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Meeting the challenges of the world’s expanding cities

Posted on 27 January 2015

One of the world’s newest and fastest growing capital cities is the location for a workshop led by University of York academics into the environmental and social impacts of rapid urbanization.

Bayterek Tower cityscape, Astana, Kazakhstan (credit: Mariusz Kluzniak, Flickr)

Professor Alistair Boxall, of York’s Environment Department, co-organised the Researcher Links Workshop in Astana in Kazakhstan. The British Council’s Newton-Al Farabi Partnership Programe funded the workshop which is supported by the L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University.

The five -day event brings together senior policy makers from national and local government, academic experts and early career researchers from UK and Kazak universities.

Professor Boxall said:  “We are discussing the challenges facing rapidly urbanizing cities in and beyond Kazakhstan and how new research technologies and research methodologies can help to better address these issues.

 “This is also a great opportunity to build research links between UK universities and our counterparts in Kazakhstan. We hope that the workshop will generate future collaborations in terms of research exchanges, grant applications and scientific publications.”

The welcoming address was given by the Vice Minister for Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Ahsambiev Absykaimovich, who identified a number of challenges for the Kazakh capital, which has quadrupled in population in 14 years. Astana’s 800,000 residents have an increasing need for clean drinking water and energy supply, Mr Absykaimovich  explained, while the growth in the urban population requires new infrastructure to cope with waste water treatment and the growing problem of air pollution.

Dr Nurkenov Esetovich, who chairs the National Chamber of Housing and Communal Services, explained some of the measures that the national and city governments have taken to make Kazakhstan’s cities more sustainable and protective of the natural environment. These include the introduction of water saving technology for the reuse and recycling of waste water; carbon dioxide capture, energy efficient building materials, new lower emission technologies for public transport and a move away from coal fired to gas powered power generation in and near cities.

As part of its long term strategy for sustainable and lower impact energy development, Kazakhstan plans to adopt new emission standards based on European Union protocols.

The British Council representative in Astana, Kanat Abashov, explained the opportunities available to UK and Kazakh researchers under the Newton-Al Farabi research collaboration. He congratulated the University of York and the Eurasian National University for organising the first workshop in the series and looked forward to discussing funding opportunities and the development of further links between environmental and urban researchers in the UK and Kazakhstan.

Professor Boxall was joined by Dr Carolyn Snell, of the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, and Dr Simon Parker, of the Department of Politics and York’s Centre for Urban Research, in representing York along with six research fellows and research students from Environment and Social Policy.  It also involves early career researchers from other UK universities including Brunel, University College London, Leeds, Newcastle, Imperial College, London School of Economics and Goldsmith’s to collaborate with 20 researchers and academics from Kazakhstan universities and research institutes.

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