Socio-ecological Union

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

Moscow, Russia -- Issue 8 (42), March, 2003

SEU Times is a newsletter devoted to environmental news, events, NGO work within former Soviet Union territory. Currently it is mailed out on special occasions.

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  Belovezhskaya Pushcha is last part of ancient forests of Europe. It is situated at the border between Poland and Belarus. The area of Belarussian part of Pushcha is 101 603 hectares.
  The average age of forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha makes more than 100 years, and of its separate parts is 250-350 years. More than one thousand of 300-600 years old trees-giants are recorded here.

  The plant kingdom of this unique territory numbers more than 2 thousands of species, the animal world makes more than 11 thousands of species. Living creatures, which have disappeared on the most part of Europe, are kept here: according to not full data, 65 species of higher plants, 4 species of mosses, 16 - lichens, 7 - mushrooms, 11 - mammals, 52 - birds, 2 - reptiles, 1 - amphibian, 8 species of fish, and 38 - insects are included in the Red Book of Belarus. Among them there are species of special value: bison, lynx, badger, otter, shorttoed eagle, black stork, grey crane, eagle owl, great grey owl, three-toed woodpecker, aquatic warbler, silver fir, durmast and many others. The biggest in the world population of bison that numbers 250-300 heads lives in Pushcha.

  Belovezhskaya Pushcha is protected since the end of XIV - the beginning of XV century. In 1939, in its Belarussian part on its territory the reserve was organized and names after the territory. In 1957 Pushcha was transformed into a state protected game ground, and in 1991 - into the national park. In 1992 Belovezhskaya Pushcha was included by UNESCO in the List of the World Heritage of Mankind. In 1993 the status of biosphere reserve is given to the national park, and in 1997 it was awarded with the Diploma of the European Council.

  In 1994 Belovezhskaya Pushcha was passed to the administrative department of the President of Belarus. New managers had no relation either to reserves, or to nature conservation. Forest for them - even like Belovezhskaya Pushcha - was valuable mainly in economical respect. The activity of the national park had intensively been turned into commercial. New managers tried to gain profit in different ways: breed cattle, enlarged the agricultural lands, increased the number of commercial hunting, and have organized gathering of birch sap, mushrooms, berries, and medicinal herbs in the industrial scales. But the decisive step in destruction of the National Park has become building of large timber processing workshop in the centre of the reserve - Kamenuki village in 1998. Its amounts of processing considerably exceeded calculated wood resource base of Pushcha. Highly productive power-saw bench was bought in Germany. Total cost of the new sawmill complex was more than $1,5 millions.

  Forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha had been keeping its primeval structure thanks to efforts of many generations of Pushcha inhabitants and employees of the reserve. Ancient forest ecosystems determine the value of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. To keep these forests in their old-growth condition it is possible only limiting volumes of logging and observing the rules of the science of wildlife conservation. Until recently the unwritten principle prevailed here: "Not to cut any living tree!" In case if a tree has even one branch still alive, chance was given to it... because such trees are the habitat of many rare and unique species of living organisms. The dried up trees - giants weren't cut for preservation of uniqueness of primeval forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Now all that is a thing of past.

  The sawmill is in its full operation. The new management expands in the Primeval Forest huge economical activity covered up by environmental problems of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. This activity doesn't solve these problems, but aggravates them. For mere half of last year in Belovezhskaya Pushcha more than 100 000 cubic metres of valuable wood were cut down. In fact it is 300 hectares of forest! Unique Belovezhskaya Pushcha, its dream forest step-by-step is turned into usual timber facility. Belovezhskaya Pushcha Primeval Forest is inevitably changed... It loses the natural uniqueness and originality, and becomes an ordinary "afforested territory".

  Natural young generation of Pushcha forest is cruelly destroyed during intensive logging and skidding of wood. Man-made plantings change the natural forest, including those of origin not from Pushcha.

  Belarussian community for several years tries to convince the authorities to stop destruction of the European relic and to stop process of degradation of the Primeval Forest. The problem of development and acceptance of the Regulations about the National park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha " repeatedly put on the agenda. There is no such a legal act in legislation of Belarus for 11 years. The administration of park actually has made its activity secret in response to such a trouble. To learn the real state of affairs in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha for activists it is necessary literally to gain dribs and drabs of information.

  The group of scientists and journalists managed to initiate an excursion of members of press and community to Pushcha to see the real state of affairs, and to prove or disprove the information on outrages of nature conservation laws in the reserve themselves. January 29, 2003 about 50 journalists, scientists from Belarus and Poland, representatives of NGOs and state bodies have visited the Pushcha.

  The majority of mass-media covered what they have seen objectively, notwithstanding strict regulations and restrictions of access to information from the direction of the administration of the national park, and isolation of the journalists from local population and employees of national park. This is one of the examples.

  (From the article "Disaster Area. The "Talibs" Boss In Belovezhskaya Pushcha" by Alexander Khilimon, "Komsomolskaya Pravda")

  "At first the anecdotic and at the same time tragic story: "The inhabitant of Kamenyuki lost his way in Belovezhskaya Pushcha". Comic this situation makes that it never could occur. It is like if Mowgli had lost his way in the jungle. Then what's a tragedy? It has happened really! The man, who have grown up in Kamenyuki - "the capital" of Belovezhskaya Pushcha - and had been working there about 20 years, strayed being in his right and sober mind.

  For last 1,5 years the National Park have changed out of recognition. It happened so fast that people who work there hardly know again the forest that surrounded them during their childhood, youth and grown-up age. Ancient melancholy has disappeared from the forest, and it has changed into cubic metres of firewood that lie about in disorder everywhere. And this is the description made by scientists: in the beginning of XXI century the natural resources of Belovezhskaya Pushcha are exploited in such ways that it results in the threat of destruction of Belarussian Primeval Forest and loss of unique natural complex for future generations".

  The administration of the park is going to sue claims against some of these newspapers.

  We ask you to support Belarussian people in their efforts to save Belovezhskaya Pushcha from barbarous use, and to send your letters or faxes to Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus Republic.

  The copies of your letters it is desirable to direct to Leontiy Khoruzhick, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection of Belarus Republic.

  An example text of a letter:

  Address: to the President of Belarus Republic A.G.Lukashenko
  Copy: to the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection of Belarus Republic L.I. Khoruzhick

  Dear Mr. President!

  The natural complexes of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" are the integral part of not only national patrimony of the Belarussian people, but also the World Heritage of Mankind.

  As we have learned, after subjecting of "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" to the administrative department of the President of Belarus, the intensive economic activity have begun in the national park, that is incompatible to its tasks, preservation of unique primeval forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, that outrages the items of the Law of Belarus "On Especially Protected Natural Areas And Objects" and ignores the rules of the science of wildlife conservation.

  In this connection we ask you to make these decisions concerning the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha":

  1. To stop wide-ranging harvesting of wood that destroys the structure of the primeval forest.
  2. To make highly productive timber processing line out of the jurisdiction of the National Park.
  3. To stop commercial hunting.
  4. To realize economic activity on the territory of Belovezhskaya Pushcha in strict correspondence with environment conservation legislation and current regulations of science of nature conservation.
  5. To develop the Regulations about the National park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" according to the national and international environment protection legislation, involving public in this activity.
  6. To declassify the activity of the management of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha", and to create Public Supervising Council at the national park.
  With hope for conservation of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Sincerely,

  The President of Belarus Republic A.G.Lukashenko
  38 Karl Marx St., the Administrative Department of the President of Belarus, Minsk, Belarus 220016
  Fax: (+375 17) 226-06-10

  The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Protection of Belarus Republic L.I. Khoruzhick
  10 Kollektornaya St., Minsk, Belarus 220048
  Fax: (+375 17) 220-55-83

  If possible, please, distribute this information among your colleagues and mass media. We also ask you to send electronic copies of the letters to the environmental group "Pechenegi".

  We hope that together we will manage to rescue Belovezhskaya Pushcha from destruction,
  International Socio-ecological Union (ISEU),
  Ukraine Coalition "For Wild Nature"

  Sergey Shaparenko, Environmental group "Pechenegi":
  Vladimir Boreyko, Kiev Ecological And Cultural Center:,
  Olga Berlova, CCI ISEU:



  The environmental community of the South of Russia is united in the struggle against construction of the terminal on reloading of methanol in Azov. Since October, 2002 the joint Italian and Russian company "Azovproduct", the majority holding in which belongs to Italian corporation "Triboldi", actively constructs the terminal complex on transshipment of methanol, which is a toxic chemical substance of great danger.

  At the meeting of the representatives of environmental NGOs of the South of Russia the plan of joint actions on prevention of realization of this project was planned. Also at the meeting the Appeal to J.Lemier, the President of the EBRR, was approved in view of that fact that the Bank breaking its mission, basic principles, and environmental norms have supported to this project financially.

  The representatives of public environmental organizations of the South of Russia and NGOs of Azov, with participation of the chairman of committee on nature management and ecology of the parliament of Rostov region P.Bondarenko have carried out joint public environmental inspection of the terminal construction. As a result of preliminary study of the documents and direct inspection of area of construction the following gross violations were revealed:

  • The reservoirs for storage of methanol with total tankage 20 thousands cubic meters are placed in mere 400 meters from the residential area of the city and the distance of houses from pipeline for methanol of high pressure makes less than 90 meters. At the same time the required sanitary zone for such objects is not less than 1000 meters.
  • The construction of the terminal is carried out without the appropriate environmental assessment. There are no also environmental assessment on the feasibility report of the project. The environmental examination of the equipment of the terminal is void, because serious changes were brought in to the project, consequently, and it should undergo examination repeatedly according to the Law of Russia "On Environmental Assessment".
  • The construction is begun without necessary land allotments for placing of all the terminal complex.
  These are only preliminary data of the inspection. Study of the documents and processing of the of the data, received as a result of place survey, is currently continued.


  The project of the terminal has appeared in 1996. But its realization has encountered active resistance of city community. Placing of this dangerous object in immediately near apartment houses, high danger of failures that can result in numerous victims among population, and also sharp deterioration of quality of life of the citizens even with trouble-free operation of the terminal, caused powerful wave of protests. Numerous meetings, pickets and other actions, in which thousands of people took part were held. More than 15 thousand signatures against terminal were gathered. Seven initiative groups on referendum against the terminal were created. Practically all the NGOs and political parties of the city declared themselves against the construction. But the city administration and city parliament had hesitated between support and denying of this project. All these facts made possible to restrain realization of the project since 1996 to 2002.

  Last year, however, "Azovproduct" managed to receive the sanction for construction of the terminal from the administration of the city in court. The construction has begun actively to develope. This situation caused the anxiety of environmental organizations of the South of Russia, and has become the basis for the joint public campaign against realization of this project.

  For further information:
Independent Environmental Service on North Caucasus, Maikop,
Andrey Rudomakha,



  Traditional agriculture and rich nature of Tadjikistan should not be exposed invasion of GMO in case if the country enters WTO and take off all trade barriers. But it risks to, because there is no legislation on biosafety in the country, and in addition there is not enough information about GMO. Those facts were put on agenda of the seminar on Kartakhena Biosafety protocol. The seminar, in which scientists, deputies of Parliament, international organizations and Tadjikistan NGOs, and also the special institutes and inspections on the GMO problem took part, was held in Dushanbe (Tadjikistan) in the beginning of March.

  According to the data of Institute of Genetics and Physiology Of Plants of Tadjikistan, officially in the country there is no neither test fields, nor commercial cultivation of GMO yet. However, according to the Institute's unofficial data, commercial cultivation of GMO is already carried out in Tadjikistan, but what exactly is grown and where, the employees of the Institute don't say.

  The representatives of the State inspection on plants quarantine, and also of veterinary service and some other supervising agencies have confirmed in their statements on the conference that they don't have the methods of control of GMO. And since there are no laws on biosafety in Tadjikistan yet, they are not competent to control it. They have admitted, that even if such law would exist, they were were unable to supervise distribution of GMO because of lack of experts and necessary technical base.

  The customs officers point out that Tadjikistan imports many foodstuff and grain, but neither of these products is inspected for GM-components. In spite of many scientists that pointed out at the seminar that they consider GMO a salvation for agriculture, the final document of the conference recommends to Tadjikistan to restrict the import of GMO, and to join Kartakhena protocol, which rigidly controls trans-boundary moving of GMO, as soon as possible.

  For further information:
Timur Idrisov, "For The Earth",
Dushanbe, Tadjikistan
Biosafety campaign of ISEU:



  In Russia and Ukraine the campaign against spring goes full speed ahead. We just learned that Ukraine has decided not to open spring hunt in year 2003 The main argument is that both trade, and endangered species are hunted. There are few of the hunters who capable to distinguish either a goose is included in the Red Book or not. In addition, spring hunt is economically unreasonable: if fall hunt is "gathering of the harvest", the spring hunt is "eating away of the seed stock". Moreover, we have much more effective mechanism of other natural resources management. For example, during spawning (breeding of fish) the fishing is forbidden. So why during the breeding time of birds hunt is permitted?
  The authorities of several Russian regions have agreed with these arguments, and have forbidden the spring hunt.

  On the website of ISEU together with Saratov branch of the Union for Protection of Birds of Russia the section on the problem of spring hunt - "For Spring Without Shooting!" - is created: (in Russian). It is possible to learn from this page more about the problem, and to find comments and information from the experts, news.

  Those who advocate continuation of spring hunt, argue with their opponents. But most of their arguments in closer examination turn out to be myths and errors. The expert - ornithologists have discussed the real state of affairs and necessary actions in the beginning of March on the seminar that was held in Saratov. The experts from Astrakhan, Volgograd, Saratov, Ulyanovsk, Penza, Ivanovo, Voronezh, Moscow regions, and also Mari El and Chuvashiya republics took part in the round table on this problem within the seminar.

  Summarizing a round table, it is necessary to mention the following conclusions:

  The majority populations of water birds continue to reduce. The experts point out that spring hunt essentially influences this process.
  In the majority of regions the current system of calculation of trade species does not reflect real state of affairs. The official statistics says about stability or even growth of number of birds, but the representatives of state hunt inspections and public hunting associations unofficially recognize decrease of number of birds.
  The measures that can increase the number of nesting birds (making of artificial nesting-places, improvement of food base of habitat) now almost are not carried out.
  There are myths popular among hunters. Most widespread of them is that birds are unlimitedly hunted in other countries on winter places and during migration.

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  This issue was written and complied by
  Sviatoslav Zabelin - the SEU Council Co-Chair,
  Olga Berlova, Victoria Kolesnikova, translated by Alla Kapoustina
  Previous Issues of The SEU Times may be found at
  "The Online Gadfly" at