Development and the Environment"
on the Sakhalin Offshore Oil and Gas Fields II
Copyright (C) 1999 by Slavic
Research Center, Hokkaido University.
The Environmental Effects
All rights reserved
in the Angaro-Yenisei Region
- Industrial development and environmentally
hazardous large-scale extraction of natural resources by colonists were
confined to areas adjoining the Trans-Siberian Railway, at least until
the 1930s. Intensive forestry in the lower Yenisei area, nickel mining
at Noril'sk and gold mining in Iakutiia were typical examples of large
industrial projects from 1930, which naturally caused severe
environmental damage. In the mid-1950s, other large projects started in
the far north, with timber operations expanding over enormous areas.
Large amounts of timber were left to rot. The indigenous peoples lost
vast hunting grounds. Data collected by Vakhtin indicated that 30% of
the forests were cut in the Russian Far East, 21% in Magadanskaia
Oblast, 39% in Primorskii, 34% in Khabarovskii, 9% in Sakhalin and 42%
- The hydrocarbon
development boom started in the mid-1960s. Again forests were cut down
around Surgut and Samotlor in the Khanty-Mansiyskii Autonomous Okrug,
where the largest oil deposits were located, polluting rivers and bogs,
devastating the land for the indigenous peoples. Aipin criticized
the environmental exploitation wrought by industrial development and
lamented the abuse of the indigenous population, the pillage and
destruction of cultural sites, the decimation of the reindeer
population and other shameful actions and behavior. The exploitation of
energy resources caused an enormous loss of land and water resources.
Similar to the Alaskan pipeline, railways and pipelines cut off
reindeer migration routes, which had a significant impact on the
natives. The wild reindeer population has been increasing in recent
decades, but the hunting trade is still vulnerable to any kind of
environmental disruption. Winter shipping on rivers, especially, causes
shifting migration routes. The shortage of transportation facilities in
the region makes solving this problem difficult. There is no legal
protection for most pasture-lands, although the government has
expressed its intention to support land use by indigenous peoples.
- The government has tried resettling indigenous
peoples as compensation, attempting to provide a "civilized" mode of
living with heated houses and electricity. Such measures have had
certain benefits in industrialization, but they have accelerated the
decline of indigenous cultures.
- Mining activities
have created severe pollution problems in the vicinity of mines and
smelting works. Nickel plants on the Kola Peninsula and the Noril'sk
industrial area in the lower Yenisei valley are the most typical
examples. Mining business brings a lot of problems in Northern
Iakutiia. Pollution and the littering of beaches and river deltas in
bio-resource zones is reported to have affected Iakutiia's wildlife
- Pollution problems caused by mining activities
as well as other industries are aggravated by Russia's present economic
and political conditions.
contamination has also had a significant impact on the environment.
Large areas have suffered radioactive pollution, affected by atomic
bomb testing in Novaia Zemlia.
- In this region, nuclear explosions were often
used for civilian purposes, such as mining, seismic sounding, and
controlling river flows. Despite its distance far from the testing
area, some of the worst contamination was reported in Chukotka.
Background radiation levels in 1990 were still the same as in the
controlled zone around Chernobyl (Lupandin & Gaer, 1990).
Pollution and Marine Mammals (Belikov, et al., 1998)
- Russia unfortunately lacks precise, updated
information on the distribution, abundance, migration, breeding and
feeding areas of major marine mammals in the polar region. These
mammals include the polar bear, walrus, bearded seal, ringed seal,
white whale, gray whale and bowhead whale, all of which are deeply
associated with the indigenous peoples' daily lives. It is well- known
that estuaries of large rivers in Russia are more or less contaminated,
but the negative effects of pollution on certain marine mammals have
not been clarified. Contamination of sea-water by oil and waste has
been reported in large sea ports such as Amderma, Dickson, Tiksi and
Cape Shmidt. The white whale, for instance, appears near these ports
every year and risks suffering from the pollution's toxic effects.
- The real danger
for marine mammals, in particular gray whales, is found in pollutants
such as heavy metals, DDT and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). As
Stirling-Calvert (1983) pointed out, increasing levels of pollution are
inevitable due to the long-lasting nature of many of these compounds.
They continue to move through the ecosystem's food chain in
ever-increasing concentrations. Samples of plankton and benthos show
high levels of chlororganic pollutants. It is widely recognized that
the accumulation of toxic materials in the tissues of marine mammals
greatly reduces the reproductive rate, increases the rate of
miscarriages, birth deformities and stillbirths in mammals (Delong, et
- Industrial waste, for the moment, is the main
source of pollution. The development of shore infrastructure, coastal
settlements and ports and harbors in the future will cause an increase
in pollutants. An increase in the frequency of shipping traffic will
have negative effects on migrating gray whales or other marine mammals.
During migration, gray whales are sensitive to noise from ships. Ship
noise forces whales to leave their feeding sites.
pollution-caused issue has various negative effects on the indigenous
peoples who have long relied on marine products. They essentially have
no legal protection for recourse.
- Civilization or
- Due to budget
shortfalls and the general economic crisis, Russia's infrastructure in
society and industry has become old and inadequate, discouraging
foreign capital investment to a large extent. For the growth of the
entire country and/or local, individual regions, regional economic
zones created in each district may be effective. Benefit principles on
the use of infrastructure should be introduced as much as possible.
Local governments should be authorized to take over many of the
functions that belonged to the central government under the old system.
Simultaneously, a clarification of the demarcation between the central
and local governments in development policies including financial
burden sharing should be required. The initiative in planning local
development should pass to the local government. Regional development
plans, in harmony with each region's particular natural, ecological and
population conditions should be formulated and executed with the
cooperation of local governments in the area.