DEVELOPMENT OF SKI RESORTS CAN DEPRIVE 100,000 PEOPLE OF QUALITY DRINKING WATER
A dramatic increase in the landscape alteration in the territory in 2006 – 2014 was driven by construction of venues and infrastructure for the Sochi Olympic Games 2014. However, completion of the Olympics did not stop pressure on nature. The major developers, Roza Khutor and Gazprom, have uncapped appetite which is partly catered to. March 2017 saw Dmitry Medvedev’s decree ceding a number of lands in the Sochi National Park and Sochi Sanctuary to Roza Khutor’s affiliates for 49 years. The rented out plots are situated up the valley of the Mzymta River. It means, the area of partly or completely changed landscapes in the region is soon to grow more.
Scientific community has spent years warning that further advancement of the resorts up the Mzymta River will inevitably result in increased landslide threat and catastrophic flash floods.
Deforestation associated with construction works is the main cause of increased runoff which in turn elevates risk of natural hazards. For the mountainous parts of the Caucasus, the optimum forest cover securing effective runoff regulation is 70%. The plans of ski resort development threaten to diminish the forest cover factor to 62.8% or less. In hydrological terms, the upper reaches of a river are the most vulnerable part of a catchment area.
Even today, hazardous natural disasters become more and more frequent in Krasnaya Polyana. In 2010 – 2013, annual volume of landslides was 5 – 20 thousand cubic meters. On July 21, 2014, a series of landslides near Roza Khutor resort disrupted road traffic. By good fortune no one was injured. Existing engineering protection was unable to cope with such massive slumping: approximately 2 thousand cubic meters of debris were hauled away in the road cleaning effort. This year, a landslide moved over Gorki Gorod’s ski trails on the area of about 3 ha. Obviously, further territory development will only lead to increased occurrence of hazardous natural disasters. With this in mind, it is necessary to introduce a strict forest management plan in the upper Mzymta River aimed at mitigation of risks to people and infrastructure in the lower reaches.
The history of Olympic construction shows that disturbance of the soil and vegetation cover leads to rapid water quality decline in the Mzymta River, which is the main source of drinking water for more than 100,000 residents of Adlersky District. Therefore, further expansion of the resorts up the Mzymta River will result in increased concentration of iron, nitrites, nitrates, and phosphates in the river water, thus necessitating extra investments into development of alternative water sources or construction of new treatment facilities.
Human intrusion into these territories will inevitably disrupt historical migration paths of many wildlife species, including the Persian Leopard; the efforts have been applied since 2007 to reinstall the northern population nucleus of the big cat species, but now the globally unique project for the leopard reintroduction in the Caucasus is threatened.
Igor Chestin, Director of the WWF Russia, comments on the situation:
“We are extremely worried with the plans of intrusion into the Mzymta River valley. As we can see, deforestation of the upper reaches of the river has already resulted in increased number of mud flows and landslides. Experts are unanimous that further deforestation of the upper Mzymta River associated with infrastructure development will likely lead to catastrophic outcomes. It is not about mud flows and landslides alone, the plans threaten water supply to the downstream settlements, including the city of Adler with population over 100,000 people”.