Commentary: Will leopards suffer the consequences of the Eastern Siberian oil pipeline?

Publish date: September 22, 2005

Russian ministers insist an oil pipeline outlet to the Pacific should be installed at Nahodka instead of Perevoznaya Bay, where three nature preserves are situated. The Transneft oil company is not going to change its plans, and its documents may be submitted for state evaluation on Monday.

Yury Trutnev, Minister of Natural Resources, Herman Gref, Minister of Economic Development and Igor Levitin, Minister of Transport finished their working visit to Russia’s Far East on September 19th. The officials evaluated possible outlets to the Pacific Ocean for the Eastern Siberian oil pipeline being constructed by Transneft company.

Yury Trutnev said the Kozmino Bay in Nakhodka area as the best place for. It is also the most profitable from ecological and economic standpoint. The two other ministers concurred with Trutnev. However, Transneft forwarded Perevoznaya Bay as its choice of outlet in the technological and economic assessment it prepared. The company will present the assessment for state evaluation on Monday, Transneft vice-president Sergei Grigoriev told Bellona web.

Three nature reserves
Trutnev’s position is rational. First of all, Nakhodka has all the necessary infrastructure, while Perevoznaya requires that everything be built from scratch, including a railhead. Secondly a pipeline through Perevoznaya Bay may spell ecological trouble to three nature reserves — Kedrovaya Pad, the Far East Sea Reserve and the Barsovo reserve — as well as several other local nature reserves. The pipeline will also cover some territories where rare animal species, such as the Far Eastern Leopard and Far Eastern Panther make their habitats. If Nakhodka is chosen as the pipeline outlet, there will be fewer ecological problems that could arise.

The ministers say they are certain the technological and economic assessment, which is still in a draft stage, may include additions and amendments. Interfax news agency quoted Gref as saying that Transneft should correct its assessment, taking into account the ministers’ point of view.

Aside from that, Trutnev is anxious about the pipeline passing so close to the Baikal Lake in Eastern Siberia―the worlds biggest fresh water source.

Current designs by Transneft situate the pipeline route a mere 700 metres from lake Baikal, which is too close according to current legislation.

Surely, Trutnev is right, but according to anonymous sources who spoke with Bellona Web, it is improbable that the company will pay attention to the position of the government. Changing the technological and economic assessment of Transneft will require more investment and a repeat of much project work.

We can’t help worrying about such estimates especially when taking into account the fact that nobody knows the exact point of another pipeline, which will connect Western Siberia and the Barents Sea.

Transneft displayed its attitude to popular opinion clearly last summer during public hearings in regions to be impacted by the Eastern Siberia pipeline. The company paid no attention to ecology and small nations’ concerns.

It is highly probable that the situation will be the same with the northern pipeline. It remains to be hoped that that the company will take into account the position of the government and common sense this time around.

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