Russia: "The oil industry has brought us nothing but troubles"
"The oil industry has brought us nothing but troubles" - This is the opinion of a majority of the indigenous inhabitants of Izhma and Usinsk districts in Komi Republic, one of Russia's foremost oil producing regions, participants of a press conference by the Committee to Save the Pechora told media representatives on 19 November.
The press conference held in St Petersburg was attended by journalists of "Interfax", "Novaya Gazeta", "Radio Petersburg", "Radio Russia" and other media and news agencies as well as academia and civil society representative..
Since spring 2014, the indigenous population of these regions has been vigorously protesting against the bad business conduct by the local oil producer. A popular assembly has voted to ban the company from their territory, a decision which was eventually ignored by the company.
At the press conference, the Chairman of the Committee to Save the Pechora, Fedor Terentyev, briefly presented the results of a sociological survey conducted by the activists of the Committee in 12 villages of the Izhma and Usinsk districts with the support of the Moscow Research group Tsirkon. As shown by the survey results, the villagers consider the environmental pollution one of the most worrying and urgent problems, along with the poor state of housing and roads. Even the desolate state of the region’s “non-roads” is considered less serious by the villagers than the problems caused by oil pollution. 88% of respondents indicated that the oil industry is severely impacting the traditional subsistence activities of the indigenous population.
More than 90% of the local population pursue traditional subsistence activities, and for half of them, they constitute important sources of additional income. This is especially significant, because, as also indicated in the study, 80% of the local population are financially worse off than the Russian average. The vast majority of respondents believe that oil production does not contribute to the development of the areas in which it is conducted. Instead of benefits, indigenous people are hit by environmental problems that negatively affect the health and quality of life of the population.
The coordinator of the Committee to Save the Pechora for the Izhma district Nikolai Bratenkov, informed about the ongoing conflict between local residents and the oil producer "LUKOIL-Komi" and the protests held by the population. Nicholai Rochev, chairman of the indigenous interregional movement “Izvatas” talked about the problems caused by the presence of the oil industry on indigenous peoples’ ancestral territories. Video footage was shown with testimonies of the inhabitants of Kolva and Shchelyayur villages. The question and answer session followed by individual interviews with participants lasted much longer than the time scheduled for the event.
The press conference was also attended by Rodion Sulyandziga, Director of the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North, who noted in his speech that indigenous peoples have no intentions to block the economic development of the region, of which they are often accused by the authorities. However , they demand a respectful and careful attitude towards their environment and compliance with their legal rights.
Tags: Climate action