Russians sign petition against gas pipeline route
The memorandum on deliveries of Russian natural gas to China was signed by “Gazprom” during Russian president Vladimir Putin's visit to China in March 2006. Despite the Ukok Plateau status of regional natural park and of the UNESCO World Heritage site, the new gas pipeline to China is planned to be built through this protected nature area, which is contrary to the Russian legislation as well as to the international heritage commitments of the Russian Federation. The pioneering and the pipelining require a proper infrastructure (including a transport network), which will irreparably damage the unique ecosystems and cultural heritage of the Ukok Plateau. The environmentalists recommend a much less destructive alternative route through Mongolia (villages of Tashanta and Khovd) along existing roads.
Within the campaign against Gazprom’s pipeline project WWF-Russia organizes a photo exhibition dedicated to the Ukok Plateau (19 January – 2 February). During this exhibition the campaign seeks to collect the signatures for a petition addressed to Dmitriy Medvedev, first deputy prime minister of Russian government and the Chairman of Gazprom's board of directors, urging to choose an alternate route for the new pipeline.
The Ukok Plateau is recognized as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site entitled “Golden Mountains of Altai”. It provides critical habitat for the snow leopard and many other endangered species, including the argali mountain sheep, dzeren antelope, black stork and steppe eagle. The plateau’s remarkable biodiversity is due to its complete sequence of altitudinal vegetation zones from steppe, forest-steppe, mixed forest, sub-alpine vegetation to alpine vegetation. The plateau is the source of major rivers that flow into Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China. Archaeological remains are of great scientific interest, especially since the discovery of a mummified Scythian «princess» in 1996. Within the Altai Republic (political division similar to a state in the USA), the Ukok Plateau is protected as a «Quiet Zone,» where economic development is prohibited.
- Golden Mountains of Altai consists of the Altai and Katun Nature Reserves, Lake Teletskoye, Belukha Mountain, and the Ukok Plateau. As stated in the UNESCO description of the site, «the region represents the most complete sequence of altitudinal vegetation zones in central Siberia, from steppe, forest-steppe, mixed forest, subalpine vegetation to alpine vegetation». While making its decision, UNESCO also cited Russian Altai's importance for preservation of the globally endangered mammals, such as snow leopard and the Altai argali. The site covers a vast area of 16,175 km².
- “Gazprom” is one of the largest gas companies in the world, accounting for 20 % of the world’s gas production and 90 % of Russian domestic production and holding the world's longest pipeline network (150,000 km). The Russian government controls 50.002 percent of shares in Gazprom.