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Russia: Izvatas Komi protest oil spills poisoning the Izhma river

May 10 2016

Photo by the Committee to Save Pechora
On April 10, Komi Izvatas inhabitants notified the Commitee to Save Pechora of a large oil spill on the Yagera river near Ukhta in the North of Komi republic. The Committee reports that approximately 400 metric tons of crude oil have reached the Izhma river, thus affecting the livelihood of many Izvatas communities in the vicinity

The origin of the crude oil is undetermined, however the Commitee to Save Pechora says it might be originating from an oil extraction site operated by LukOIL. On 26 April it announced it suspects a site on the Malyi Voivoizh stream, while authorities were saying they were unable to identify the source.

The oil spill and the inability of the authorities to identify its cause has sparked a series of rallies of the indigenous Izvatas population, who have a history of resisting oil extraction on their territory. In 1994, the neighbouring district to the North, around the city of Usinsk was hit by the largest terrestrial oil spill ever.

The Ivatas or Komi Izhemtsy are a subgroup of the Komi people, which belong to the Finno-Ugric family of languages. The Izvatas engage in reindeer herding, fishing and hunting and strive to be recognized as indigenous. However, recognition continues to be withheld.

For more information (in Russian)