Snow leopard populations continue to decline at alarming rates throughout its high mountain habitat in northern Eurasia. The total population in the Central Asian republics and Russia's Altai/Sayan region of southern Siberia is estimated to have dropped by at least half over the last decade and only about 800 individuals are thought to remain. Current population estimates for each of the five countries are: 150-250 individuals in Tajikistan, 150-200 in Kyrgyzstan, 150-200 in Russia, 100 in Kazakhstan, and 50 in Uzbekistan.
Despite the extraordinary conditions that scientists and NGOs are working under -- namely, social and economic crisis, corruption at all levels of government, massive unemployment, rampant poaching, and an uncontrolled black market -- we feel that SEN is in a unique position to help them. Solid foundations built during the NESLP's Pilot Phase (1996-1999), especially the formation of the Snow Leopard Working Group, Asia-Irbis, have brought us to the point where we can now, for the first time, initiate on-the-ground demonstration projects and campaigns to protect prime habitat, most of which currently fall outside existing boundaries of protected reserves. Asia-Irbis now includes 18 northern Eurasian scientists and conservationists from all five countries, and their collaborative mentality and enthusiasm bodes well for the long-term effectiveness of regional conservation efforts.
It is clear that various means must be employed simultaneously to stabilize the species to the greatest degree possible. In the NESLP's long-term context, this means improving enforcement in protected territories, improving legislation, continuing educational outreach for the local populations, increasing field monitoring and research, and most importantly, finding sustainable economic activities that discourage poachers from poaching. Evgenny Koshkarev, NESLP's scientific advisor says, "A long-term project is really needed to solve the problems which were created over many years. Many funders and the government of the former Soviet Union think the problem should be solved overnight."
With this in mind, Asia-Irbis and SEN are inaugurating a long-term multi-faceted approach to snow leopard protection with the launch of phase II of the project. The following four sub-projects will receive the majority of attention for 2000:
· Continuing technical and other capacity-building support for the Asia-Irbis coalition;
· Developing a snow leopard protection "demonstration site" at the Ala Archa National Park Complex in Kyrgyzstan to identify effective protection and conservation measures, which can then serve as a model for other areas in northern Eurasia;
· Initiating campaigns to designate protected territories around prime snow leopard habitatthe "habitat hotspot" just north of the Ukok Plateau in the southern Altai mountains of Russia is our top priority;
· Continuing support for community outreach and biodiversity conservation programs conducted by country-specific Education Teams.
Ways for local people to be directly involved in habitat conservation efforts are also being devisedwith economic benefits for them wherever possible. Some examples of this include park maintenance, tree planting, trail making, being guides for minimum-impact camping trips, and monitoring for signs of animals and/or poachers. Developing such win-win situations can often be a critical factor in conservation. Such considerations will be kept at the forefront of NESLP activity.
Seminar for hunting guides regarding Snow Leopard protection, Kyrgzystan
Please, if the information here inspires you to action, send a fax immediately to one or all of the addresses below. A vital natural area is being threatened by road and pipeline development and your faxes can make a difference now.
This April a regional association of administrative officials called the Siberian Accord decided to construct a road and gas pipeline to China, through the Ukok plateau in Gorniy Altai, Russia (See picture on page 1). NGO representatives and scientists of the region had opposed the plan in December, proposing an alternate route through Mongolia that would use existing infrastructure, but public participation was excluded from the decision-making process, and their input was ignored. Local NGOs are now mounting an international campaign to protest the road and pipeline construction. Letters and faxes from around the world are flooding into the offices of Siberian officials, letting them know that the project is being watched, and demanding that they act responsibly. The Global Response environmental action and education network <www.globalresponse.org> sent an Action Alert in May to over 3600 adults, teens and children, urging them to send protest letters to the relevent politicians.
The Ukok plateau is at the crossroads of Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakstan. It is precious because of its biodiversity, pristine high-altitude ecology, and ancient archaeological sites. It is home to the snow leopard, an endangered species that has inspired an international campaign, spearheaded by SEN's regional partners, to protect its habitat from poachers and industrial development.
The road/pipeline project would damage this delicate ecosystem and threaten many key species of wildlife, as well as invade land sacred to indigenous Altai people. Additionally, it is economically inadvisable since construction of a road through wetlands, tundra, and permafrost at more than 2500 meters elevation is likely to cost huge initial investments and require continual repair.
We ask that you write a few paragraphs on your organization's letterhead protesting the construction of the road and gas pipeline, and emphasizing the importance of preserving the Ukok plateau from further industrial development.
Send your letter by fax to as many of the people below as you can:
Please also send a copy of your letter to the following email address (a local NGO working against the pipeline project): Alexander Yumakaev,The Fund for 21st Century Altai, <firstname.lastname@example.org> or <email@example.com>
Several members of the Northern Eurasian NGO community made
their voices heard at the negotiations of the Biosafety Protocol
in Montreal earlier this year. Olga Berlova of the Socio-Ecological
Union (Russia) Tatyana Topchiy of Green Dossier (Ukraine) and
Cestmir Hrdinka of Greenpeace (Czech Republic) monitored the negotiations
of international agreements concerning genetically modified organisms
(GMOs) and trade. As the talks progressed, these observers reported
the delegates' actions back to their home countries. They issued
a Central and Eastern European (CEE) NGO statement at a crucial
stage in the discussions, a document hailed by CEE vice speaker
Gabor Nekhay (Hungary) as the first statement on the issue from
CEE NGOs. In their statement, the NGO observers condemned the
attempt by a few wealthy countries to impose their profit-based
interests over the will of the majority of the negotiating countries,
emphasized the importance of the Precautionary Principle, and
urged that the biosafety protocol not be subordinated to other
including free trade agreements.
After returning home, Topchiy and Berlova participated in a roundtable discussion Feb. 15th in Kyiv entitled, "Genetically Engineered Foods: Are We Ready to Take the Possible Risks?" Also at the roundtable were prominent Ukrainian scientists, PR managers from biotech companies, and representatives of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Health Care, and the Ministry of Science and Education. The environmentalists held that each customer should have a right to choose whether or not to consume transgenic foods. At a time when transgenics are meeting with growing resistance from Western European customers who insist on further testing and labeling of GM foods, biotech giants like Monsanto are courting East European markets. At the round table, the biotech companies' PR managers could neither agree with the environmentalists nor refute their claims concerning the risks of GMOs. In a last-minute maneuver, Monsanto had scheduled its own press briefing the day before the round table, and had not invited any environmentalists to take part.
NGOs Respond to Pressure with Spirit and Ingenuity
On March 22nd, together with five other US environmental organizations working in Russia, SEN sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin expressing dismay at the growing harassment of NGOs across Russia, and calling for Putin to respect the organizations' constitutional rights.
After months of intimidation of individual environmental activists by the FSB (the former KGB) with accusations of espionage and terrorism, on March 1 the Prosecutor General's Office initiated sudden inspections of the activities and financial documents of numerous environmental organizations.
The Russian Duma was simultaneously rumored to be considering a draft law that would expand the rights of the Prosecutor's Office, specifically allowing prosecutors to unilaterally close down unregistered nongovernmental organizations.
Five other leading environmental groups working in Russia joined
SEN in sign
ing the letter. They include the Initiative for Social Action and Renewal in Eurasia (ISAR), Bellona USA, Pacific Environment and Resources Center (PERC), the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), and the Earth Day 2000 Network. By sending the letter to Putin just before the elections, these organizations hoped to bring pressure on the candidate to improve his environmental record.
The affected groups, located throughout the country from the centers of Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Ural mountains and the Far East, responded quickly and resourcefully to the demands of the regional prosecutors, and at the same time reached out through regional networks for support from their colleagues in other areas. As a result, the inspections have actually strengthened many groups
In Sosnovy Bor, just west of St. Petersburg, Oleg Bodrov of Green World reports that the inspection of their organization's activities and tax status worked in their favor. NGO members gave the inspectors copies of a color brochure they had recently published about the natural treasures of their region, and spoke about their work to protect these treasures.
Their strategy worked beautifully. "They all started to remember that they also had children, and that [our work] was important for their health," remarked Bodrov after the inspections were complete. "We destroyed their image of us as 'enemies of the people.'" In the end, not only did the inspectors find no infractions of the law, they discovered people working to protect valuable regional resources and to honor the natural world.
Dima Lisitsyn of Sakhalin Environmental Watch had a similar experience. "Here in Sakhalin all the inspecting parties acted formally and properly, and didn't find any violations. The head inspector was completely filled with our ideas as a result of communicating with us. The examination was very useful for our organization. However, I'm sure that in other regions it was a different story... The question as to whether these investigations are legal still remains."
In Chelyabinsk, when Gosman Kabirov of the organization Techa was called into the regional prosecutor's office, the prosecutor's investigator showed Kabirov a letter based on instructions from the Prosecutor General of Russia, which stated that the membership, finances, and activities of all environmental NGOs in Russia were to be looked into. It also requested proposals for amending the Law on Citizens' Organizations.
Kabirov immediately alerted environmental groups all over Russia, proposing that all NGOs contribute their suggestions to their own regional prosecutor. This generated a nationwide debate on the rights of the prosecutor's office, the legality of the proceedings, and the response of the NGO community.
With Putin still in the early months of his presidency, we
have yet to see how the situation will develop. However, no more
rumors of a repressive Duma law have been heard, and the environmental
NGO community has successfully demonstrated its legitimacy, creativity,
Swans featured in Green World's brochure on the natural values of the south shore of the Gulf of Finland
"Safe Energy Now!" was the rallying cry of Earth Day 2000, a celebration bringing together nearly 500 million people around the world on April 22nd to draw attention to the critical environmental issues of our time, and to call for change at the personal and political levels. SEN and our Russian sister group, Ecotok, acted as coordinators for the Earth Day 2000 activities in northern Eurasia, helping stimulate the biggest Earth Day the region had ever seen, with over 400 groups participating.
There were tree plantings, poster contests, renewable energy demonstrations, rallies, plays and concerts from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka, and from Tbilisi to Tashkent. Many events drew the connection between the antinuclear focus of the day and the 14th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe on April 26th.
· In Voronezh, Anti Nuclear Resistance organized a rally protesting the Russian government's plans to import nuclear waste. It featured large puppets, banners, street theatre, and "mutant monsters." Voronezh is home to the oldest and one of the most troubled nuclear power plants in Russia.
· The Odessa Socio-Ecological Union, along with the newspaper "Vechernyaya Odessa", the Administration of Odessa region, and the Academies of Agriculture, Weather, and Architecture, organized a press conference to draw the attention of regional leaders to the need for developing alternative energy systems in the south of the Ukraine, instead of nuclear power.
· Ecodefense!-Kaliningrad organized an Earth Week from April 20-26. An exhibition on renewable energy was held in one of the city museums, and a benefit concert and rally took place in the center of city on the 26th, devoted to both Earth Day and the Chernobyl anniversary. The rally in the center of the city was organized by the Chernobyl Union.
· Planet of Hopes is presented two exhibits of children's art, "Energy for the World " and "Children of the World against Nuclear War". The exhibition started on Earth Day and was prominently displayed in the Ozersk City Hall. Ozersk is the city where the Mayak Nuclear Facility is located.
From our office in Petersham, we helped the international organizers of the Earth Day 2000 Network identify potential partners across northern Eurasia, including groups that focus specifically on energy issues. Then Earth Day organizers began working directly with Ecotok, who translated information about worldwide Earth Day activities into Russian; distributed it throughout their network; posted it on their web site; corresponded with NGOs, teachers, and other individuals; gathered information about planned northern Eurasian activities; and translated it into English for the Earth Day 2000 Network's website.
Russian antinuclear activist Vladimir Sliviak (Ecodefense!) tapped into the broad network of organizations working on safe energy issues, and encouraged them to use the theme of the day to bring energy issues to the forefront of the public debate. Alexey Yablokov (Center for Russian Environmental Policy) helped to reach and involve people on the government level by sending a letter to all the regional offices of the State Committee on Ecology asking them to join the festivities. As a result, all 89 subjects of the Russian Federation participated, as the holiday was included in the official list of events by the Organizing Committee for the National Days of Protection from Ecological Disasters.
Globally over 4500 groups in 181 countries were involved in this year's Earth Day mobilization, raising awareness of energy issues and bringing together groups who work on transportation, nuclear power, efficiency, renewable energy, and other related issues, to focus global attention on the need to change how energy is generated and consumed.
The Earth Day 2000 Clean Energy Agenda
· Clean Power - In the next decade, increase four-fold the amount of energy obtained from renewable sources such as sun and wind. By 2020, produce at least 1/3 of the nation's energy from renewable sources, and double the efficiency of energy use in homes, buildings, transportation, and industry.
· Clean Air - Clean up our power plants by setting progressively tighter limits on all power plant pollutionincluding carbon dioxide, the major cause of global warming. Close the loophole that allows old coal-fired power plants to pollute much more than newer plants.
· Clean Cars - Hold sport utility vehicles, pick-up trucks and minivans to the same air pollution standards as cars and improve the fuel efficiency of new cars and light trucks to a combined average of 45 mpg by 2010 and 65 mpg by 2020. Offer incentives that build strong markets for renewable fuels and for clean vehicles powered by hybrid motors and fuel cells.
To this end, SEN strives to empower people to take action in defense of the biosphere through its two major programmatic areas: the Northern Eurasia Environmental Assistance Program (NEEAP) and the Earth Experiences Program (EEP).
NEEAP provides technical training, conducts professional exchanges, and builds organizational capacity for grassroots environmental groups in the former Soviet Union. Having collaborated with environmentalists in the former Soviet Union for over fifteen years, we acknowledge that we have inherited a unique destiny to work together to achieve a sustainable future.
The Earth Experiences Program includes elements of deep ecology, eco-tourism, environmental education, and sharing the wisdom of indigenous peoples. Through these shared Earth experiences, we help transform the isolation and disconnection we often feel with Nature and each other into committed action towards a harmonious way of living on this planet.
Tel: (978) 724-3443
Fax: (978) 724-3436
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