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    05 august, 2013

    The nature is for the world, and not for profits

    Author: Natalia Danilina, no comments

    In the end of June, the 37th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Center took place in Cambodia. As a whole, the documents adopted at the sessions assessed the state of Russian sites included in the World Natural Heritage as satisfactory. However, under the frames of the discussion, deep concerns and worries had been expressed in regards of several unique natural monuments.

    A permanent fight is going on between those who understand the value of the heritage, and those who simply want to explore resources and get dividends already today without bearing any responsibility for the future existence of natural sites. Fortunately, there are nature protecting activists, general public, who always stay alert. But a comprehensible position of state agencies is of utmost importance. Absence of a constructive dialogue between these two parties generates quite a few speculations. I am not going to idealize my colleague public activists; they often do not want to listen to the other party. And this is one more issue which, I am sure, creates obstacles for nature preservation in our country.

    That said, the state does bear responsibility for the sites we are here talking about before the entire world. It is extremely important that the issue related to them were openly discussed and not only at international sessions, but also inside the environmental communities of the country and public activists. Unfortunately, even if we have such discussions, they are usually taking place in a closed regime and only a limited number of involved people are informed; only subjective and contradicting each other interpretations of the same decisions get out on the surface and in mass media.

    For example, the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Nature of Russia informed that at the UNESCO session the statuses of all five Russian sites of World Nature Heritage were acknowledged as satisfactory. This statement corresponds to the letter of adopted resolutions. And on the Green Peace’s website one can read that we absolutely cannot speak about any World Heritage Center’s satisfaction, and the situation with these objects is nearly catastrophic. Where is the truth? I do not claim I know the truth, but will present in short my vision of the problems which I consider to be important.

    Among the World Heritage sites, in my opinion, there are three which have serious problems to be resolved in the nearest perspective.

    The first one is the Baikal Lake: the Baikal Pulp Mill operation. A resolution of the Government has been adopted: it was declared that the Mill will be closed down. This is good; however, it is rather worrying that it will be closing down for several years, up until 2015. Besides this, a decision of the kind had been already adopted and annulled later on. This worries. The Pulp Mill is an abscess, a serious point of tenderness which hinders both preservation of the Baikal and tourism development. I visited the Baikal in the Pulp Mill zone: there is no need to be a specialist to assess the situation. The stench there is absolutely awful. Tourists as everything living run away and perish. This is a real threat to the Baikal. The Pulp Mill shall be closed down ASAP.

    If we are speaking about the virgin Komi forests, the situation is quite different here, though it is not simple. There is no threat to the heritage. But a serious mistake had been made yet at the stage of outlining borders of this territory for its inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage List. A gold mining territory was included in the borders of the site. Project developers had not taken this into consideration (I cannot exclude they did not want to). The conflict was ingrained initially. And a scandalous situation has been remaining around the development of this deposit for 20 years.  According to the letter of the law, the fact that a gold mine remains in the zone of a World Heritage site is a violation. Application on inclusion of the site in the UNESCO Heritage was submitted on behalf of the State. How it became possible to submit an application without a due expert examination is a special story. The country assumed responsibilities; however, we are unable to execute them in the full scale. The Delegation of the Ministry of Nature assured at the UNESCO session that a solution on this natural monument will be ultimately found in cooperation with the World Heritage Center; these assurances were accepted.

    And, lastly, a serious theme is preservation of the “West Caucasus.” Unfortunately, the plan is to exclude some its segments from the World Heritage. However, as they commented at the Ministry of Nature, this procedure will be carried out in accordance with international rules existing for such sites. The nomination will be reconsidered. With that, additional extremely valuable forest segments will be included in the site’s composition.

    The discussion had also touched the Kamchatka Volcanoes. Presently there are no real threats to this site. Various crazy projects of Kamchatka exploration like erection of a HPS in the territory of Kronotsky Reserve do periodically come out. However, their obviously unlawful character is clear and would not have deserved any discussion, if our public did not have the bitter experiences of many decisions adopted against both the common sense and the law. A good thing is that scholars and public activists stay alert, and repel all attempts to exploit the natural heritage of world significance with utilitarian purposes. We must acknowledge that in these cases the Ministry of Nature acts as their ally. At the same time, exploration of Kamchatka beyond the borders of the World Heritage site is going on, which is a real problem. But this is out of the frames of the topic in question.

    It would be good to mention other resolutions of this UNESCO session. Without any discussions had been approved reports on the preservation statuses of the four Russian World Heritage sites: “The Kizhi Churchyard;” “The Yaroslavl Historical Center;” “The Cultural-Historical Complex of the Solovetskie Islands;” “The Moscow Kremlin and Red Square.” Execution of UNESCO recommendations in the territory of the “Ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery” was acknowledged as exemplary.

    And more: the UNESCO Committee had also approved formulation of “the extraordinary universal value of the Lenskie Columns” (a Natural Park in Yakutia) included in the World Heritage a year ago at the 36th session of the CWH in St. Petersburg.  We can congratulate our colleagues who had done a lot to let this unique natural and cultural object get universal acknowledgement.

    Rubrics: Ecology

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