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Nation prepares to celebrate Astana’s 20th anniversary


ASTANA Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a directive Sept. 30 to prepare for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Kazakh capital – Astana, the Akorda press service reported.

Photo credit: astana.gov.kz

Nazarbayev called for the formation of the commission to prepare and hold the Astana City Day events. The President also approved “El Zhuregi – Astana” as the concept for the celebration.

The government of Kazakhstan together with the akims (mayors) of Astana and Almaty, as well as regional governors are assigned to develop and approve the action plan for the preparation and holding of the 20th anniversary of the capital of Kazakhstan within two months. In addition, they need to ensure timely financing of activities to hold the 20th anniversary of Astana, said the decree.

Kazakhstan’s Supreme Council decided to move the capital from Almaty to Akmola July 6, 1994. Officially, the capital was moved Dec. 10, 1997. By presidential decree dated May 6, 1998, Akmola was renamed Astana. The City Day was celebrated June 10 from the moment the city acquired the status of the country’s capital in 1998. Later, in 2006, the City Day was transferred to July 6.

In 1999, UNESCO awarded the City of Peace title to Astana. Since 2000, the Kazakh capital became a member of the International Assembly of Capitals and Major Cities of the Commonwealth of Independent States.



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Astana economy grows, EXPO 2017 investments expected to drive new trade development


ASTANA – Nine projects worth 13 billion tenge (US$38 million) will have been launched in the industrial zone in Kazakhstan’s capital by the end of the year, Astana Akim (Mayor) Asset Issekeshev said at a Sept. 20 maslikhat (city administration) meeting. Three of these projects have already been implemented.

Asset Issekeshev

“The key indicators showed positive dynamics since the beginning of the year due to the implementation of state programmes on industrialisation, construction, small and medium-sized businesses development. EXPO 2017 was also an important growth factor. Industrial production grew by 7.5 percent [336.6 billion tenge or US$991 million] mainly due to machine building, metallurgy and industrialisation map projects,” Issekeshev noted.

Twenty-four enterprises are included in the industrialisation map programme. The growth totalled 505.1 billion tenge (US$1.4 billion), taking into account the increase in investments in fixed assets.

The Business Road Map 2020 increased the activity of the local business people. Overall, 110 Business Road Map projects have been approved for a total of 14.7 billion tenge (US$43 million) from the beginning of the year. As a result, more than 8,000 jobs were saved and about 5,300 new jobs were created.

The dynamic development of entrepreneurship is also drawing more tax revenues from small and medium-sized businesses to the budget.

The attraction of foreign and private investment is now a focus. Sixty projects worth a total of US$3 billion will be launched and 26 of them have already been implemented with the participation of foreign investors and transnational corporations from Europe, Japan, the U.S. and Turkey. The projects mainly deal with traditional sectors as well as education, health care and information technology.

“We have studied the experience of many cities. For example, Beijing has focused on industry. Many plants were constructed and now the city suffers from environmental problems and water resource [shortages] and is forced to transfer its production. Therefore, we focus on productive services and modern production in our strategy. Our economic model is close to the model of Singapore and Dubai as global cities and the centres of their macroregions – Dubai for the Middle East and Singapore for Southeast Asia. Astana can become a global city of the Eurasian macroregion taking into account the organisation of EXPO and the readiness of the entire infrastructure, including the airport, the railway station and hotels,” he said.

Ten sectors expected to be able to maximally contribute to economic growth and the development of entrepreneurship were identified. It is planned to create 50,000 jobs by 2020, among then high-quality jobs like engineer positions at industrial enterprises, IT specialists, doctors and teachers. This year, 18,000 jobs will be created.

 



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Astana to build enclosed pedestrian skyway system


ASTANA – The Astana city government plans to build a system of enclosed pedestrian footbridges connecting buildings two and three stories above the sidewalk, according to the akimat (city administration) press service. The announcement was made during a meeting with the participation of Akim (Mayor) of Astana Asset Issekeshev.

The system will be similar to the “American Skyway” system in the United States city of Minneapolis. That system connects the second and third floors of various office towers, hotels, banks, corporate and government offices with restaurants and retail stores. The Minneapolis system also includes condominium and apartment complexes, allowing residents to live, work, and shop downtown without having to leave the skyway system, according to online sources.

That system is sometimes called a “city within the city” and is temperature controlled to accommodate the sharp winter and summer temperature changes in Minneapolis.

Astana also plans to commercialise its walkways. It also plans to build ring roads and develop transport infrastructure, as well as to increase the number of parking lots, streets, bridges, overpasses and traffic interchanges. Light rail transport will be introduced to develop alternative modes of transport. For the successful implementation of the comprehensive plan, the best international experience of such large metropolises as Dubai, Madrid, New York, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Paris and other cities of the world will be used, according to the city’s statement.

At present, more than 350,000 vehicles are registered in Astana. The number of non-resident cars is 400,000-450,000. The number of public transport vehicles is 1,025.



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Astana first city in CIS to complete first phase of dilapidated housing improvement programme


ASTANA – Kazakhstan recently became the first country in the Commonwealth of Independent states to complete the first phase of demolition in a pilot project concerning dilapidated housing. The Moscow city administration has decided to use Astana’s experience for its dilapidated housing project.

Photo credit: vlast.kz.

The project in Astana was called Affordable Housing 2020 and it started in 2013. Now it is integrated into the Nurly Zher national programme, and seeks to demolish dilapidated housing.

At the first stage of the project, 228 dilapidated houses were demolished and 3,500 families were resettled because the houses posed a threat to the occupants’ lives. From 2013 to 2016, 117 such houses were demolished and more than 1,500 families were resettled. At the moment, residents are being resettled from 77 emergency houses.

In 2017, the demolition of 111 houses, home to more than 1,800 families, is planned.

The Elorda Damu company was established to implement the pilot project by the Astana administration. The company allocated loan funds from the national budget at the initial stage of the project. In accordance with the terms of the pilot project, the company constructs apartments and gives 30 percent of them to the Astana administration for the resettlement of the residents of people from dilapidated houses. The company sells 70 percent of the apartments. Proceeds from the sale funds the company to again invest in construction. In such a manner, the company continues to build houses at the expense of its own capital.

The city administration reports that it decided to use land of demolished houses for the construction of parks, squares, sports grounds for people living in these areas, according to vlast.kz.

In January 2018, the implementation of the second phase of the pilot project will begin. It is planned to put into operation an additional 8,500 apartments with a total area of ​​about 600,000 square metres. Reinvestment of the pilot project at the end of 2017 will require 48 billion tenge (US$144 million).



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WIP Astana – city’s new type of public space


ASTANA – Probably many passers-by have noticed a stage next to the Keruen Shopping Mall. A special open-air space with the 80 seats and LED screen suddenly appeared in the city during the celebrations of the Capital Day on July 6. Work in Progress Astana, or simply WIP Astana is a new format of public space. It is free multifunctional area for the public, which is offered for the non-commercial events.

“Working in the Urban Centre, I have been a part of the discussions that the city needs more quality public space numerous times. But in fact, we do not quite understand what they should be. What gives it that quality? What is it made of? What functions should public space perform?” said centre’s team leader Aigerim Ospanova in an interview with The Astana Times.

So, WIP Astana turned out to be an experiment in this sense, she added. “It is designed to identify the real needs of urban communities and citizens and to reveal the characteristics of a universal successful public space.”

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“To this end, for several months now we have been collecting a list of communities and offering them a free site for their activities. Thus, we will establish a communication channel: we will receive ready-made answers to these questions [listed above],” stated Ospanova.

Astana has a lot of communities and people who care for the city and its inhabitants, she stated.

In addition to the main function of the site, which is for film screenings, it can be transformed to host a variety of events.

“So, for today we have already held master classes, TED talks, poetic and literary readings, concerts, children’s social camp, dance nights and sports events and much more to come,” she said.

For example, this week WIP is hosting volunteer meetings, Zumba class, screening of the “Boomerang” film, a sign language master class and more.

While the space was designed by the Urban Centre, it was implemented with the support of the city’s Yessil district administration and Astana Art Fest and will be open until the end of October.



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Astana hosts swimming race for children with disabilities


ASTANA – A swimming competition involving children with disabilities took place Aug. 17 in Astana. The Kazakh association of parents of children with disabilities organised the event with the support of Asyl Bala national association to demonstrate children’s boundless capabilities.

Children that participated in the race have different diagnoses, including cerebral palsy, spina bifida and sight and hearing difficulties.

“Our children have been attending adaptive swimming programme for six months launched by our association together with Space Fitness centre. We have such opportunity thanks to our cooperation. We want to show that our children are capable of everything,” Chairperson of the Kazakh association Nurgul Ulzhekova noted.

Focusing on opportunities rather than limitations is essential, according to Ulzhekova, as it helps demonstrate children abilities, promote healthy lifestyle and physical activity and transform common stereotype-based perception about people with special needs.

First Deputy Chairperson of the Astana office of Nur Otan party Bakhyt Saparov joined the celebrations and awarded the certificates to the participants.

Funded by private funds, the association runs two group classes this year – adaptive swimming and adaptive karate providing training to nearly 60 kids.

Children are demonstrating incredible results within a short period, including strengthening their immune systems, improving coordination of movement and memory and learning movement skills.



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Kazakh craft fair offers handmade souvenirs


ASTANA – This summer, the capital is welcoming more tourists than ever. As EXPO 2017 nears its end, guests are seeking mementoes to take a piece of Kazakhstan home with them. The Sheberler Ayuly (Village of Crafts People) offers a variety of handmade products in national style. The exhibit, located near Baiterek monument, will be open until the end of the expo.

“Foreign tourists and guests of our capital necessarily want to get some souvenir or gift that is connected not only with the city of Astana and the expo, but in general with the symbols of our country. Here, everyone is able to find such original products made by local crafts people,” said Sheberler Ayuly organiser Aigul Zhanserikova, according to the city akimat (local administration) press service.

The exhibition features products of crafters from different regions of Kazakhstan – Almaty, Astana, South Kazakhstan, Petropavlovsk, Atyrau, Kostanai and Semei. Anyone can buy souvenirs with Kazakh symbols at affordable prices.

Exclusive products made of leather, ceramics, wood and clay, various jewellery, traditional Kazakh embroidery, wallets and bags, children’s slippers and other handmade souvenirs are especially popular among tourists.

“The whole world is now moving in the direction of eco and ethno. This is becoming a big trend; therefore, all the products produced by artisans reflect this style. Prices here are acceptable and affordable for many,” said Zhanserikova.

Similar products can be found near the Yessil River embankment, where craft shops and artist’s workshops are located in 14 half-yurts.

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Photo credit: astana.gov.kz

“Every city in the world has its own Arbat,” said Astana’s Saryarka district Akim (Mayor) Arman Turlubek referring to a famous walk-only street in Moscow. “This is the place where folk craft people, musicians and artists gather. They are representatives of a unique subculture that is always open for each person and pleasing with their works and talents. Their style forms a special look of districts and cities. As you can see, the most skillful masters of applied art are gathered here. The atmosphere of the Yessil River embankment makes this place truly beloved and popular.”

Fans of handmade items can purchase bead and stone jewellery, knitted and ceramic products and interior and play dolls, as well as soap. Masters engaged in pottery, leatherwork and embroidery demonstrate their best products to fair visitors.

“I have been engaged in art for seven years. At this exhibition, we offer albums, postcards, decoupage boxes, paintings, handmade soaps and so on. Both foreign tourists and local residents visit the site, looking for some unusual souvenirs associated with Astana,” fair participant Evelina Andrakhanova told the paper.

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Astana’s promenade was created on the initiative of city Akim (Mayor) Asset Issekeshev. The facility is designed to awaken an interest in the history and traditions of the Kazakh people among the younger generation.

“This is my second visit to Kazakhstan. I am from the Czech Republic. I live with my friends near the embankment and almost every week I come here to pick up some gifts for my family members. I like the atmosphere here, I really enjoy it. People come here not only to buy something, but look at these amasing handmade items, play chess, sing karaoke or just relax,” said tourist James Kral.



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Zhastary youth centre takes active part in Astana life


ASTANA – Astana Zhastary Youth Centre takes an active role and provides real assistance to capital youth ages 14-29. Established Feb. 3, 2014, the centre is completely supported by the city administration.

“The centre has four major departments. The first one is the employment and career guidance department. It aims at the employment of young people. Its employees receive résumés and find the right jobs for young people, conducting different trainings on the development of professional and personal skills and entrepreneurship with the participation of such professional trainers as Emin Askerov, Danil Faizullayev and Chingiz Lepsibayev. Trainings are constantly held for young people and absolutely free of charge,” said Head of the centre’s department Aigerim Beisembayeva in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times.

“The second organisational department is responsible for the creation and organisation of projects and activities. Dozens of successful projects have been created for the three years of the centre’s existence, some of which are held to this day,” she said.

The centre offers projects for a variety of interests, such as book dating to popularise reading, Astana Ideas, a platform to present concepts for urban studies, and the Saryarka Short Film Festival.

“The third is the department for the development of domestic clubs. At the moment, there are 18 community clubs in our centre where children can participate in boxing, karate, choreography, modelling, fine arts and CrossFit,” said Beisembayeva.

“And the last one, the fourth, is the legal assistance department. The centre provides free legal consultations for young people,” she added.

Beisembayeva noted the club was founded and operates to give any young person the opportunity to come to the centre, use it as a resource and receive assistance.

“We are striving to become a second home for all teenagers, children and young people,” she said.

Although local authorities finance all the centre’s activities, it is always seeking help from volunteers.

“Everybody can become a volunteer at our centre. It is enough to come to our office and fill out a volunteer questionnaire and after that we will train such persons in our volunteer school. The activities of our volunteers are very extensive and different. They take part in the most interesting events of the city such as Yarkokross, Astana Art Fest, matches of the Astana Football Club, Astana Marathon, Delphic Games, BI Group Triathlon, Inter-Syrian negotiations and Astana Economic Forum,” she said.

Volunteers are also visible at EXPO 2017, as they continue to participate in the three months of the international specialised exhibition.

Information about the centre can be found on its Instagram pages: @astana_zhastary and @job_astana_zhastary.



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Astana to be featured in National Geographic’s Megastructures television series


ASTANA – The new “Astana, City of the Future” film about the architectural wonders of Astana will debut Aug. 8 at EXPO 2017 in Astana.

The film is a new episode of National Geographic’s iconic TV series Megastructures, which shows high-tech innovations used in the construction of some of the world’s most impressive buildings. The film on Astana is going to show the story of Kazakh capital’s construction and modernisation using up-to-date computer graphics.

“Astana, City of the Future” was produced by the Off The Fence production company. Its crew visited Astana in April to capture its unique architecture with a focus on the EXPO 2017 campus. The most important point of the film is the construction of the key element of the expo,  Nur Alem, which is considered the largest spherical building in the world.

The documentary also includes interviews with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, head of the Astana EXPO 2017 national company Akhmetzhan Yessimov, architects Gordon Gill and Norman Foster, who took part in Astana’s design.

The film will be shown on National Geographic’s international channels till the end of August. Before the unveiling of the documentary, the film crew will hold a press conference at the EXPO Media Centre Aug. 9 at 2:30 pm. National Geographic’s Executive Vice President in Europe & Africa Deborah Armstrong and Executive Producer of the film and CEO of Off The Fence Ellen Windemuth will participate in the press conference.



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Astana, Singapore to cooperate in green construction technology


ASTANA – The Kazakh and Singaporean delegations signed agreements on joint cooperation in Astana as part of the Singaporean visit to the EXPO 2017 for the National Day of Singapore, the Astana akimat (city administration) reports.

The Kazakh delegation was represented by Akim (Mayor) of Astana Asset Issekeshev and the guests were represented by Senior Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of Singapore Koh Poh Koon.

During the meeting, the akim presented the delegation a programme of be capital’s development as tasked by the head of state until 2020. The akim told the gathering about the transformation of the capital to a “smart and safe city” concept. Astana, according to the akim, is also to become a Eurasian and international hub for investors and innovations, taking into account the creation of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC).

The Kazakh delegation proposed projects in areas such as the introduction of smart technologies into city planning and management systems in the areas of public transport, health, education, security, and transparent workflows of the akimat and city services.

Following the meeting, the sides agreed to implement projects in three areas.

The first is to study Singapore’s experience, regulations and organisation of work on smart infrastructure, digital engineering, green construction, using Building Information Modeling technology in design, building permits, construction and building management.

The issue of green construction and the use of energy-efficient technologies was considered separately. Singapore has developed its own green standard and the number of buildings that meet the green standard is 33 percent.

The second agreement deals with cooperation regarding public transportation systems, road construction planning, parking, the introduction of information technologies in passenger transport and the creation of an integrated model of passenger transport management, among others.

As for the third area, the sides agreed to cooperate to introduce more technologies in public healthcare.



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