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Reindeer herding and petroleum development on Poluostrov Yamal: Sustainable development or mutually incompatiable uses
by Bruce Forbes
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Development scenarios and conclusions
  Plans regarding the development of the Yamal gas fields have been undergoing near constant revision during recent decades. There still remains indecision about the route of the potential pipeline(s) (Deutsch Morgan Grenfell 1998), or even whether there should be any major pipeline(s) built at all. An alternative scenario under serious consideration is to ship the gas out by tanker via the Northern Sea Route (Golovnev et al. 1998). Regardless of the eventual outcome, a great deal of damage has already been sustained by the ecosystems of Yamal since the advent of extensive exploration and development (Forbes 1995, 1997; Khitun 1997; Vilchek 1997), including health and demographic problems among the indigenous population (Pika and Bogoyavlensky 1995). Among wildlife populations that have thrived for centuries in conjunction with reindeer herding, certain favoured species appear to be in decline and may soon become locally extinct due to an increase in hunting and poaching (Dobrinskii and Sosin 1995).
  According to Gazprom's plans, the Yamal Project is to be developed in stages. The "last and most expensive" (i.e., damaging) stage, which they estimate at $18 billion, is not scheduled to begin until around 2005, and the actual reserves are not "needed" until beyond 2010, possibly later (Deutsch Morgan Grenfell 1998). Given the structure and power of the Russian state, its majority stake in Gazprom, and its increasingly desperate need for hard currency to pay its debts, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the final stage of the Yamal project will indeed go ahead sooner or later. However, the expected delay potentially affords some time for further baseline ecological and socio-economic studies to determine the most sensitive way to proceed. Although the American Oil Company (Amoco) was sponsoring archaeological, revegetation and reindeer pasture monitoring studies for several years, it withdrew from Yamal Peninsula in 1996. Amoco has since been merged with British Petroleum (BP) and other Western companies are planning to step in to fill the void, including Finland's Neste Oy. Gazprom, which has begun selling shares on the international stock market (Deutsch Morgan Grenfell 1998), has a poor record of environmental and cultural protection on Yamal (Forbes 1995, 1997; Khitun 1997; Vilchek 1997; Golovnev and Osherenko 1999). Therefore, long-term Western involvement is likely to be beneficial, so that international standards and protocols for mitigation are instituted and adhered to. If not, pressure can be brought to bear where it counts most, in the international media and the marketplace, should Gazprom continue, and its new cohorts begin, to ignore their responsibility to the Nenets and to the environment.
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Reindeer herding and petroleum development on Poluostrov Yamal: Sustainable development or mutually incompatiable uses, by Bruce Forbes.
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