Astana’s Green Trajectory

Victor KiyanskiyThe results of the international architectural competition for the best design for the EXPO 2017 exhibition complex were summarized in Astana in late October.

The winning company, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture designed a huge sphere with a diameter of 150 metres that represents the sustainable development of our country and our nation’s concern for nature.

Every incarnation of the World Fair is a unique event and opportunity not only for participating countries, but also for the organizers to demonstrate their advances in technology, achievements in culture and architecture and historical development. From this point of view, not only the fair grounds, but the entire left bank of Astana is an excellent platform to showcase and promote the deep history of Kazakhstan as an important part of the history of Eurasia and global civilization.

Mazhilis deputies in early November adopted a package of amendments to existing codes and laws for the successful organization and hosting of the international specialized exhibition EXPO 2017. Together with earlier introduced amendments to the environmental code, tax legislation and technical regulations, they represent a solid legal base for the successful holding of this international forum and the introduction of alternative energy clusters. However, much work needs to be done for all parties to successfully execute this law.

Now, broad public and expert discussions on how to upgrade existing facilities outside the fair grounds through the prism of the fair’s “Energy of the Future” theme while including business, volunteers and ordinary citizens must be had. All significant objects should be considered through the prism of change that should be made to emphasize the priority of the green development of the city.

For example, in London, in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. the roof of the Victorian age Blackfriar Bridge (erected in 1884 over the River Thames) was built from 4,400 photovoltaic panels which produce 900 thousand kilowatt hours of energy per year. This bridge became the longest “sun bridge” in the world. Such approaches to saving energy, recycling waste and re-using materials for construction at other sports facilities, enabled the international community to recognize the 2012 Olympic Games as the greenest games in history.

All these standards will be used in preparation for EXPO 2017. The exhibition in Astana should become the greenest event in history and a step in the formation of environmental design and landscape architecture which takes into account all historical, geographical and natural features of Eurasia.

The left bank of Astana has inherited ancient Eastern traditions. As in the ancient settlement of Arkaim, the cities of Kyoto and Nara in Japan, the cities of Xian and Luoyang in China and the ancient capital of Mandalay in Burma, the architectural masterpieces of Astana are planned according to the cardinal directions, which like compass points, allow one to orient themselves at any time of day. It is therefore logical that the whole architectural style of the left bank is intimately connected to the course of the Sun. As known, the ancient nomads worshiped the Kүn (sun), because it symbolized the day, weather, time, numbers and life. The coordinate system from the Kүn, which is on the flag of Kazakhstan, is a guide for curious residents of our capital. Therefore, the environmental elements arising from draft ideas for the World Expo can incorporate Astana’s special relationship with the sun.

Now, with the Water-Green Boulevard under reconstruction, perhaps it’s time to find a way to modernize the system of night lighting with solar lamps, which are already commercially available, and use accumulated rainwater and drip irrigation for watering flowers, grass and trees. Other regions of Kazakhstan can learn from the new and green technology used at EXPO 2017. Simultaneously, the widespread use of domestically manufactured solar panels can significantly improve their competitiveness and financial costs. Modernization should be in sync with the general development plan of the capital and serve the aspirations of the Kazakhstan 2050 strategy.

We should skillfully and harmoniously select economical and ecologically friendly approaches in balance with new and traditional forms of energy which complement each other. Astana, as a young city, has much greater potential than older towns in regards to effective modernization. We should take into account the fact that we are in the third industrial revolution, which is based on five key areas of development: transition to renewable energy sources, building electricity generating buildings, the introduction of energy storage technologies, the creation of an “energy Internet” and the transition to electric and hybrid vehicles.

No less important is the fact that we have information on the most successful foreign case studies and advanced practices of other countries which have histories of successful water and renewable energy use. The Water-Green Boulevard can become an unobtrusive showcase of clean technologies. This requires thought out interactions between designers, architects and engineers at all levels.

The strategic goal for Astana is making it the center of the country; it will be a center of green technology, landscape architecture and cultural innovation. This destiny was given to the city by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Today, the city is home to unique “smart houses,” institutions that use renewable energy sources and green oases on the banks of the Yessil River.

Such approaches are the essence of the President’s “Green Bridge,” “Green Economy,” and “Green Development” projects and the concept behind The ATOM Project. The man-made “Green Belt” of over 40 hectares around the capital has had a beneficial impact on the microclimate of the city and development of flora and fauna.

In addition, new parks, squares, alleys and recreation zones are being built in Astana. Today, the standards of “smart” or “open” cities, based on criteria such as safety, ecological friendliness and economic considerations are added to these factors. The Smart Astana concept approved in 2011 has its roots in European experience in implementing similar projects corresponding to six principal areas of development – the “smart economy,” “smart management,” “smart life,” “ smart mobility,” “smart people” and “smart environment.”

In 2013, at the third Smart Astana international conference, participants discussed the concept’s “road map.” Before EXPO 2017, the Smart Astana project, where “smart environment,” which entails the creation of automatic environmental monitoring of the city’s atmosphere in real time and the introduction of the “green neighbourhood” to implement innovative ideas in the field of sustainable urban development and economical use of energy will be launched. Astana will become the starting point for the introduction of smart technology throughout Kazakhstan.

The name of our capital, Astana, is also rife with Eurasian symbolism. Archaeologists and historians agree that it is one of the oldest settlements and a busy camp on the route from Asia to Europe.

Astana is the continuation of the Kazakh tradition of Zhasyl El, which was restored by the President. The fir tree is a green symbol of the El (country). Astana is not only geographically and geopolitically in the center of Eurasia, but also a phenomenal historical place. Its location between major sacred places in Eurasia and the ongoing revival of the Silk Road allows the Kazakh capital to be a modern day common ground for discussing all religious, inter-ethnic, trade and political issues, let alone any issue that requires deep dialogue between East and West. The third industrial revolution is also going on in Astana in conjunction with these trends.

The plan is to make the city the centre of the country’s “biosphere valley” with a centre for biosphere research which will become a fundamentally new scientific agglomeration in forming an industrial-innovative paradigm of development in the 21st century. All this greatly increases interest in our capital, where innovation is carefully woven into Kazakh tradition and where every monumental structure is located. Astana is likely what foreigners associate the Kazakhstan people and their country with. A new stage of development of the capital related to EXPO 2017 will make Astana and Kazakhstan even more visible and respected around the world.

The author is a member of the Mazhilis and member of the Committee on Ecology and Nature.

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