ECOLOGISTS APPEAL TO THE MINISTER NOT TO ALLOW CONSTRUCTION IN CONSERVATION AREAS
The Ministry of Natural Resources and
Environment of Russia published the draft amendments to the laws "On
Specially Protected Natural Areas" and "On Environmental
Expertise" for discussion. Experts from a number of
environmental organizations, including WWF Russia and Greenpeace, have already
provided their remarks and proposals.
The amendments develop and enshrine the powers of the Russian Government to develop "the procedure and decision making criteria for creating biosphere grounds within the boundaries of state nature reserves." Earlier, such grounds could be created only outside this category of specially protected natural areas, but in June 2016, the State Duma urgently allowed their allocation in conservation areas. According to WWF and other experts, this amendment is first of all aimed at developing mountain ski resorts within the Caucasus State Nature Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Creating a biosphere ground implies the possibility of carrying out business operations there, including construction of capital facilities and related infrastructure for the promotion of tourism and sport, as well as lease of land plots.
"The possibility that biosphere grounds may be allocated in state nature reserves poses a threat to the whole system of specially protected natural areas, as the conservation area may be reduced for short-term economic benefits and interests of individual companies," Yekaterina Khmeleva, Manager of the Environmental Protection Regulation Program, said. "This provision is actually one of the ways to reduce the conservation areas and to change the intended use of land plots, and is contrary to the newly-adopted clause of the same law, which directly prohibits any changes in the intended purpose of land and land plots located within the boundaries of state nature reserves."
Caucasus Nature Reserve
(с) Yuliya Kalinicheva / WWF Russia
According to WWF Russia experts, creation of biosphere grounds within the boundaries of nature reserves contradicts the goals and objectives of state nature biosphere reserves and the documents of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program, and may lead to the loss by these territories of their Biosphere Reserve status. WWF and Russian Geographical Society pointed out the unacceptability of this provision back in 2016 in their letter to the President of Russia.
The issue of creating a biosphere ground in the Caucasus State Biosphere Nature Reserve, which is part of the Western Caucasus world heritage site, also has global implications. According to the resolution of the World Heritage Committee, construction of large sports and tourist facilities and related infrastructure, whether within the site or in the adjacent territories, may serve the ground for transferring the Western Caucasus world heritage site to the Endangered World Heritage list.
In this respect, the most appropriate solution will be to amend Clause 2, Article 10 of the Federal Law "On Specially Protected Natural Areas" to exclude the phrase "Based on resolutions of the Russian Government, biosphere grounds may be created on part of the territory of state nature reserves."
As a compromise option, WWF Russia proposes to adopt legislative amendments prohibiting the construction of capital facilities and related infrastructure on biosphere grounds for the promotion of educational tourism, physical culture and sport, which will make it possible to create biosphere grounds within nature reserves without changing their intended purpose or land withdrawal or development.
Such amendments require a substantial revision of the draft law. WWF sent its proposals to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia.
Photo in the announcement: (c) Yury Yurkin / WWF Russia.