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On the threat of the destruction of unique natural complexes of the World Natural Heritage Site "The Western Caucasus"

17th Congress of YABLOKO

June 18, 2012

Appeal No 6.6

Submitted by Andrei Rudomakha and Sergei Mitrokhin

On the threat of the destruction of unique natural complexes of the World Natural Heritage Site "The Western Caucasus"

The Russian United Democratic Party YABLOKO calls the World Heritage Committee at its forthcoming session, which will be held in St.Petersburg in late June, to pay special attention to the critical situation in the field of preservation of World Natural Heritage Site "The Western Caucasus".

"The Western Caucasus" based on the Caucasian Nature Reserve is a unique natural area, that is not only a national treasure of Russia, but also the natural heritage of all the mankind. Throughout the period since 1999 up to the present, when The Western Caucasus" was included in the list of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site this object had been endangered by different projects that could destroy it. Initiating the inclusion of "The Western Caucasus" in the World Heritage List, Russia has been chronically failing to fulfill its international obligations under the Convention on the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Not only have the Russian federal government failed to take effective measures to curb the destructive projects launched by regional governments, but they have initiated a large number of dangerous projects. The efforts of environmental and scientific community have eliminated many threats for "The Western Caucasus", however, unfortunately not all of them. Consequently, the World Heritage has suffered irreparable damage. The blame for this lies with Russian federal and regional authorities.

The most egregious facts include building on the initiative of the Presidential Property Management Department of a ski resort Lunnaya Polyana (Moon Glade) in the World Heritage area intended for recreation of Vladimir Putin and disguised as "research centre Biosphere. The construction led to devastating impact on the unique natural landscapes in the western slopes of Mount Fisht. Construction of a road from the village of Cherngovskoye was conducted there in 2007-2008, this resulted in a colossal damage to the natural complexes of The Western Caucasus." Large-scale cutting of woods implemented in The Western Caucasus" within the Republic of Adygea for many years lead to degradation of vast areas of virgin forests.

In view of the critical situation around The Western Caucasus", the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has already twice adopted quite tough decisions recommending Russia to take effective remedial measures.

Unfortunately, most of these recommendations were neglected and the situation with The Western Caucasus" has been further deteriorating.

The YABLOKO party is calling the World Heritage Committee above all to pay attention to the two, in our opinion, key issues threatening the integrity of The Western Caucasus".

1) The construction project of Lagonaki ski resort initiated by the "Resorts of the North Caucasus" company and enjoying personal support of Russias top officials. Aiming at realisation of this project the federal government even changed the law so that to legitimise the possibility of building ski resorts in the nature reserves. Implementation of this project will lead to large-scale destructive impact on natural systems of the Lagonaki plateau and the Fisht-Oshtenski mountain range, which are the most important centres for biological diversity in the entire Northern Caucasus. The negative environmental impact from this project, if it is not stopped, will be comparable as of its scale with the environmental damage that occurred during the preparation for the Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi.

2) The ongoing construction of the Lunnaya Polyana ski resort and the plans to build a new road to the resort from the village Solokh-Aul. The road is disguised under the name "Road route to the meteorological station of the Caucasus Nature Reserve." Implementation of these projects leads to the destruction of natural systems in the southwestern part of "The Western Caucasus" and the loss by Russia and the world of the sites that are national and world heritage. In the present extremely difficult political situation in Russia, when the federal government completely neglects public opinion, national interests and international obligations, the position of UNESCO plays a key role in the solution of these problems.

In view of this, the YABLOKO party calls the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to the following:

1) to recommend to Russia
- abandon plans to build the Lagonaki ski resort in The Western Caucasus" World Heritage site;
- abandon plans to build a road between the village Solokh-Aul and Lunnaya Polyana;
- dismantle the ski lifts on the western slopes of the Fisht mountain and turn the Lunnaya Polyana resort into a real research center with its transfer to the Caucasian Reserve, or the Russian Academy of Sciences.

2) to adopt a decision on the inclusion of The Western Caucasus" World Heritage site into the list of "Heritage at Risk!"

See also:

17th Congress of YABLOKO

Protection of Environment

June 18, 2012

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