Lying to either side of the Urals, the Republic of Komi and Khanty-Mansiysk in the north of Russia are among the country’s most oil-rich regions. Scarcely populated, they provide a substantial share of Russia’s oil and gas revenues.
Angelina Davydova (RNEI), theconversation.com
The areas are famed for their pristine nature, unique biodiversity and nature reserves, such as the UNESCO-listed Yugyd Va National Park. They are equally renowned for oil, gas, nickel, gold and valuable timber. Intense mining and drilling over the past 20 years in both regions has made prosperous places of many former back-country towns, boasting developed social infrastructure, marble pavements, and shiny new shopping centres. But in spite of high levels of income, residents of oil-rich towns experience many social problems such as alcohol and drug abuse. The indigenous peoples of the Siberian north, many still living a very traditional lifestyle, experience the same problems while existing on poverty-level welfare payments.
Last month, Greenpeace Russia made several expeditions to the region. The first was to visit the state-owned Rosneft oil fields in Khanty-Mansiysk. Here, according to their statement, “thousands of hectares of forests and wetlands” had become “environmental disaster zones just in a matter of years”. The second was to Lukoil-Komi, a private company working in the Komi Republic, which had allowed an oil spill of at least 500 tonnes into a local river. It took weeks to redress the impact of the spill – the company and the local administration didn’t have enough resources of their own and even employed local residents to help out with the disaster.
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