Siberian indigenous people protest pipeline plans

The indigenous Evenk people in north Siberia have launched a campaign against Russian energy giant Gazprom’s plans for a pipeline through their territory, which they say threatens their traditional hunting and fishing grounds. The planned pipeline, which will link the Yakutia Republic‘s Chayandinskoye oil and gas field with the Far Eastern Russian city of Khabarovsk, is to be developed near an Evenk settlement.

“We are not against progress or economic development, but we feel like we are the ones who will suffer from this,” RIA Novosti quoted the group as saying in a petition, signed by 213 indigenous Evenks. “Our reindeer pastures and hunting sites are being seized, rivers are being poisoned and fish are disappearing.”

Gazprom said an alternative pipeline route would be much longer and would cost around $1.67 billion more in construction expenditures. The Chayandinskoye deposit to be developed by Gazprom is one of the largest in Russia, with gas reserves estimated at 1.24 trillion cubic meters, and oil and gas condensate reserves of 68.4 billion tons. (New Europe, Feb. 20)

The development plan has been protested by the Evenks since it was first launched by the firm Yukos in 2002, with an intended pipeline route to China. Yukos was subsequently dismantled, with many of its assets appropriated by the state oil company Rosneft. Later, the government took a controlling stake in Gazprom, and the the Chayandinskoye fields were evidently transferred to that firm.

The Chayandinskoye-Khabarovsk pipeline is slated to be built by 2016, with an extension to Vladivostok. It is one of a network of pipelines Russia has planned for the Far Eastern region, mostly to export gas to China and South Korea. (Oil of Russia, Lukoil International Magazine, No. 2, 2010)

Moscow is aggressively seeking Western capital for the development plans. Gazprom is reported to be moving ahead on talks with Royal Dutch Shell for further development of gas resources on Sakhalin Island, for export to Japan. This follows the recent announcement of Rosneft’s deals with ExxonMobil on exploration and development of the Tuapse Trough in the Black Sea and with BP on the Vostochno-Prinovozemelskoe field in the arctic Kara Sea. (Asia Times, Feb. 11)

See our last posts on Russia and the regional pipeline wars.

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