Socio-ecological Union

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

Moscow, Russia -- Issue 4(19), June, 2001






Dear friends!

  This is another issue of SEU Times. We want to apologize for delays in sending our newsletter. However, we have excuses for that - the situation in our countries get more and more complicated. In previous ST we have already written something about it.
  Besides articles within the issue, we also offer you announcements of two large articles posted on the web - one goes in depth of the nuclear waste imports


  Another articles gives details of how governmental PR specialists are trying to build a pocket environmental movement in Russia WHO FRAMED THE PRESIDENT

  Svet Zabelin shares his thoughts on the current situation in Russia and in the world in article AN ALTERNATIVE IS NEEDED

  All articles are posted on http:/www.igc.apc/gadfy

  Starting from the next issue, we plan to bring some changes in the bulletin. We ask for your kind cooperation and to answer a couple of questions:
  - What issues/problems are most interesting for you?
  - What do you want to know more about?
  - How often you want to receive the newsletter

  Sincerely yours
  Svet Zabelin
  Olga Berlova


Russia sold on nuclear market

  On June 6 nuclear lobby succeeded in pulling through Russian Duma legislation amendments, allowing nuclear waste shipment to Russia.
  Public protests running no-stop for more than half a year through Russia (the first voting was was held in December 2000) managed to change the number of deputies - during the first voting it was only 38 votes against the amendments, on June 6 it was 125 against and 256 for the amendements.. Many of the MPs simply declined voting, and they had a reason for that. If before the first hearings, according to inside Duma sources, MPs received bribes from Minatom up to 20 thousand USD to vote "the right way", after the second hearing MPs started to receive threats. The threats varied from termination of funding for the programs in their regions to death threats to them and their relatives.
  Several days before voting there were protest held right before Duma by different public organizations. To avoid mass protests Duma changed the voting day from June 7 to June 6 - but we still managed to gather people in front of Duma before its started to work.
  We must say that journalists from foreign media, especially from TV were much more friendly to the protesters than main Russian TV stations' representatives. As reader may know, there are no large independent TV stations left in Russia. The only one large independent TV station NTV was taken over by pro-governmental business group. So on air there is only one positiotn - postion of the Russian Government. Duma was only the first step. The new amendments are still to be approved by the Federation Council - the upper Chamber of the Parliament, and by the President.
  Socio-ecological Union and Novosibirsk environmentalists put forward new initiative "Buy out our dignity". The greens calculated that if every Russian citizen pays one dollar it would cover the maximum of money promised. So we want to offer this money to Russian Government to free the country from the nuclear waste imports.


Wetlands under attack

  As is reported by the Socio-ecological Union of Odessa an illegal construction of Odessa Ismail highway was started at the end of April at personal order of the Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in the Dniester delta, the unique water reserve. The construction is being started without any land section allotting, with no economic and technological substantiation, in the absence of geological and hydrological prospecting, any asessment of the possible environmental effects, an expert ecological appraisal and even without a project. The arable land has already been destroyed and the ground pour out has already started in the territory defended by the Ramseur Convention (as it is inhabited by rare waterfowl), in addition it must be said that the work is being carried out in the Odessa water supply area. It is taking place when fish spawning and mass migration and breeding of birds have already begun and the season of silence has been declared.
  Ecologists from Ukraine and Moldova voice their protests holding pickets, addressing the authorities with letters and telegrams in the attempt to prevent the destruction.
  On May 11 heavy trucks buried the precious water meadow at the 51st kilometer of Odessa - Reny motorway using the soil from the reserve of " Dniester Wetlands". Ivan Rusev, member of the Social-Ecological Union, reports that on May 11 he took a risky step. "With my car I blocked the way to the meadow for the trucks. The drivers were indignant. Then the foreman came. They started threatening . Rusev introduced himself as a public inspector of the Black Sea. It helped a lot and produced a great impression. He asked them for their papers but there were no papers. They refused to produce them."
  On May 16 the course of events was not so peaceful.
  The picket started at 7.30 pm. The participants were not only representatives of public organizations but local dwellers and schoolchildren. Little by little the opponents gathered their forces. First came policemen, then representatives of the prosecutor's office and some border guards. After that the building workers were brought by trucks. The further events are described by Ivan Rusev:
  "A lot of trucks gathered. They attempted to pressure us trying to frighten. Then the head of the road' administration Chukan A. F. came and hurriedly ordered that our car should be hooked and pushed aside. After that he ordered the trucks to go down to the meadow. I asked everybody to be very careful. But it so happened that we found ourselves under the car at the wheels. They started dragging as away. A scuffle started. The car was moving gradually while we were fighting. Then we found ourselves under the wheels again.
  And it had been going on this way till they started pouring the road metal on us.
  The situation was aggravating. At that time an inspector arrived with the warrant of suspending the work till positive conclusions of expert assesment were received. They did not pay attention to the warrant and said that it was not an instruction for them. A paper from the Cabinet of Ministers signed by Vice Premier Ekhanurov was displayed. Upon examining it our law experts concluded that it was a sham paper as there was no outgoing data.
  There came a lull. It was reported that a militia detail was coming to throw us out of the way. But they must have refused. They started begging us to understand them. It was suggested that we should meet the next day to study the documents. We agreed under the condition that they should stop pouring the ground. They drove away. An hour later the trucks started pouring the ground again. Very few of us were left and we could not hold the defense and left.
  At last in the evening a paper from the University came that there really was a season of silence to last till the end of July. Strange as it may seem the birds* are constantly accompanying us in the meadow. They must believe that we are *powerful. And not only them. There are beautiful yellow, white and red herons and many other wonders of nature. As though they cooperated for that period".
  According to the project the motorway is to be laid through conservation areas - "The Dniester quick ground" reserve which is under the protection of the 1971 Ramseur Convention, "The Lower Dniester national park" which is being planned at present .

  Alla Shevtchuk of Odessa Social-Ecological Union says that out of 19 swampy soils reserve areas protected by the Ramseur Convention in Ukraine 11 are in the Odessa region. It may be called the gold reserve of Europe.
  The Dniester wetlands is the only ecosystem of such a type in Europe. Part of it , the Caragole bay, has been included into an ichthyologic reserve since 1965 and fishing is forbidden there all year round. Ukrainian public has been waging struggle for the preservation of the quick grounds since mid 80-s. The Greens have managed to stop the construction of fishery ponds and to prevent the quick grounds from getting rotten. In 1994 they had to take a radical step and risking their lives they blocked the ways to the Caragole Bay as all the ways of addressing the authorities in writing had been exhausted by that time.
  The Dniester flood lands constitute one of the major migration ways through the territory of Ukraine as well as the place of concentration of rare kinds of birds. It is also planed as a river and valley landscape corridor , a constituency for the European system of the nature heritage protection.*
  The mouth area is peculiar in its beauty and unique in its riches There at Beloye lake one can still find the fields of white lilies, of yellow water lilies and relic water- plants*. The sacred ibises of the ancient Egypt are still to be found there and the swan wings rustling is heard. Mint is in blossom and the woods are full of familiar and unexpected smells, of the music of birds singing. The streams lead to the wilderness. Such nature is not to be found anywhere else. Looks a bit like the Volga delta, but the Dniester quick land is somehow lighter and tenderer.
  In the lower reaches of the Dniester there are over 50 kinds of fishes, 9 kinds of amphibians, 9 kinds of reptile and 31 kinds of mammals, 300 kinds of birds including the pink pelican.* They are all included in the Red Book of the USSR, the International Union for Birds Protection and the Convention on International Trade in Wild Flora and Fauna under the threat of disappearance.

  The most striking feature is that only the construction firm will profit by it. Ukraine will spend hundreds of millions of dollars in vain and will worsen the situation with the quick land. As for the village of Palanka it will stay aside from the motorway which could provide for its prosperity. The chairman of the "BIOTICA" council writes in his address to the authorities of Moldova, "It is surprising neither the inhabitants and nor the local authorities of the village understand it".
  The ecologists see their aim in stopping the construction till all the procedure issues concerning the project preparation have been completed. The main task is to provide the public esteem of the project as the official appraising will be subject to heavy pressure.

  Additional information:
Alla Shevtchuk, Chairman of the Odessa Branch of the International Social-Ecological Union, Odessa
tel/fax (0482) 268 275,
Ivan Rusev, The Nature Heritage Fund
Tel/fax: +38(0482) 52-28-05.

Environmental Policy, The Russian Government Way

  On the 17th of May, 2000, President Putin dismissed the State Committee for Environment Protection and the Federal Forest Service. The Ministry of Natural Resources became the successor of these institutions. But even now, more than a year later, aims of this reorganization remain unclear. The question: "What are the changes?" still has no answer. In on recent press-conference the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Alexey Poryadin said that this reorganization will result in the strenghtening of the environmental control, because... now the Minister cannot say that official watchdogs do their work in an inappropriate way and the whole responsibility lays on him. But such a dubious explanation is hard to accept.
  It seemed that the Ministry of Natural Resources simply didn't know what to do with the "swallowed" institutions, before we managed to find a very interesting document published in the Internet ( This official document called "The Main Orientations of the Russian Federation Government Socio-Economical Policy in the Long-Term Perspective" says that the government has a cultural policy, a public health policy, a northern territories policy, a sports, tourism and resorts development policy, but an environmental policy is not even mentioned! So in this sphere we another one time face the formula repeated by different governmental officials: "Economy is the first, environment is the second".
  To present the authors of the document haven't learned the word combination "sustainable development". The only sustainable thing they know is sustainable economic growth that is considered a silver bullet to fight all the social and economic problems. That's why the document declares a government's wish to simplify a system of formal requirements to the market players. In this context the fact that the forest sector is mentioned among the most competitive branches of Russian industry become the frightening one, because the government's line aimed to release the bureaucratic pressure in practice will result in elimination of all the environmental barriers on the way to the desired economic growth. It means that the Russian forest market will be overflown with the firms which even haven't heard about the forest sertification, the illegal logging in the Russian Far East will be legal etc. In addition, the government want to deny access to an official statistic data declaring it a commercial secret, that will make any independent control from civil society impossible, and minimize the budget expences for forest protection, reforestation, pest and insect control. The document calls it minimalization of the state participation. The budget money might have been spent for the special committee (also mentioned in the document) that will regulate... the market deregulation.
  But a lack of the policy is the policy too. The new concept of "double approach" to privatization that also exists in the document shows that the state simply want to escape from its environmental protection duties for not to disturb those who will privatize and then embezzle the last part of the national wealth. This concept has two key points: the first is the punishment without terms of limitation for the economic crimes related to the privatization process, and the second is the absolute immunity for the privatized posession even if the law was broken. Unfortunately it's too easy to predict that this concept being realized will lead not to the economic, but to the corruption index growth.
  It seems that the sence of President Putin's decision to dismiss the institutions mentioned in the beginning of this article is to assassin the unwanted ones. And how the Russian environment will look like after the deregulation - is to anyone's guess.

Dark future for green media?

  The latest developments in Russian society are not too promising for the future of the media.
  The attack on the civil society now comes from both sides - from government of different levels and from industry.
  Besides economic and political pressure there are many ways to stop media from being independent and objective.
  We already have results of such policy - the number of good analytical, critical or simply covering civil problems articles went down significantly.
  The present condition environmental journalism, as a part of civic and democratic rights to access the information, deserves special attention. Environmental journalism that had its first rise during the perestroika, then lost a lot due to several causes. Successful attempts by government and industry of various kinds to shift people's attention to economic development, linking it to well being, and moving environmental issues backwards led almost to termination of Russian environmental reporting tradition.
  However, in mid 90ies, a lot due to the public attempt, and also due to the international community support new environmental journalism community started to develop Media started to set up special ecological departments, or had at least one reporter on the beat. Some kind of environmental journalists' societies started to form, though quite slowly.
  In parallel, we had some other processes that were not so positive Russian industry, just like their foreign counterparts, started to develop their own PR services Quite obvious that emerging environmental reporting caused a lot of problems for them.
  Today we can't be definite about the primary causes of the following problem It may be lack of information on internationally accepted professional codes of environmental journalism, it could be the lack of experience with PR industry, or even vague understanding of what environmental journalism really is But in several years, a lot due to the different so called environmental journalism competitions, PR people of different entities, even bulletins nuclear agencies, were also accepted as environmental journalists So today the members of environmental journalists society may be a reporter, as well as industry PR-person Together with increased governmental pressure and changing of editorial policies towards economy and industry development, as well as to loyalty to the official system, we have a gloomy future for environmental journalism and for civil society altogether in Russia.
  In this case situation may be improved only by public and journalist professional activities. Both working journalists and journalism students should be targeted.
  There is a basis - existing course at Moscow State University Journalism Department we are leading and workshop program for journalist we have been doing for several years.
  However, we think that today meeting and sharing experience with colleagues from abroad, from more democratic environment and strict professional code and standards would be useful.
  In this sense we would propose series of professional meetings and workshops, on environmental reporting itself, on professional and ethical codes, on PR - what is it, its diversity and how to resist it. The lectures and/or seminars at the universities would be also very useful
  One of the contemporary journalism myths in Russia is that in existing economic relations (call it capitalism if you want) journalism is sold and bought as any other good And in many cases people point to the West an example Its quite obvious that it is true to a certain degree, but accepting this situation and even embracing it leads to the situation we witness today in Russia. It is extremely important that journalism students see that in any society, despite any economic relations journalist is someone who tells the truth and help people to exercise their right to information.
  For working journalists it is also very important to learn about the environment their western colleagues work in, and to see that it is not a garden of Eden west of Russian border, but people manage to do their work. Some of them do not realize the whole scale of PR industry and the way it corrupt society and journalism Full exposure of the industry given by their colleagues, showing many of their "newssources" from the different angle may be highly useful.
  We are looking for cooperation and partnership.
  We welcome any of your thoughts and cooperation ideas.

  SEU Press service.

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