Development and the Environment"
on the Sakhalin Offshore Oil and Gas Fields II
Copyright (C) 1999 by Slavic
Research Center, Hokkaido University.
Conflict or Compromise?
All rights reserved
Traditional natural resource use and oil exploitation
in northeastern Sakhalin/Noglikskii district
- Like other regions of
the Russian Federation, Sakhalin region is trying to make sense of the
transition to a global market economy, with new approaches to natural
resource use; new investment agreements and trade dynamics; new
partnerships between Russian and foreign parties, the State, the public
and industry. Exploitation of the off-shore oil and gas reserves will
greatly influence Sakhalin's future economic development. But will this
development be sustainable and how much benefit will it bring to local
communities in the area of exploitation who will suffer most from
ecological pollution and disturbance related to the projects?
- Sakhalin is rich in natural resources of all
kinds (forests, fish, mammals, thermal waters, mineral resources).
There is a long history of conflict and interaction between the
traditional forms of resource use of the indigenous populations
(fishing, hunting, marine mammal hunting, reindeer herding) and those
forms introduced and developed by the non-indigenous populations
(including the Japanese) from the late 19th century (fishing artels,
commercial hunting, collective farms, State farms, oil extraction,
- State policies of
collectivisation (from the 1930s) and resettlement (from the 1950s and
60s) destroyed the traditional way of life of the indigenous peoples
and uprooted them from their native lands, yet created a dependency on
the new forms of State-organised resource use and the accompanying
social changes (boarding school education, enforced semi-urbanisation,
provision of social infrastructure by the collective farm or dominant
industry, State subsidies and privileges for indigenous populations).
The socio-economic and psychological consequences of these policies are
- In this paper I aim to look at the relationship
between traditional natural resource use and oil and gas exploitation
in the context of "sustainable" local development. I will focus on the
effects of resource management planning on local populations and at
local participation in decision-making processes.
- Today indigenous
and non-indigenous populations alike are suffering the effects of
Russia's painful transition to a market economy and the globalisation
of market relations. All people are hoping for a solution to their
economic crisis, and everyone wants to live in a clean environment.
However, development of the Sakhalin oil and gas projects raises issues
relating specifically to the indigenous populations and their
historical relationship to the land. In this paper I would like to
focus on certain issues that concern all local populations, while
drawing attention to those problems that particularly concern the local
Native populations of Nivkhi, Uil'ta and Evenki.
- Sustainable Development and Local
- "Sustainable development" (WCED, 1987) is a
term interpreted in many different ways by different people for
different needs, and generally at the level of theory and rhetoric. It
can underpin creation of strictly protected areas (SPAs); it can
justify compromise between industrial development and nature
conservation. The Sakhalin II project (Sakhalin Energy Investment
Corporation [SEIC]) is being financed by the European Bank of
Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) whose founding agreement includes
a pledge to "promote in the full range of its activities
environmentally sound and sustainable development" (EBRD, 1996, p. 1).
Oil and gas exploitation is not generally associated with
sustainability, as it provides for a "boom and bust" type of
development with a high ecological risk factor. Furthermore the
Sakhalin off-shore oil developments could hasten the demise of
indigenous cultures and subsistence livelihoods already on the brink of
- I understand
"sustainable development" to be a long-term integrated form of
development that benefits the local population, preserving local
livelihoods and socio-cultural systems, while providing a foundation
for the socio-economic well-being of future generations. In Russian,
"sustainable development" is translated directly as "ustoichivoe
razvitie." Russian also has the term "ratsional'noe
prirodopol'zovanie" or "rational use of natural resources." This
is defined by Reymers and Iablokov as "[a] system of activity that is
recognised as providing the most effective regime of renewal and
economic exploitation of natural resources, with consideration for the
future interests of economic development and protection of the health
of the people" (Zimenko and Krupnik, 1987, p. 13).
- In my view, a form of development that is close
to "sustainable development" or "rational use of natural resources"
requires a broad base of economic activity, and cannot rely heavily on
one or two forms of natural resource use (such as oil and gas
extraction, logging, mining), which is how many Sakhalin settlements
and districts have developed. On Sakhalin, the local budget of
Noglikskii district is heavily dependent on the oil industry,
especially after the collapse of State enterprise and the withdrawal of
- As the on-land oil
industry is in decline, the focus should now be on expansion of the
base of economic activity in the district (focusing on renewable
resource use, including revival of traditional forms of resource use),
to ensure the socio-economic well-being of future generations while
preserving the natural environment and its capacity to support the
human population. While many hopes for a stable economic future on
Sakhalin lie in development of the off-shore oil and gas fields, people
fear that these are not being exploited in the interests of the local
populations but in the interests of international investors, developers
and consumers; decision-makers in Moscow and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk; and the
upper levels of the domestic oil giant Rosneft-Sakhalinmorneftegas.
- Sakhalin oblast, as other regions of Russia,
has still not recovered from the withdrawal of State subsidies that
accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union, while mechanisms have not
yet been set in place to fill the vacuum. In a "Free Market" economy
(which no-one can recognise in the present-day Russian economy), the
State should not be expected to subsidise whole regions as under the
centralised Command system. However, a rational, integrated system of
State subsidies is important, at least to support sectors of the
economy such as agriculture and animal husbandry (as is done in any
western country), despite the recommendations of the IMF to the
- Essentially, there
should also be mechanisms whereby the high-profit, high disturbance
sectors of industry support social infrastructure and traditional
resource use, especially if the latter are threatened or disturbed by
the industry in question. This can be achieved through a sensible
taxation system, which has not yet been established in Russia, or
through creation of special Funds (such as the Alaska Development
Fund). Other potential forms of support for local populations include
federal socio-economic and cultural programmes, foreign grants and
small credit programmes. However, federal programmes are not generally
financed today, while foreign grants are available only to a minority
of the population who are able to write grant proposals and overcome
their aversion to what is perceived as "begging."
- On Sakhalin there seems to be a problem with
allocated federal and foreign monies not reaching their destination.
While at the "kitchen table" level, this is one topic of conversation
that is rarely exhausted, at the official (seminar, conference) level,
it is rarely raised. Development of various financing mechanisms should
be accompanied by strict monitoring programmes and policies of
transparency and public accountability. In Russia, this goes against
traditional attitudes and approaches. If people are not officially
informed of how monies are being spent, they have little idea of how to
demand access to information from the grassroots level if there are
concerns about allocated monies not reaching their destination.
development" requires integrated natural resource use planning
involving all stakeholders in the planning processes at all stages.
This means the broad participation of local populations, who are all
too often excluded from or poorly represented in decision-making
processes. Public participation may include public consultations to
accompany environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and State ecological
expert reviews (EERs); independent public EERs; referendums; village
meetings; two or three-sided "agreements"; representative commissions;
public monitoring; litigation. Participation of the public is assisted
by access to information; public accountability and transparency on the
part of the developers. It is also assisted by creation of
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to represent the interests of the
- "Sustainable development" demands equity of
access to resources, which means clarity of rights and adequate
enforcement and control. Given the collapse of established forms of
State-controlled natural resource use, it is particularly important
today that citizens become more closely acquainted with the law.
Citizens of the Russian Federation, and indigenous people in
particular, have a growing base of legislation with which to determine
their rights of access to resources, land, a clean environment and
equitable distribution of profits from resource use. However, the
legislative base is incomplete and there is a lack of experience
especially at the grass-roots level in actually using the laws. Often
laws are only framework laws and there are no established official
mechanisms for implementation. As a rule, there is no money in the
federal, regional or local budget to implement them. Generally the
federal laws demand further legislation at the regional and local level
and in many cases this has not been developed.
- Local people are
now passing through the transition from a paternalistic relationship
with the State to independent participation in development processes.
This can be conceptualised in terms of building a "civil society (grazhdanskoe
obshchestvo)" (Anderson, 1990; Hann and Dunn, 1996; Bridger and
Pine, 1998) or developing the "third sector (tretii sektor)"
(CAF, 1998) and leads to talk of "partnerships (partnerstvo)"
and "dialogue (dialog)" between people and the State or
industry (CAF, 1998; Arakchaa and Zaidfudim, 1999). However, these
terms bear little relation to the realities of Sakhalin, where, despite
recent development of the environmental and indigenous people's
movements, public activism is extremely low, and established forms of
"top-down" decision-making continue to predominate.
- In northern Sakhalin, the local people
themselves (and especially the Native populations) have a huge
psychological barrier to overcome in making the transition "from
Paternalism to Partnership." In order to understand the nature of this
psychological "leap of faith," it is important to consider first of all
the historical development of local populations.