Socio-ecological Union
News

The Newsletter of
the Socio-Ecological Union
A Center for Coordination
and Information

Moscow, Russia, March 15, 2005


IN THIS ISSUE: 

BELOVEZHSKAYA PUSHCHA FOREST NEEDS HELP!

SAVE THE DANUBE RESERVE CAMPAIGN: UKRAINE HAS VIOLATED AARHUS CONVENTION

INTERNATIONAL GROUP OF NGOs ASK PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN TO INFLUENCE RUSSIAN GOVERNEMENT TO RECONSIDER SIBERIA-FAR EAST OIL PIPE ROUTE

EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT CONSULTS WITH THE PUBLIC TO DEVELOP A NEW ENERGY POLICY


BELOVEZHSKAYA PUSHCHA FOREST NEEDS HELP!

  Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Belarusian Bialowieza Forest, is a beautiful place of wildlife, the Europe's last remnant of primeval forests. Today, it is the National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Biosphere Reserve that was awarded the European Council Diploma, which is the highest recognition of Belovezhskaya Pushcha's importance and uniqueness on the planet Earth.
   Belovezhskaya Pushcha lies at the border of Poland and Belarus. It has been protected since 14th century. Its area now makes 87,000 hectares. The average age of its trees is over 100 years, going up to 250-350 years in some places. Pushcha also counts over a thousand of 300-600 year-old giant trees. The flora of the unique area is represented by over 2,000 species, the fauna - by over 11,000 species. Living creatures that have disappeared in most of Europe find here their home. More than 150 rare species are listed in the Belarusian Red Data Book, including such valuable ones as the Bison, Lynx, Badger, White-tailed eagle, Shorttoed Eagle, Black stork, Grey crane, Great grey owl, Eagle owl, Three-toed Woodpecker, Aquatic Warbler, Silver fir, durmast, Lilium martagon, Astrantia major, etc. Belovezhskaya Pushcha provides a habitat for one of the largest bison populations in the world (about 300 animals).
   In 1994, the Property Management Department of the Belarusian President (PPMD) took control over the unique area. The new administration of the National Park had nothing to do with conservation work and wildlife science in the famous forest. It rather considered its economical value, unleashing an intensive commercialization there. The profit was gained by various means - by raring cattle, enlarging farming fields, starting trade, putting up a production of birch juice, mushrooms, berries and herbs, and increasing a quota for commercial hunting. But the drastic step in the development of the National Park was made at the end of the 90s by building up sawmills. The biggest mill, which could process a much higher volume of wood than the forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha could supply, appeared in the village of Kamenyuki, the administrative centre of the National Park. High-performance wood-processing equipment for it was purchased in Germany for over $1.5 million.
   Generations of local people took care to save the primeval forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha that is valuable for abundance of ancient organisms. The organisms can be saved only if the felling of the forest is limited and the rules of forest conservation are observed. All this is a thing of the past now.
   The National Park faced economical hardships to call in a credit for the costly wood-processing equipment, and, as a solution to all that, a new director of the National Park, an expert in wood-processing, was appointed in 2001. This led to a large-scale felling in the forest, with ecological problems such as bark beetle infestation often used as a cover-up for it. The felling rather deteriorated the problems than helped do away with them.
   The felling, timber processing and wood sale reached huge scales at present. Sawmill are equipped by new machines, additional benches for wood processing are purchased. Up to 250,000 cubic metres of wood a year (nearly 800 hectares of the forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha) is harvested at present, which is an impressive figure comparing with 70,000 cubic metres of wood in the past. The scope of the harvesting tells that it is commercialized and the sanitary issue, even though Pushcha has recently seen Bark beetle infestations, is not what is behind it. The very build-up of pro sanitary felling that followed the erection of the sawmills seems to be telling that this is the case. The sanitary issue is just a convenient excuse for the massive commercial felling that the present administration of the National Park has virtually been using to make money out of the unique forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
   The felling as well as other commercial-driven activities, which often infringe national and international law and conventions ratified by Belarus, prove the indifference the present administration of the National Park has as regards the faith of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. To protect the unique forest and bring an end to the illegal and secret felling, an international campaign was launched in 2003. It helped stop a large scale felling of living forest.
   However, all in all, the situation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha did not improve for the better. The massive 'sanitary' felling went on. The sawmill in the village of Kamenyuki works almost round the clock. Moreover, another disturbing development has been seen since 2003 - that is man-made forest plantations. Every year the area of the plantations grows larger, which means that the area of the primeval primary forest dwindles correspondently. It means the wild reserved forest is replaced by man-made one which is less valuable. The administration does not listen to ecologists, ecological and conservation methods are ignored. As a result, the wilderness of Belovezhskaya Pushcha disappears.
   Numerous violations of law and ecological science are still topical for the National Park. The public cannot monitor the economic activities there. Many violations are covered up by a higher authority. Workers of the Park are sacked if they protest against it. The National Park itself has become a place for recreation and entertainment of authorities' officials and their kin (the government residence is known to be there). As if the wool over people's eyes, the residence of Santa Claus was built in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. It is the residence rather than the primeval forest and unique wildlife that is advertised for tourists today.
   THE CONCERNS ARE THAT THE ANCIENT AND UNIQUE FOREST OF BELOVEZHSKAYA PUSHCHA IS GRADUALLY TRANSFORMED INTO ONE OF THOUSANDS OF COMMONLY FOUND IN EUROPE COMMERCIAL FORESTRIES. The transformation is irreversible... Felled areas and man-made forest plantations will not be able to substitute the wilderness, uniqueness and originality of the protected wood. The Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest becomes an ordinary 'forest' area. But the latest figures show that the volume of felling in 2005 is going to be two times higher....
   Over the course of several years, Belarusian public organizations and activists have been trying to convince the authorities to stop the destruction and environmental degradation of the Europe's last primeval forest. The Park's administration reacted to this by virtually making its activity secret. Public activists and independent ecologists can hardly access the area of the National Park. The Ministry of Natural Resources and the PPMD shut their eyes on it and do not react positively to allow the public control. The only way to find out information on the state of affairs in the Park is through reconnaissance. Watchdogs on conservation that arrive to Belovezhskaya Pushcha look all like 'orchestrated'. They seem to overlook the facts of ecological problems. Even the last year's enlargement of the strictly reserved zone of the forest was rather prompted by the work of the UNESCO, and was more for diverting the public's attention from problems of the National Park rather than a noble act to conserve the wilderness area.
   Alongside this, there is also pressure on reporters, scientists and nature protection activists who try to be independent in their coverage of the situation in the National Park. State-run newspapers tend to present only one side of the story, which focuses on ideologically-weighed (dis)information on real and surreal achievements of the administration of the Park, while the publishing true-fact articles are impossible.
   THIS WHY WE ARE LAUNCHING AN INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT THE BELARUSIAN PART OF BELOVEZHSKAYA PUSHCHA.WE CALL TO HELP THE BELARUSIANS SAVE THE FOREST OF BELOVEZHSKAYA PUSHCHA FROM BARBARIC EXPLOITATION BY SENDING YOUR LETTERS AND FAXES TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS, ALEXANDER GRIGORIEVICH LUKASHENKO. If you do not have a fax, you can send you letter to his email address. It would be good to send a copy of your letter to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection, Khoruzhyk Leonty.

**************
  DRAFT letter (You can also send your own):
  The President of the Republic of Belarus, Lukashenko A.G., copy: the Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus, Khoruzhyk L.I.

  Dear Alexander Grigorievich!
   The wildlife of the National Park 'Belovezhskaya Pushcha' is an integral part of both the people of Belarus and the world heritage. The forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is the Europe's last remnant of primeval forests. It is of great value to the planet Earth.
   As I have learned, the intensive economic activity continues to be conducted in the National Park which contradicts the aims of nature protection and conservation of the unique primeval forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The wildlife of the National Park is threatened with massive felling. Man-made forest plantations leave no trace of the forest wilderness, which irreversibly changes the look of the primeval forest. The area of that forest constantly decreases. The National Park is transformed into one of the forms of commercial timber enterprises where the methods of forestry, typical for timber enterprises, replace ecological techniques of conservation of biological diversity.
   The administration of the National Park turns a deaf ear to suggestions of ecologists on conservation, while the ecological and wildlife since is ignored. Commercial-driven activities in the forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha often infringe national and international law, and conventions ratified by Belarus. The public cannot monitor the activities of the administration of the National Park that seems to cover up many violations. Watchdogs on conservation that arrive to Belovezhskaya Pushcha look all like 'orchestrated'. Therefore the government is not getting by true information and facts that create the simulation of 'wellbeing' in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The present state of affairs discredits the conservation work in Belarus and puts in doubt the fairness of the policy for conservation pursued by the government of the Republic of Belarus.
   As a result, the unique forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is gradually transformed into one of thousands of commonly found in Europe forestries. If the felling of the primeval forest and other danger activities carries on, we may lose this beloved wilderness area called Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
   In this regard, we ask you, as the guarantor of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, to take the following measures for protection of the National Park 'Belovezhskaya Pushcha':
   1. To stop the management in the National Park which leads to destruction of the unique reserved forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, first of all, to stop planned massive wood harvesting and creation of artificial, man-made plantations which destroy the primary structure of the primeval forest. To adapt ecological-friendly methods and techniques which conserve biological diversity, instead of methods applied in commercial timber enterprises.
   2. To take actions to institute criminal proceedings against those who are responsible for violations of law on ecology .
   3. To conduct all commercial activities in the area of the National Park, the forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, in conformity with the Belarusian law on nature and modern ecological and conservation principles.
   4. To make public all activity of the administration of the National Park 'Belovezhskaya Pushcha', allow independent experts to inspect the area of the National Park and create for the National Park a watchdog that will consist of independent experts and public activists.
   Respectfully and with hope that the forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha will be saved, Signatures

*****
  ADDRESSEES:
  POST mail:
  THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS, LUKASHENKO A.G.,
  The Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus, 38 Karl Marx Street, Minsk, 200016, Belarus;
  Fax: 8-10-375-17-226-06-10 (the international codes are for Ukraine);
  Email: contact@president.gov.by.

  POST mail: THE MINISTER OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS, KHORUZHYK L.I.,
  10 Collectornaya Street, Minsk, 220048, Belarus;
  Fax: 8-10-375-17-220-55-83;
  Email: minproos@mail.belpak.by.

********
  If you can, please let know mass media and your colleagues about this information. Also, please we do ask you to forward e-copies of your letters to the ecological group 'Pechenegi' at pecheneg@ic.kharkov.ua.
   You can find out more about the campaign to protect the forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha at the Web site of the International Socio-Ecological Union at http://www.seu.ru/projects/belovezha/, or by writing to the initiators of the campaign. Detailed information on the situation in the National Park 'Belovezhskaya Pushcha' can be found at the Web site 'Belovezhskaya Pushcha - 21st Century' at http://bp21.org.by/ru/ff/.
   We hope that, if we stand together, we can protect and save the forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
   UKRAINIAN COALITION 'FOR WILDLIFE', THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL UNION:
   Sergey Shaparenko, the Ecological group 'Pechenegi' - pecheneg@ic.kharkov.ua
   Vladimir Boreyko, the Kiev ecological and cultural centre - kekz@carrier.kiev.ua, borey@alfacom.net
   Olga Zakharova, the International Socio-Ecological Union - seupress@seu.ru

SAVE THE DANUBE RESERVE CAMPAIGN: UKRAINE HAS VIOLATED AARHUS CONVENTION

  The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee found Ukraine in violation of its obligations under the Aarhus Convention during the construction of the Danube - Black Sea canal.
  On May 5, 2004, Ecopravo-Lviv (EPL) submitted a communication to the Committee alleging non-compliance by Ukraine with its obligations under Aarhus Convention. The communication concerned a proposal to construct a navigation canal in the Danube Delta passing through an internationally recognized wetlands area.
   On February 18, 2005, the Committee found that by failing to provide for public participation required by article 6 of the Aarhus Convention, Ukraine was not in compliance with article 6. The Committee also found that by failing to ensure that information was provided by the responsible public authorities upon request, Ukraine was not in compliance with article 4 of the Convention.
   In addition, the Committee found that lack of clarity with regard to public participation requirements in environmental impact assessment and environmental decision-making procedure on projects indicate the absence of a clear, transparent and consistent framework for implementation of the Convention and constitute non-compliance with general obligation provided by article 3 of the Convention.
   The Committee adopted several recommendations. These recommendations request Ukraine to bring its legislation and practice into compliance with the provisions of the Convention. In addition, Ukraine is requested to submit a strategy (including time-schedule) for transposing the Convention's provisions into the national law and developing practical mechanisms and implementing legislation that sets out clear procedures for implementation of various requirements under the Convention. The recommendations will be considered by the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention in Almaty (Kazakhstan) in May, 2005.
   The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on Parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice. The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement, it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness. See: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/
   Information by Ecopravo-Lviv More about EPL: http://www.epl.org.ua/eng/
   More about Danube canal case: http://epl.org.ua/a_cases_Danube_C.htm
  More about Save the Danube reserve campaign http://www.seu.ru/projects/eng/dunay

INTERNATIONAL GROUP OF NGOs ASK PRIME MINISTER OF JAPAN TO INFLUENCE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT TO RECONSIDER SIBERIA-FAR EAST OIL PIPE ROUTE

  An international group of NGOs, including Socio-ecological Union International, WWF-Russia, Greenpeace-Russia, Pacific Environment, The Living Sea Coalition, IFAW-Russia, ISAR - Far East, Baikal Environmental Wave, "Dauria" Ecological Center, Phoenix Fund, Green Cross, Far Eastern Branch, addressed Prime-minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi on the controversial oil pipe constriction project, which, in its present state, will affect Lake Baikal and the habitat of Far-East leopard.
  The letter reads:
  Your Excellency:
  We, the undersigned organizations, respectfully request that you, the Prime Minister of Japan, and your Cabinet urge the Russian Federation and the Russian oil transport company Transneft to reconsider their plan to build an oil pipeline through the seismically active Severomuisky Range near Lake Baikal to the pristine Perevoznaya Bay on the Amur Bay in Southwest Primorsky Krai. We do not all necessarily oppose construction of a pipeline to the Sea of Japan; however, we do all strongly oppose its route through fragile ecosystems in the Lake Baikal basin and in Southwest Primorsky Krai as well as its terminal in Perevoznaya Bay.
   The proposed terminal site in Perevoznaya Bay, within the greater Amur Bay, is the worst possible place in the Russian Far East to locate an oil terminal and refinery for many reasons.
   Perevoznaya Bay is an extremely open bay, and in the event of an oil spill, water currents will carry oil over a wide area. In Perevoznaya, the high volume of tanker traffic between the area's many islands during the windy storm season greatly increases the probability of a major oil spill. The water near Perevoznaya is shallow, and oil tankers traveling to and from Perevoznaya will have to navigate past a string of small islands at the mouth of the Amur Bay to reach it. The Khasansky area, where the Perevoznaya Bay is situated, is also a critical economic zone for recreation, aquaculture, and fisheries. The local population is reliant on those economies and so is strongly opposed to the construction of an oil terminal nearby, as evidenced in recent public hearings. Oil spills in the Amur Bay would threaten to pollute:
   The most popular beaches and tourist resorts in Primorsky Krai, visited by tens of thousands of tourists annually;
   The coasts of the city of Vladivostok, located directly opposite Perevoznaya in the Amur Bay;
   Primorsky Krai's main commercial aquaculture farms and important fish spawning grounds, on which local Russian fishermen are economically dependent; and
   The Far East Marine Biosphere Reserve: the only protected marine area in Russia and home to large populations of marine mammals and seabirds. The Far Eastern Marine Reserve is home to vast amounts of marine biodiversity and provides spawning grounds for species including sea cucumbers and pollock that migrate throughout the Sea of Japan. Oil spilled en route to Perevoznaya could potentially reach the Marine Reserve within a matter of hours.
   The Transneft pipeline, if routed to Perevoznaya, would run along or through two protected land areas in southwest Primorsky Krai: Barsovy Wildlife Refuge and Kedrovaya Pad Nature Preserve. Kedrovaya Pad is Russia's oldest preserve and was recently awarded the status of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Southwest Primorsky Krai is one of Russia's richest regions in terms of biodiversity: it is home to thirty percent of Russia's endangered "Red List" species, including the Amur tiger and the Amur leopard, which has been recognized by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as critically endangered. With a remaining population of around thirty, the Amur leopard is one of the rarest cats on earth. Negative impacts from an oil pipeline connecting to a terminal in southwest Primorsky Krai through the leopard's only habitat may well lead to its extinction.
   There are viable alternatives to the current planned route which would mitigate a number of the pipeline's dangers. These alternatives are superior to Perevoznaya both economically and from an environmental perspective.
   An alternative site for the pipeline terminal is Nakhodka Bay, an active industrial port with existing oil terminals. Were the terminal to be located in Nakhodka Bay, no protected areas would be threatened, and because Nakhodka Bay is more enclosed than Perevoznaya, there would be significantly less danger of oil spills spreading via ocean currents. Locating the pipeline terminal in the already-developed port of Nakhodka would also be more cost-effective than building a new terminal in Perevoznaya. An important benefit of locating the terminal in Nakhodka is improved safety for oil transportation in the Sea of Japan. Nakhodka's port does not yet meet best international standards for oil transportation safety. The people of Japan suffered from this when the vessel "Nakhodka" spilled oil near western Japan in 1997. A port with best international safety practices would not have allowed such a decrepit ship to load and transport oil. Nakhodka's port is an accident waiting to happen. The Transneft pipeline will create significant investment for the Nakhodka port that would dramatically improve shipping safety throughout the Sea of Japan.
   We are also concerned about the current plan to route the pipeline through an extremely seismic area north of Siberia's Lake Baikal. In its proposed route through the Severomuisky Range, the pipeline could be ruptured in earthquakes, landslides, mudflows, and other geological events which would cause both considerable economic losses and irreversible pollution of the Lake Baikal watershed. It is paramount that the Prime Minister only support a pipeline route that does not unnecessarily threaten people's livelihoods and fragile natural areas.
   The Japanese government has the ability and responsibility to ensure that the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline is built according to best international environmental standards, does not cause unnecessary environmental harm, and improves oil transportation safety in the Sea of Japan. Since Japan will be a primary investor in the pipeline, we believe that you should act now to make certain the project is compliant with best practices.
   We ask you to advise Russia publicly that Japan will support the pipeline if it is built to Nakhodka instead of Perevoznaya, and if the pipeline is built in a less seismically active area outside of the Lake Baikal watershed. The increased safety will translate into greater financial security for the pipeline's financiers, which will include the Japanese government and Japanese banks.
   The pipeline's planned path through Severomuisky Range and terminal in Perevoznaya Bay would needlessly threaten fragile ecosystems as well as rare and endangered species, including the nearly extinct Amur leopard. We, the undersigned, call upon you and your cabinet to act immediately to make the Transneft pipeline a safer project for the environment and for Northeast Asia as a whole.

EUROPEAN BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT CONSULTS WITH THE PUBLIC TO DEVELOP A NEW ENERGY POLICY

  On 26 January the public consultation workshop was held in Moscow by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for supporting the development of a new EBRD Energy Policy. The workshop participants were representatives of the most active environmental and human rights NGOs from Russia and NIS countries working on climate change, energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear energy, and human rights.
  The EBRD is currently preparing a new Energy Policy which will replace two existing policies: the Natural Resources Operations Policy of March 1999, and the Energy Operations Policy of May 2000. For this purpose, the EBRD holds a series of regional consultation workshops in London, Moscow and Sofia in line with the EBRD Public Information Policy.
   The speakers at the meeting emphasized the need to refuse from the policy of investing in the projects of extraction and transportation of fossil fuels; to decrease gradually investments in the projects connected with non-renewable energy sources. The EBRD Energy Policy has to be oriented on increasing the support of the projects focused on renewables and energy efficiency. Support to small projects, in particular, in the sphere of energy saving and renewables, is especially important. The NGO representatives made a clear statement that no nuclear projects should be financially supported, with exception for projects of decommissioning.
   The meeting participants unanimously underlined that the projects affecting valuable nature areas should not be finances. The EBRD strategy on increasing oil extraction at the Caspian Sea is an example of the reasons of biodiversity reduction in this ecosystem. Also, impermissible are projects that damage cultural and historical objects. As an example of such project, construction of the Baku-Jeikhan oil pipeline was mentioned, where highly valuable archaeological monuments were destroyed forever.
   The project planning in the regions of residence of small indigenous peoples should be carried out with special care and with obligatory consideration for the opinion of the locals. NGO representatives severely criticized the project of oil extraction on Sakhalin with in huge violations of the rights of the indigenous population. This resulted in mass protests that started on 21 January, 2005.
   The meeting participants paid special attention to the necessity of transparency in the EBRD activities, and adherence to international, European and national standards on public informing and public participation in decision-making. The need was stressed in intersectoral consultations and public participation at all stages of the projects credited by the EBRD - from preliminary discussions to monitoring of social and ecological consequences during the project implementation.
   Olga Senova, Children of the Baltic, Olga.Senova@spb.org.ru. Alexander Fedorov, Centre for Environment Initiatives, Alexander.Fedorov@spb.org.ru The text of the NGOs letter to EBRD is also available at www.cei.ru.


Back to SEU Times home page


  SEU Times issued by: Olga Zakharova seupress@seu.ru
  ISEU Information Service
seu-info@seu.ru