

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April 2024