Kazakhstan and West Virginia may be 6,000 miles apart but, as community leaders from the former Soviet Republic and West Virginia University’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy environmental experts learned, the two places have much in common, thanks to a collaboration arranged by the university, GlobalPittsburgh and the Library of Congress.
Officials from Kazakhstan traveled to the NRCCE on March 2 to discuss water quality issues and the redevelopment of former industrial sites with staff of the National Environmental Services Center and the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center. The Kazakhstani team was participating in the Library of Congress’ Open World Leadership Center program and came to WVU to discuss rural and small community environmental issues.
“Water and wastewater infrastructure and community engagement in local water and environmental issues is a high priority for Kasakhstan,” said Gerald Iwan, Ph.D., NESC executive director. “Refreshingly, operation and maintenance are recognized components of their water infrastructure projects, something often neglected here in the U.S. International, global informational exchange such as this broadens perspectives, and validates an integrated approach to addressing worldwide environmental concerns.”
“The opportunity to learn about the challenges Kazakhstan is facing really opened my eyes to how abandoned industrial sites universally impact the environmental and community development in a negative way,” said Patrick Kirby, NWVBAC program director. “As Kazakhstan rebuilds after years of Soviet rule, it’s inspiring to see that they are trying to incorporate sustainability and be environmentally conscious in their plans. If they can learn from experiences we’ve had with similar situations, that would be an invaluable outcome.”
Participants from Kazakhstan included Bolat Dalabayevich Beldebekov, deputy mayor of Tekeli; Aliya Altayevna Sadvokasova, a land use expert with the Ministry of Environmental Protection; Yekaterina Georgiyevna Strikeleva, a water program manager with the Central Asian Regional Environmental Center; Asel Sagyndykovna Tokzhanova, a natural resources inspector with the Ministry of Environmental Protection; and Nazgul Yesmukhanovna Zhabasova, deputy director of Natural Resources and Nature Management in West Kazakhstan province. The five leaders were accompanied by a facilitator, Natalia Polchencko, who is also an elementary school teacher.
Coordinated through WVU’s Office of International Students and Scholars, the Kazakhstanis are the most recent international visitors this academic year. Previous leaders have come to the NRCCE from Mongolia, Moldova, China, and Poland.
CONTACT: Gerald Iwan, National Environmental Services Center
304 293-419, x. 5584; Gerald.Iwan@mail.wvu.edu
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