Document Text (Pages 91-100) Back to Document

Measuring Sustainability in the Russian Arctic: An Interdisciplinary Study

by Votrin, Valery, PhD

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Policy relevance
(a) Purpose: The purpose of the indicator is to estimate the amount of stock of reindeer and
paces of development of reindeer husbandry in the Russian Arctic areas.
(b) Relevance to Sustainable Development: Reindeer husbandry builds on the general
principle of sustainable development based on an annual harvest of a natural surplus and helps
to maintain an essential equilibrium that has developed over thousands of years. Reindeer
husbandry is thus an example of a human activity that is carried out in harmony with
sustainability principles. The special nature of reindeer husbandry as a way of life and as an
industry is acknowledged by the authorities at all levels, with the rights of reindeer herders and
of the industry itself secured in legislation. At the same time, reindeer husbandry provides a
material base for the culture of many indigenous peoples in the Arctic and is thus an essential
element in the preservation of cultural diversity in the world.
(c) Linkages to Other Indicators: The indicator is closely linked with many socio-economic
and environmental measures such as GRP per head, unemployment rate, population living
below poverty line, life expectancy, HDI, alcoholism incidence, protected areas, variations in
mean annual air temperature, etc.
Methodological description
(a) Underlying Definitions and Concepts: Reindeer herding is used either for the concrete
action with a herd, or as a description of persons working with the herd, without any ownership
to the animals. Reindeer management is used in the description of different herding systems.
Reindeer husbandry is used as a general term for the families living off the animals, or having a
close relationship to the animals through different kinds of ownership.
(b) Measuring Methods: The reindeer held in all forms of ownership were considered.
(c) Limitations of the Indicator: The number of reindeer stock could be used together with
reindeer pasture area to give a fuller picture. However, data on the latter in Russia are not
(d) Availability and Sources of Data: Data are available from the Ministry of Agriculture and
Reindeer Herder Union of Russia and are collected in Jernsletten and Klokov (2002) and Klokov
and Khruschev (2004).

Number of polar bears

Brief Definition
Agenda 21

The number of polar bears in the Russian Arctic.
Chapter 15: Conservation of Biological Diversity.


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Policy relevance
(a) Purpose: The purpose of the indicator is to show the trends in abundance and distribution of
polar bears.
(b) Relevance to Sustainable Development: As both umbrella and flagship species, polar
bear plays an essential role in the Arctic environment. Data on its population provide a useful
indicator of health of the Arctic ecosystems. Moreover, currently polar bear is at risk of being
extinct due to climate change effects and illegal hunting. Protection of this valuable species is
the primary goal of the efforts to make the Arctic more sustainable.
(c) Linkages to Other Indicators: The indicator has mostly environmental implications linked to
the indicators such as protected land area, air emissions, environmental protection expenditure,
and variations in mean annual air temperature.
Methodological description
(a) Underlying Definitions and Concepts: Please refer to Section 4.3.14 for more details,
including the definitions.
(b) Measuring Methods: Polar bears are monitored and counted using ship-based aerial
surveys by helicopters and satellite telemetry.
(c) Limitations of the Indicator: Due to its migratory nature, polar bears are notoriously hard to
monitor. For the last years, Canadian and American populations have been relatively well
monitored. In Russia, this process is still at initial stage due to financial constraints and lack of
research infrastructure.
(d) Availability and Sources of Data: Data on the Russian polar bear population are extremely
poor. The most accurate data are available from IUCN Polar Bear working group website.

3.5 Discussion
The Internet-based participatory approach involving the elements of interactive research
challenges traditional roles and forms of interaction concerning the development of
sustainability indicators. Interactive research can be defined as a research process in which
scientists and policy actors jointly prepare, carry out and assess an investigation according to
their particular know-how and experience (Astleithner and Hamedinger, 2003). Consequently,
the relationship between researchers, users and the general public must be enduring and be
based on effective two-way communication, with the academic component acting as a “semipermeable
membrane” to allow a two-way flow of ideas and knowledge between both parties
(Kelly and Moles, 2002). McCool and Spankey (2004) emphasise many difficulties surrounding
the process of sustainability indicator development that usually takes place in a contentious,
politicised environment marked with distrust where there are many confronting barriers,
including limited outreach, technical jargon, and time constraints. Of former, the initial informing
stage of raising awareness and generating interest in a project may be particularly laden with

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problems in case of traditional approach. As Jackson (2001) rightly assert, having placed a
newspaper advertisement about upcoming project, “officials believe that they have performed
their duty to inform citizens of a pending plan, yet are often disappointed… when there is little
interest shown by the population”. To avoid later effect of citizens feeling excluded or
underrepresented, a more effective approach would be to identify specific stakeholder groups
and communicate with them directly to generate interest. The significance of interactive
techniques in letting the community identify the important issues and then thinking about how to
monitor progress was recognised as being crucial to the process of developing community
sustainability indicators, e.g. in the UK (Crabtree and Bayfield, 1998; Crilly et al, 1999;
Cartwright, 2000; Chatterton and Style, 2001).
As discussed previously, the Internet-based interactive tools and websites can be an
effective alternative means in developing regional and community sustainability indicator sets by
directly targeting stakeholder groups. In case of a wider regional or subregional project, a
website with an on-line questionnaire and a preceding public involvement campaign seem to
provide an additional support for the indicator practitioners if the goal of reaching the largest
possible audience of potential stakeholders is to be achieved and the project costs be reduced
significantly. Community-based information systems and regional indicator initiatives in the form
of websites with data sharing collections are becoming increasingly popular in many countries,
particularly in the United States (Smith and Taylor, 2000).
A complex, three-stage public participation procedure is provided in the Russian
legislation being a mandatory component of the environmental impact assessment (EIA)
regulations and being understood to mean “the principle of openness, the participation of social
organisations and unions as well as the consideration of societal opinion in the implementation
of the Environmental Review” (Kovalev and Koeppel, 2003). Any citizen wishing to influence
decision making process can submit his remarks after preliminary results of the EIA were made
accessible to the public. Registered environmental NGOs can as well launch their own
environmental reviews called Public Environmental Reviews and their conclusions can attain
legally binding character through recognition by a relevant state environmental review authority.
In addition to the EIA procedures, public participation is provided in other important
environmental laws, including the Law on Environmental Protection, the Land Code, the Forest
Code, the Civil Code, etc.
Despite seemingly well-developed implementation and public participation regulations,
unresolved questions still remain and problems concerning public participation in environmental
decision-making in Russia. Legal difficulty arises from the lack of definition of the “public
concerned” and whether all potentially concerned persons should be given a possibility for
participation. The perspectives of Russia’s accession to the 1998 UNECE Aarhus Convention
on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in
Environmental Matters are still distant, and many important provisions of the Convention (e.g.


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the definition of “environmental information”) are not yet present in the Russian legislation. In
addition to the limited financing of the activities aimed at sustainable development, there is also
a lack of tradition of an "ecological" behaviour or action among population that leads to
insufficient awareness amongst the public on environment related issues. As Granberg et al
(2002) put it, reasonable nature use is not yet a priority issue for public consciousness in
Russia. Overall democratic deficit, the “de-ecologisation”, implementation gap and resulting
unwillingness of the Russian government to embark on the sustainable development projects all
contribute to the situation. Kovalev and Koeppel (2003) specifically mention the difficulties of
public participation in the Russian North where many settlements are within a range of many
thousand kilometres from regional centres.
A number of authors writing about the issues of public participation in Russia stress the
importance of a broader involvement of all major groups in the sustainability process, the
indigenous communities and religious groups among them. Religious communities and
churches seem to be particularly good bridgeheads in promoting the ideas of sustainable
development. Given the enormous influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on all aspects of
daily life in Russia, in particular in rural areas, the Church’s potential for preaching “the green
word” is evident. In August 2000, the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Church in Moscow has
approved a historical document, The Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox
Church, a detailed social doctrine a separate chapter of which was about the environmental
problems. The Concept states that the environmental problems are of anthropological nature,
and that it is impossible to overcome the environmental crisis in a situation of spiritual crisis.
After long years of silence, the Russian Orthodox Church expressed her negative attitude to the
concept of domination of human beings over nature which is the main reason for the global
environmental crisis. This unexpected statement demonstrates the Church’s concern with her
place in modern society and makes the Social Concept, together with long-standing local
monastery nature conservation efforts, the basis upon which to build the Church’s future
environmental strategy (Votrin, 2005). In 1995, Archbishop of Murmansk and Monchegorsk
Panteleymon proposed enhanced co-operation of the Church in environmental decision-making
in the Barents region through a special environmental fund (Poryadin and Zaslavsky, 1996), and
since then a number of environmental projects have been implemented by the Environmental
Harmony Evolution Fund founded in 2001, including the project on the raising and utilisation of
abandoned and sunken vessels in the area to the north from the mouth of Lavna river.
The need for the legal protection of interests of small indigenous peoples of the Russian
North has been expressed by various authors (Pozdniakov and Kurnyshev, 1995; Lynn and
Fryer, 1998; Vakthin, 1998). Today, there are at least two federal laws ensuring adequate
participation of the Northern indigenous population and guaranteeing the protection of their
rights: the Federal Law on National and Cultural Autonomy of 17 June 1996, and the Federal
Law on Guarantees of Rights of the Small Indigenous Peoples of the Russian Federation of 30


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April 1999. In addition, several regional laws regulate the issues of public involvement, local
governance, land rights and so on. Nevertheless, on-going efforts concerning the indigenous
people in Russia are fragmented and unsystematic and existing legislation does not cover all
aspects of their life. The normative acts having direct potential impact on the indigenous people
and the territories of traditional nature use are passed without being preliminarily discussed with
the representatives of the indigenous population (RAIPON, 2003). This is particularly relevant to
the regions with intensive oil and gas development (Krasnoyarsk, Yamal-Nenets, Taimyr,
Chukotka, etc.) where over the last five years top executives of large oil companies were
elected (or appointed) as governors. The natural resources are often exploited at the expense
of the indigenous population which severely affects reindeer pastures and fragile ecosystems
(Forbes, 1999; Osherenko, 2001; Yakovleva et al, 2001; Zenko, 2001). Many acute problems
with respect to the indigenous participation and self-governance by the indigenous people of the
Russian North listed by Krasovskaya et al (2000) (a stand-off between the ethnic movements
and regional authorities, a complete disregard for indigenous opinion illustrated by violation of
their lawful rights and interests by the local authorities, the legal framework for the protection of
indigenous rights and the implementation mechanisms being insufficiently developed, etc.)
persist today. The efforts by international organisations (UNEP/GRID-Arendal) in collaboration
with public associations of indigenous people to strengthen the role of the indigenous
communities in promoting sustainability in the Russian Arctic have had limited effect.
All these factors have been taken into account while planning the activities on
developing the set of sustainability indicators for the Russian Arctic. The chief research
objective was to analyse public attitudes and opinions in relation to the sustainability indicator
set suggested and to measure the level of public interest in the sustainability issues. Analysis of
completed questionnaires and statements by experts indicates respondents’ opinions with
respect to the sectors indicated in Section 3.3. Due to the nature of the survey methodology, it
was impossible to make assumptions about non-respondents’ opinions (11 spoiled
questionnaires were returned).
It is very important to ensure that the outcomes of discussion are reported back to those
who participated (Kelly and Moles, 2002). Each respondent was then contacted to discuss and,
where necessary, clarify his comments. All respondents have readily shared their opinions that
contributed greatly to the project. Geographically, the on-line questionnaire respondents were
located in Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, St Petersburg and Moscow, and were mainly teachers,
environmentalists and NGO workers by trade. Two respondents were students. There were no
indigenous people among the respondents, although the associations of indigenous people
have been requested to provide their opinion about the project.
As mentioned above, the sustainability indicator set for the Russian Arctic is based
mainly on the Russian experience of developing sustainability indicators (federal and regional
sets) which in turn drew upon the UK’s sustainability indicator set. Considering the novelty of the


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Russian Arctic set designed specifically for the northern regions, the Nordic experience was
looked at, in particular the set of sustainable development indicators for Finland and the Nordic
sustainability indicators, and some indicators such as indigenous participation and reindeer
pastures were elicited from those two sets.
Lack of adequate resources and time is reported to be among the most significant
limiting factors in establishing effective and long-lasting participatory structures (Kelly and
Moles, 2002). While “data availability should not become a major curtailing factor in indicator
compilation, otherwise sustainable development will simply perpetuate the status quo” (Crilly et
al, 1999), data availability was the first and foremost limitation for the Russian Arctic
sustainability indicator project that was significantly affected by the lack of official statistical data.
It was agreed that where full data were not available, the indicator would be excluded from the
set. As a result, eight indicators such as “‘budgetary sufficiency per head”, “genuine savings”,
“material intensity of GRP”, “participation of indigenous people in local governance process,
including the development of local Agendas 21”, “organic balance disruption in agricultural
lands”, “fish capture and seafood production”, and “projected oil exhaustion” were excluded. In
addition, “reindeer pasture area” was excluded because any area in the Russian North is used
as a reindeer pasture but for having to be recognised as such, relevant land development is
required. No historic data for this indicator exist. Or, putting it the way one of the participants
said, “What is good for Finland is no use for Russia because many indicators taken from the
foreign sets require data which do not exist in Russia” (Klokov, 2005). Two indicators taken
directly from the Nordic sets, “genuine savings” and “participation of indigenous people in local
governance process, including the development of local Agendas 21”, proved to have no
Russian data available. In addition, a number of authors (e.g. Hueting and Reijnders, 2004) rule
out the possibility of using genuine savings as a sustainability indicator because the indicator
checks several factors that are potentially damaging to the environment, including production
growth and investments in infrastructure.
Highlighting further the significance of data for the process of developing sustainability
indicators, most respondents expressed doubt whether the authorities would provide the data
for the nuclear related indicators. While recent data on nuclear security are available on-line
(the web site of Rosatomnadzor), there are no historical data for the last decade and a lot of
data are still classified. It was agreed, however, not to exclude the nuclear indicators due to
their high relevance to the Russian Arctic and the issues of sustainable development and to use
publicly available data from international reports and books by national experts.
Lack of democracy in Russia has been specifically mentioned by a number of
respondents in relation to the indicator “percentage of voters in regional elections”. Indeed, the
indicator lost its importance during the last two years when the new legislation on the
appointment of regional governors was passed. It was agreed instead to use the indicator


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“number of registered NGOs” that is well supported by data and is used worldwide to monitor
public involvement levels.
Forestry indicators posed particular problem. Both experts and the questionnaire
respondents chose to exclude the indicator “allowable annual cut”, the most commonly used
norm of “non-depletive forestry” in Russia, because in reality the indicator does not reflect many
important aspects of forest management. First of all, the current normative basis for the
indicator, Guidelines on Determining Annual Allowable Cut for Final Cuttings in National Forests
in the USSR, was approved in 1987 when the issues of sustainable development remained
largely a topic for theoretical scientific discussion. More importantly, the guidelines envisage 20
to 30 years for the forest to restore after the cuttings, whereas conifers need 80 to 140 years to
restore properly. As a rule, the allowable cut includes not only the areas of mature forest
suitable for industrial harvesting, but also small parcels of mature forest away from the
transportation routes where the industrial cuttings are considered unprofitable. It is especially
true for the low production forests in the Russian North that account for a good half of the
annual allowable cut. This is the main reason why many timber companies have very big
allowable cuts, with insufficient or heavily depleted forest resources (Yaroshenko, 2001).
Data on forest harvest, area of forest fires and newly forested area for the Russian
regions are difficult to obtain and, when available, reflect only the forests managed by the MNR.
In many regions, including the Russian Arctic, the intensity of use of forest resources for
firewood and other household needs is much higher than that of industrial harvesting that
significantly affects the sustainability of tundra-side forests and other protected forests and
leads to their degradation. No expert opinions or verifiable data on such use are currently
available. According to one assessment, around 400 to 500 km2 of the Arctic forests are cut
annually for firewood only (Vil’chek et al, 1996). Moreover, several reorganisations of the
Federal Forest Agency in the early 1990s and after 2000 have led to the loss of big portion of
archives, and a lot of documents are stored in unknown locations. There is no single procedure
of providing access to the archives and no data are stored electronically (Yaroshenko, 2005).
Illegal loggings remain one of the most severe problems for Russian forests. By illegal
loggings, however, not only loggings without licence are meant, but largely those loggings that
are performed by companies and exceed the volume permitted, or those that are performed on
the protected land, or when rare or protected sorts of trees, e.g. larch, are being cut. In case of
the Russian North and Northwest, the unique pristine forests are most affected (Lopina et al,
2003). It is understandable therefore that forest harvesting data based only on Russian official
statistics are of dubious quality.
The set of environmental and Arctic-specific indicators was redesigned to better reflect
the peculiar Arctic conditions. This includes two social indicators, “share of property owners”
and “share of families in need for housing”, which are indeed the part of the federal set but are
more suitable for central Russian regions where the need for housing is more pronounced. The


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indicator “agricultural land area” was as well ruled out as it indicates mainly farming lands and
therefore is largely irrelevant for the Arctic. The indicators “mean annual temperature”, “summer
ice area”, “ice thickness” and “permafrost thaw index” were partially joined under one major
indicator “variations in mean annual air temperature” that was considered best indicative of
climate change situation in the Arctic and was also better linked to local socio-economic
development programmes. Finally, several indicators, for instance, “state financing of
environmental protection measures” were excluded due to their overlapping with others.
Today, many writers have focused on sustainable development from a predominantly
economic or environmental perspective, with social dimension of sustainability being somewhat
overlooked (Kelly and Moles, 2002). For example, Bobylev and Makeenko (2002), the most
important source of sustainability indicator information for Russia and the best preliminary
indicator set currently available, did not integrate social dimension of sustainability into formal
analysis. The Russian Arctic project has made an attempt to rectify this situation, by introducing
the new set of social indicators based on regional sets and UNCSD (2003) that was significantly
redesigned as a result of discussions of the advisory group.
As discussed previously, lack of data has significantly undermined the project’s ability to
address the sustainability issues in the Russian Arctic. There were also problems in relation to
the Internet access and connection in the area. Perfiliyev (2000) argues that the Russian
Internet does not cover the whole territory of the country but is rather concentrated at isolated
growth points. The Internet is most developed in cities with a population of more than one
million - primarily in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara and
Yekaterinburg. Then follow the cities with a population of 300,000 to 500,000 (such as Irkutsk,
Vladivostok, Rostov na Donu, Khabarovsk, Yaroslavl etc). While in Moscow and St. Petersburg
the Internet development levels are comparable to international standards, talking about
Internet development somewhere in Evenkia or Ingushetia is pointless because there is no
Internet there. The most backward regions are the autonomous okrugs (except for the Khanty-
Mansiysk and Yamal-Nenets) and North Caucasian republics, i. e. the least developed agrarian
regions with extremely low per capita income or extremely sparsely populated regions. The
more urbanised and industrialised a region is, the higher level of Internet development would
normally be there. However, in some autonomous okrugs the role of main Internet centres has
been assumed by other large cities: Surgut in the Khanty-Mansiysk AO and Novy Urengoy in
the Yamal-Nenets AO. While in western economies cable television channels serve as the main
vehicle of Internet interconnection and Internet access is provided as part of a broader service
package, in Russia the majority of private users access the Internet via low-quality municipal
telephone lines. Up do date, cable television has not developed in most Russian regions,
including the circumpolar ones, and cannot be used for Internet interconnection purposes. Both
Internet services sector development and sustainable development issues in modern Russia
are the last mile problem, which is why - and considering dial-up connection of most users -


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about 15,000 hits the Russian Arctic project website received during the year can be viewed as
a demonstration of vivid and lasting interest in the sustainability issues in Russia.
The low level of public involvement and essentially “top-down” approach in developing
the regional sustainability indicators for Tomsk and Voronezh were noted by experts who
indicated that public discussion based on the Internet and public hearings and new expert
involvement were missing from the sustainability indicator development process. Foreign
experts pointed out also at the lack of a broad stakeholder base at federal level in Russia (Rydin
et al, 2003). Despite the above problems concerning data availability, public participation and
the Internet development in Russia, the Russian Arctic set has addressed many issues that
were not adequately addressed by the regional sets for Tomsk and Voronezh Oblasts and that
were summed up by Ozharovsky (2004), who expressed the need for the indicators reflecting
good governance, consumption-production patterns, and nuclear issues. The project proved the
importance of the role of scientists who - apart from their functions described previously – can
also act as catalysers of the indicator process and initiate the debate about the sustainability
indicators. These results are in line with the observations of Gahin and Paterson (2001) and
Gahin et al (2003) that contemporary community indicator projects have been more effective as
tools of community engagement and environmental education than as a means for directly
influencing policy making. The indicators are a tool to put more information into the hands of
more people to inspire action and lead to better decision-making. In this way, the indicators can
empower both citizens and decision makers. Considering that the Russian Arctic project is
essentially future-orientated, the role of environmental education and raising awareness
regarding sustainable development is becoming increasingly important.
What is especially important to bear in mind as a result of the Russian experience of
indicator development is that “the process proved just as important as the final outputs.
Indicators are unlikely to be accepted if developed by experts without consulting their target
audiences and stakeholders who have to have the opportunity to comment on and contribute to
the indicators. Without this, even the best of indicators risk being dismissed by the very
audience they are trying to reach” (Rydin et al, 2003).
The results of measuring sustainability in the Russian Arctic using the first ever Arcticspecific
sustainability indicator set will be presented and discussed in the next chapter.


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4.1 The Core Sustainability Indicator Set
The research has resulted in the core set of sustainability indicators for the Russian
Arctic based on conceptual framework “theme-indicator”. There are 30 indicators grouped into
four categories (economic, social, environmental and Arctic-specific), the latter consisting of
essentially environmental indicators. These are further classified into 17 themes. There are 7
economic indicators, 9 social indicators and 14 environmental indicators, including those in the
Arctic-specific category. The structure of the Russian Arctic sustainability indicator framework is
shown in Table 4.1. The initial long list of the indicators is given in Appendix.
Table 4.1. The final set of core sustainability indicators for the Russian Arctic
Economic growth
Production and
Science and technology
Material equality

Demographic factors
Quality of life
Human health

Public participation
State of natural resources

Air and water quality

Nuclear issues

State of natural resources

Economic indicators
1. Gross Regional Product per head
2. Rate of renewal of fixed assets
3. Unemployment rate
4. Energy use per unit of GRP
5. Investments into research and development as share of GRP
6. Gini index
7. Population living below poverty line
Social indicators
8. Population growth
9. Life expectancy
10. Human Development Index
11. Recorded crimes
12. Morbidity
13. Cancer incidence
14. Infant mortality
15. Alcohol incidence
16. Number of registered NGOs

Environmental indicators
17. Forest area change
18. Actual forest harvest
19. Area of forest fires
20. Newly forested area
21. Protected land area
22. Air emissions
23. Discharge of contaminated wastewater into surface water
24. Environmental protection investments
25. Generation and recycling of hazardous waste
26. INES incidents
27. Generation of solid radioactive waste

Arctic-specific indicators
28. Variations in mean annual air temperature

29. Reindeer stock
30. Number of polar bears


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