RESOLUTION SPB/5: On the Threats to the Natural Heritage Properties in the Russian Federation

I. The participants of the International NGO Forum in St. Petersburg June 22-24 2012 make the following resolutions. We recommend that the members of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, having gathered for the 36th session, support the following:

1. To suggest to the Russian State Party:

– to prevent changes to the Russian Federation legislation which could weaken the regime of protection of valuable natural and cultural objects and in particular Federal laws “On specially protected natural areas” and “On environment protection” and to abrogate the changes adopted by the Federal Law № 365-FZ.

– until the next session, with participation of the advisory bodies and NGOs, work out and adopt the National legislation which strengthens the status of World Heritage properties and protects them from any activities that could lead to their destruction or degradation or to the lowering of their outstanding universal value;

– to create within the structure of the Federal authorities an interdepartmental coordinating body for protection of the World Heritage properties. That body shall have rights to issue obligatory orders to authorities of different levels to cancel decisions which could lead to the destruction and degradation of the World Heritage properties or to decreasing of their outstanding universal value. To create under that body Public a Council comprised of NGOs carrying out public monitoring of the condition of World Heritage properties;

– to create regional Administrations to manage World Heritage properties which report to the coordinating body;

– to organize work on development and adoption of borders for World Heritage properties, borders of their buffer zones and detailed plans of management for World Heritage Properties.

– to make public and publish complete basic documentation regarding World Heritage properties including the text of the Convention Concerning Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and Operational Guidelines on Convention implementation, graphic materials reflecting defined borders of the Russian properties and their buffer zones, as well as official translation of the World Heritage Committee session regarding Russia as well as reports of ICOMOS and IUCN monitoring missions concerning Russian World Heritage properties.

2. To appeal to international and national credit-financial organizations to not finance projects or structures that are directly or indirectly connected with any activity that could lead to the destruction, degradation or lowering of the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage properties.

II. To the Russian Federation:

3. To consider whether to change the State policy of Russia in relation to recreation and tourism in World Heritage properties and to remove special economic zones from these properties when there are plans for intensive economic development.

4. To develop national World Heritage legislation n through consultation with the public and World Heritage advisory bodies

Forum participants note with reference to the World Natural Heritage properties that:

5. In spite of repeated decisions of the World Heritage Committee, threats to the outstanding universal value of some World Natural Heritage properties continue to grow. The biggest number of such properties is located on the territory of Russia and in African countries.

Among those properties are:

6. «Virgin Komi Forests». In spite of decisions of the 33th, 34th and 35th sessions of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, in 2010, the Chudnoye gold deposit was excluded from the territory of the “Yugyd Va” National Park. In 2011, the geological survey works took place as well as exploration work. This resulted in damage to natural values including water values of the Kozhim River basin. In 2012 these works were extended.

7. «The Lake Baikal». Despite numerous decisions of the World Heritage Committee, the Baikalsk pulp-and-paper mill was re-started with open circuit water cycle in 2010 and has been working since then to the present moment. This results in waste water, containing hazardous substances the amount of which goes beyond the established norms, which flows directly into lake Baikal. Severe air pollution in also continuing. According to plans of the Russian government, announced in the beginning of 2012, the plant should work in the same way until 2015 as a minimum. Unpromising modernization of the plant is being planned, as well as easing of the requirements relating to admissible impact on the ecosystems of the lake Baikal, due to the plant’s inability to meet these requirements.

Instead of the suggestion to try to find financing for a closed circuit water cycle until the December of 2012 (UNESCO), it would be preferable to close down the Baikalsk pulp-and-paper mill (BPPM).

Furthermore, an additional threat has emerged relating to exploitation of the Kholodninskoe polymetallic ore within the boundaries of the World Heritage Site1.

And, a serious additional threat is posed by hydroelectric dams in the Lake Baikal catchment. Impounding of the Boguchanskaya hydro-power station on the river Angara has started, which is very likely to result in the permitted fluctuation criteria of the level of Baikal being increased (at present the level is 1 meter according to a decision of the Russian government).

Moreover, the Government of Mongolia is planning to build several WHS in Selenga’s river basin (half of the water flowing into Baikal), with funds from the World Bank and Kuwait Fund. This is also likely to harm the freswater ecosystems of the Lake, especially in the delta of the Selenga river which is an internationally important wetland protected by the Ramsar Convention.

8. «Volcanoes of Kamchatka». At the beginning of 2012 the authorities of Kamchatsky Kray publically announced plans to construct hydropower stations cascade on Kronotskaya River flowing through the territory of Kronotsky Biosphere Reserve. Due to promotion of the project by the Kray authorities this project created interest among Korean investors2.

Despite the numerous decisions of the World Heritage Committee about the incompatability of minerals exploration and extraction within the World Heritage property, in May 2012 on the web-site of the Kamchatsky Kray Administration, a decision to change the regulations regarding “Bystrinsky” Nature Park was published. This decision allowed geological prospecting works in the territory of the park3.

Furthermore, the decision of the 34th session has not been carried out to give inspectors of regional protected areas the authority to exercise state control. As a result protection of the above-mentioned territories is not carried out even though on a Federal level appropriate changes were adopted in 2011.

9. «Golden Mountains of Altai». In spite of repeated decisions of by World Heritage Committee about incompatibility of gas pipeline construction via the territory of the World Heritage property and assurance by the Russian State party that no decision had been made to commence construction, in September 2011 on the territory of the “Ukok Quite Zone” Nature Park, design and survey works connected with the pipeline construction started. In August 2011, in the area of the works a fire occurred which burnt nearly 4,000 hectares. In 2012 the works are continuing.

10. «Western Caucasus». In spite of the repeated decisions of the World Heritage Committee, Russian authorities plan to construct the Lagonaki Mountain Ski resort on the territory of the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve. This activity was legalized in 2011 in Russia by Law № 365-FZ being passed as a Federal law “On specially protected natural areas”. The law allows construction of mountain ski complexes and tourist infrastructure inside the biosphere polygons of the biosphere reserves. In development of this law the Russian Government, by its order № 603-r dated April 23, 2012 allowed the construction on the territory of Lagonaki biosphere polygon of mountain ski routes, cable roads and other capital objects as well as infrastructure:

Furthermore, in 2011 a tender for construction of the road and cableway was organized/ Both roads will lead to the “Lunnaya Poliana” (officially named ‘Biosphere” Scientific Center) governmental residence through the territory of the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve. In April 2012 public hearings into the above-mentioned roads took place. According to the material presented the road construction will damage the habitat and breeding grounds of rare and endangered species including such globally rare species as buxus (buxus colchicа, IUCN Red Data List, NT).
In 2012 within the territory of the Caucasus Nature reserve construction of the border guard (FSB of Russia) station was also begun.

11. Based on the information provided above, the forum participants recommend to the Members of UNESCO World Heritage Committee gathered on 36th session to place the following sites on the World Heritage In Danger List:

12. «Virgin Komi Forests», «Western Caucasus» and «Golden Mountains of Altai».
In all cases decisions by the authorities could lead to the loss of Outstanding Universal Value of the properties or activity is already occurring which satisfies criteria in clause 180, of the Operational Guidelines, relating to the criteria for inscribing them into the “World Heritage in Danger” List.

13.With regard to the “Lake Baikal” World Heritage property

Given that adoption of the draft decision 36 COM 7B.22 Lake Baikal (Russian Federation) in the edition, prepared by the World Heritage Center, will be the basis for continuation of the BPPM work with the disconnected cycle for an unlimited period of time, to re-draft points 3, 4 and 7 as suggested below:

3. Notes with serious concern that it is planned to allow the operation of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill (BPPM) till 2015 without adequate measures being in place to address the problem of waste water discharged into the lake, recalls the State Party’s commitment made at the 34th session (Brasilia, 2010), to develop and implement a closed-loop water system by December 2012;

4. Requests the State Party, in the event that the implementation of the closed-loop water system is not secured by December 2012, to close the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill (BPPM), and considers that the continued operation of BPPM without adequate measures in place to address the considerable negative environmental impacts would represent a clear ascertained danger to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value as defined in paragraph 180 of the Operational Guidelines;

7. Also requests the State Party to implement the 2011 joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN reactive monitoring mission recommendations, in particular to:

a) assist BPPM in obtaining as a matter of urgency the required investment to effectively implement the closed-loop water treatment system and to ensure that this investment is used for this purpose and not for enhancing the existing production system, — to delete this point completely

b) continue the effective implementation of a long-term alternative livelihoods strategy for the town of Baikalsk,

c) develop, under the umbrella of the Special Law for Baikal, an integrated management plan and land-use planning for this World Heritage property that fully considers all proposed projects, including the mega-project proposed for the development of a Special Economic Zone for tourism in Buryatia and Irkutsk Region to ensure that they are implemented in a way that is compatible with the Otstanding Universal Value and conditions of integrity of this property. Such an integrated management plan should also consider options to address the impact associated to the pollution coming into the lake from the Upper Angara and the Selenga rivers;

in addition to the demands stated in the draft decision of the session:

a) to appeal to the Government of the Russian Federation to present a report about planned measures to be undertaken for conservation of the ecosystem of “lake Baikal” World Heritage property with particular reference to the current and potential influence of existing, projected and under construction, hydropower stations along the Angara cascades.

b) to appeal to the Mongolian Government with the request to provide a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of planned water diversion and Hydropower Stations construction in the Selenga River Basin on the Lake Baikal World Heritage property.

14. With regard to the «Volcanoes of Kamchatka» World Heritage property, in addition to the demands stated in draft decision of the session (http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/36COM/documents), to also decide that changing the documents which determine the management of the values for the World Heritage Area was inscribed, is inadmissible; and that allowing geological prospecting in the World Heritage Area is unacceptable.

To request the Russian State party to prepare by February 1, 2013 a report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage property for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th Session in 2013, with a view of considering the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to threats from the construction of hydropower stations and geological prospecting.

15. To strongly recommend to all State Parties to prohibit State companies participating directly or indirectly in any activity that could lead to the destruction of World Heritage properties or values on the territory of other countries, and in particular:

To recommend strongly that the Russian State party prohibit the participation of “Gazprom” Company in activities (including financing affiliated companies) of companies that plan to extract oil from the territory of “Virunga” National Park (DRK).

To recommend strongly hat the Chinese State party seizes negotiations with the Russian Federation over delivery of gas using the Western route via the territory of the “Golden Mountains of Altai World Heritage property.

To recommend strongly that the French State party ceases its participation in a joint venture with the Russian State company “Resorts of the Northern Caucasus” until Russia withdraws its plans to construct the “Lagonaki” mountain ski resort in the “Western Caucasus” World Heritage area and withdraws the legislation that allows such a construction.

St. Petersburg, 24 June 2012

———————————————————————

1 Buryatia authorities intend to revise the demands of the environment legislation and Central environmental zone of Baikal. In some places the water protection zone reaches 70 km from the shore line. In particular the Kholodninskoye deposit is exactly in the Central environmental zone, the boundary laid after it. – Buryatia President marked on news-conference on January 23. Due to his words in the Central environmental zone it is necessary to smooth the ban on economic activity conduction. The “Metals of Eastern Siberia” (MBC) corporation which is the affiliate of the “Metropol” company of mining industry, has dealings with the Kholodninskye lead and zinc ore deposit mentioned in the statement of Buryatia President.

It negotiated with the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia counting to receive the permission of State bodies for the development of the deposit located in the Baikal Central environmental zone.

Kholodninskoye deposit, located in the East-Baikal District of Buryatia since march 2005 belongs to the structures of the IF “Metropol:. The licence was issued till 2025. But its development is restrained by the fact that the active is located in the Central environmental zone of Baikal Natural territory.

2 http://www.kamchatka.gov.ru/?cont=info&menu=1&menu2=0&news_id=19912, http://www.lhp.rushydro.ru/company/objectsmap

3 http://www.kamchatka.gov.ru/?cont=info&menu=1&menu2=0&news_id=19912, http://www.lhp.rushydro.ru/company/objectsmap

Download resolution