Kazakhstan has the world’s first and largest operational space launch facility. It is located in Baikonur, in South Kazakhstan, close to the Aral Sea, and is leased by the Kazakh government to Russia. But this blog post is not about this kind of space, but about the space that surrounds us on earth.
Space is no luxury in Kazakhstan. The biggest country in Central Asia is larger than Western Europe, but counts only 17 million inhabitants. As a comparison, Belgium fits approximately 50 times in Kazakhstan and has 10 million inhabitants. Space in Kazakhstan is mainly found in the vast desert steppes. But Kazakhstan also has more diverse nature. You find it in the wind swept mountains in the North- and South-East, along the shores of the Caspian Sea, and in many other gems that are well hidden in the desert steppes. In Almaty we hiked in the Tien shan mountains close to the border with Kyrgyzstan. In Aktau we met a very helpsome local journalist that took us with his friend to a beautiful spot along the shores of the Caspian Sea in the Mangystau region. We hiked in a canyon towards a small pond hidden between the rock formations. While driving by car trough Mangystau we also observed several semi-wild horse herds graze, camels dwell along and on the road, sand storms sweep along the steppes, and white salt lakes.
Space is omnipresent, but is also being increasingly used and occupied. Several Kazakh cities are growing fast. In Almaty more affluent people are building houses closer to the mountains, where the air quality is better than in the city valley. Aktau, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, also experiences a rapid expansion. New appartement blocks are arising in the city. On the city borders, new (sub)urban areas have been (and are being) developed in areas that before were desert. We witnessed many family houses under construction, and even on Sunday evening construction workers were still at work. The availability of space is a real added value for Kazakhstan. We hope that it is being used wisely and with respect for nature.