Chernobyl, clean water, climate change, climate change numto, colonialism, corruption, Dakota Access, DAPL, ecotourism, environment, Evraz, Imperialism, indigenous religion, indigenous rights, Khanty, Khanty-Mansy, Koch Brothers, Lake Numto, land grab, Moscow, Nature Park, Nenets, northern Russia, nuclear accident, nuclear weapons, Numto Park, Numto wetlands, oil, oil and gas, Oil drilling, oil industry, protest, Reindeer, Reindeer Herding, resource extraction, Russia, Russia Nature PArk, Russian Arctic, Russian colonialism, Russian eco-tourism, Russian imperialism, Siberia, Siberian Uvaly, Stalin, Surgutneftegas, Tipi, water, wetlands, Yamal
Russia and Europe has been doing resource related colonialism/ imperialism for longer than the US has existed. The US itself is the product of European imperialism and imperial competition, including Russian. Even today, Putin “kingmaker” and oligarch Roman Abramovich is among oligarchs owning the company Evraz, which provided a large percentage of the pipes for the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. Evraz will probably provide pipes for the Bayou Bridge pipeline, as well, which will impact US wetlands. Abramovich made much of his money exploiting the indigenous lands of the Russian far-east for gold and oil. His roots are far away along the Volga. The father of the Koch brothers taught Stalin how to process oil, but mining, agricultural extraction and colonialism pre-date this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expansion_of_Russia_1500–1800. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_conquest_of_Siberia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska_Purchase
As Russia just started a PR push about Arctic eco-tourism, it’s a good time to examine what’s going on there. Frighteningly, areas which are radioactive to various degrees are turned into nature parks with the assumption that people won’t spend much time there (US, UK, Switzerland, Germany, and probably Russia and France). Know before you go. Reindeer are still radioactive as far away as Norway from Chernobyl. They were also impacted by Russian above-ground weapons testing. https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/radioactive-reindeer/. http://barentsobserver.com/en/nature/2014/10/norways-radioactive-reindeer-08-10. http://www.environment.no/goals/4.-pollution/target-4.2/levels-of-selected-radioactive-substances-in-the-environment/slow-decline-of-caesium-137-in-wild-reindeer
National Parks in the US, and apparently, in Russia are used for resource extraction too. The first article is from 2016, but is followed by the 2017 update. Once you read this, it should be clear that the too good to be true The Arctic .ru announcement that “President Putin to visit unique Arctic sites as Russia plans to boost eco tourism“, 21 March 2017, is an apparent PR cover job.
The CEO of Surgutneftegas, Vladimir Bogdanov, is seemingly close to Putin and has known him a long time.
This month the fate of a Russian jewel will be decided in a small town in Western Siberia. The town is Beloyarsky and the jewel is the Numto nature preserve.
The oil company Surgutneftegas already extracts oil from the park but now they want access to one of its most vulnerable areas: the wetlands, where industrial development is currently prohibited.
Founded in 1997 to help protect the fragile Siberian Uvaly ecosystem, Numto park also has significance for Indigenous peoples of northern Russia. It is here, on the border of Yamal and Khanty-Mansy region, where two ancient Taiga cultures come together:
For generations, the Nenets and the Khanty people have bred reindeer, fished, picked berries and gathered. They travel hundreds of kilometers to come together and conduct sacred rituals at lake Numto. ‘Num’ holds a special place in Indigenous mythology and is often equated with the sky itself. Lake Numto means heavenly lake.
The heavenly lake of Numto is threatened by an oil company Surgutneftegas; oil operations would wreck local communities and spell disaster for its wildlife and ecosystems. The Russian scientific community has recommended that the Numto wetlands be listed by Ramsar as an internationally important waterfowl habitat. Among the rare and endangered birds who live here or pass through on their annual migration is the striking Siberian white crane or snow crane.
We witnessed the impact of oil drilling in Numto when we visited as part of a Greenpeace Russia documentary team. As we toured the camping grounds of Indigenous peoples and met residents of village Numto on the lake shore, park ranger Natalia Vello tried to explain the pain felt by local people:
“I once met a young boy. When he saw the oil facilities being built near his home, he said, ‘They’ve come to kill us’. I began to ask myself, why does he say that? Because it’s hard for him to bear. I was shocked myself when I saw the dear, sacred sites, where we used to pitch our tents to visit our ancestors, being destroyed.”
In an attempt to preserve her homeland, Natalia has written a memo to the employees of Surgutneftegas who work in the Numto nature park. The memo contains information about the unique characteristics of this land and its inhabitants and lays out the rules and codes of conduct that employees of the oil companies on the park territory should abide by.
Natalia regularly visits the drilling facilities to get her message across: “I explain everything carefully and give them time [to fix things].”
Vasily Pyak, a reindeer herder from Numto, worries that it may become impossible to continue his way of life: “We live in uncertainty. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. They told me they wouldn’t build here, and then I had a look at the map and it was clear that there would be a concrete road a kilometer away from my camp. If they lay a road here, where can I graze my reindeer? They’ll wander along the road, cars will run into them. Build a fence? You cannot fence in a reindeer! It is a semi-wild animal, to put it into a corral is like a prison. And why has it come to building fences anyway?”
Numto’s Indigenous people say that the arrival of the oil operations is basically a land grab: oil rigs now surround their native lands and reach right up to the edge of their holy lake.
“The closer the oil companies come, the more problems we have,” says Vasily. “In Surgut [an area of extensive oil operations] even the fish smell like diesel,” he adds.
The Khanty and Nenets cannot imagine life without their native land: the forests and wetlands are their home where countless generations have lived in harmony with nature.
Russians across the country have joined a call to protect Numto from oil company advances. In just five days, more than 27,000 letters have been sent to regional officials and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment explaining why they must reject the new Numto zoning proposal that would expose its treasured wetlands to oil exploitation.
A petition organised by Greenpeace Russia will be presented at the public hearing in Beloyarsky on February 25th. The numbers standing in solidarity with the Khanty and Nenet people to protect Numto continue to grow.
Please share this story. We hope that our combined voices will be heard.
Elena Sakirko is a campaigner with Greenpeace Russia. Konstantin Fomin is a press officer with Greenpeace Russia. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/siberia-indigenous-wildlife-numto-oil-drilling/blog/55617/ (Emphasis our own. The original has embedded links and an excellent video which we weren’t able to find on youtube to embed.)
Greenpeace UPDATE from this month:
“Reindeers in Moscow: Saving the sacred lake
Blogpost by Konstantin Fomin – 7 March, 2017 at 17:14
It’s very unusual to stumble upon reindeer on the streets of Moscow. But it can happen when authorities give oil company permission to drill on the sacred lands of Siberian Indigenous peoples.
Reindeer herders who are opposing this project built their traditional tent in the heart of the Russian capital to make their protest truly visible and meaningful.
Surgutneftegas — a Russian oil and gas company — desperately wants to grab more land for oil extraction. But this kind of greedy profit-making also means the destruction of rare bird habitats and the traditional way of life of Indigenous peoples.
A year ago, Greenpeace Russia started a campaign to protect one of the most vulnerable areas of the Numto nature reserve in Western Siberia from industrial development. This area is important not only for environment protection, it also has great significance for the Indigenous peoples of Northern Russia.
The Nenets and the Khanty people have, for generations, travelled hundreds of kilometers to come together and conduct sacred rituals at lake Numto. ‘Num’ holds a special place in Indigenous mythology and is often equated with the sky itself. Lake Numto means “heavenly lake”.
In February 2015, Russians across the country joined a call to protect Numto from the oil industry’s advances. More than 36,000 letters were sent to regional and federal officials explaining why they must reject a proposal that would expose the most treasured Numto wetlands to the ravages of oil exploration.
Around half of the participants at the public hearings at the end of February 2016 were Indigenous Khanty and Nenets people. They came from the Khanty-Mansy region, including the village of Numto and other territories in the area. Shaman Sergei Kechimov, the preserver of sacred lake Imlor, came to the hearings to talk about the numerous violations on his lands after Surgutneftegas started work there.
The regional authorities, however, listened to the oil industry, not the Indigenous people.
On October 28th, 2016, the regulations for Numto nature reserve changed: it was now okay to drill for oil in the wetlands.
The government approved it without any environmental assessment; a violation of the existing regulation.
But the sacred lake can still be saved! Indigenous people, ethnologists and environmentalists continue to collect the signatures of reindeer herders who live in regions near the Numto nature reserve. Signatories are against drilling in these wetlands. They sign for the protection of centuries of sacred culture.
“This place has been revered for thousands of years, not only by the people who live next to the lake, but also by all the Nenets… the fact that hundreds of people from different regions have stood up in it’s defense is saying a lot,” said Konstantin Kuksin, a well-known ethnologist and director of the Museum of nomadic culture. His colleague, Anna Larionova, added that she hadn’t expected to collect so many signatures so far from the impacted areas. She said she was met with an extraordinarily good response from the reindeer Indigenous herders she visited.
Anton Multanov, a reindeer herder who had participated both in collection of signatures and protest in the center of Moscow, shared his experience:
“I live near sacred lake Numto. In 2014 we lost about 100 reindeer after an oil spill. Nobody thinks about what’s important to us. Oil companies do not consult with us and conduct excavations at the holy places.”
“Of course, we will continue to seek justice,” says Mikhail Kreindlin, a Greenpeace Russia expert who believes that Numto nature reserve can be saved. “We will demand the abolition of the decision to change the zoning of the Numto nature reserve. Skeptics believe that nothing can be changed. But, so far nothing has been decided. We still have something to fight for.”
On March 17-21 there will be session of United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Khanty-Mansy region where Numto is located. This is the moment to bring international attention to this issue and save the sacred lake.
Please, share this story to help the Indigenous peoples of Russia who suffer from industrial exploitation.
Konstantin Fomin is a press officer with Greenpeace Russia.
http://greenpeace.org/international/en/mid/news/Blogs/makingwaves/reindeers-moscow-save-lake-numto-oil/blog/58887/ (Emphasis our own. Embedded links and more pictures at the original. Those pictures which have the photographer first and Greenpeace second can not be used without permission.)
CEO is Putin confidant, Vladimir Bogdanov:
“In 1973 he graduated from Tyumen Industrial Institute with a degree in oil and gas and since then has worked in oil industry in Tyumen Oblast, mainly in Surgutneftegaz. Since 1993, he is the President of Surgutneftegaz, one of the largest Russian oil companies. In 1978-1980 he occupied leading positions in Yuganskneftegaz. Since 1984 he has been the Director General of Surgutneftegaz, which became a private company in 1993. In June 2001 Forbes claimed that Bogdanov was the third wealthiest Russian with $1.6 billion. He has been a member of the Khanty–Mansi legislature since 1996.
Bogdanov was also a confidant of Sergey Sobyanin during the successful 2001 Tyumen Oblast Governor election and of Vladimir Putin during the 2004 Russian Presidential Election.
Honours and awards
Order of Merit for the Fatherland:
2nd class (28 May 2006) – for outstanding contribution to the development of fuel-energy complex and long conscientious work
3rd class (5 June 2001) – for outstanding contribution to the development of oil and gas industry and many years of diligent work” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Bogdanov
Earlier this month, American Indian Tribes set up tipis in DC in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. And, as noted, Evraz, majority owned by Russian oligarchs, including Putin kingmaker Abramovich, is providing a large percentage of the pipes.