Document Text (Pages 161-170) Back to Document

Measuring Sustainability in the Russian Arctic: An Interdisciplinary Study

by Votrin, Valery, PhD

Page 161

In any case, the Russian protected area network greatly differs by region and correlates
with the country’s development. As development moves from western European Russia (most
developed area) eastward to Siberia and Far East, protected area grows accordingly. Most of
relatively large protected areas, mainly zapovedniki, are in the Asian, Arctic and subarctic
zones. Similar is the movement from south to north, to poor-developed pre-tundra and Arctic
areas (Shestakov, 2003). In fact, Russia’s protected areas that are situated in the tundra zone
cover relative large area compared to the forest, taiga and particularly steppe protected areas
(Nikolsky and Rumyantsev, 2001). In organising protected areas in the Russian Arctic
preference in many cases has been given to the high-latitude regions of arctic tundra and polar
deserts, but only individual reserves and protected forests have been designated in the zones of
subarctic tundra and sparse forests. There is an urgent need to eliminate these disproportions
in the planning of a future protected area network in the Russian Arctic (Vil’chek et al, 1996).
Figure 4.19 shows the dynamics of the growth of protected areas in the Russian Arctic
from 1977 to 2001.
Figure 4.19. Aggregate protected land area in the Russian Arctic












1977 1982 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001

Source: author’s calculations based on Dumnov et al (2003)
Only protected areas of federal importance were considered. Aggregate protected land
area in the Russian Arctic tends to grow since 1977. Between 1988 and 1992, it remained the
same, with a sharp increase since 1992 that continued steadily throughout the succeeding
years until 1998, with an area of 4.4 per cent. Overall, from 1977 to 1999 aggregate protected
land area increased by 4.2 per cent.


Page 162

The sharp rise in protected area began in 1982, with a 14 per cent increase by 1988
versus 1977. The early 1990s have seen the further increase in protected area which coincided
with overall interest in environmental issues in that period.
Table 4.27 shows percentage of protected areas in the Russian Arctic by region.

Table 4.28. Protected area in the Russian Arctic by region, 1988 to 2001, %
Region 1988 1992 1998 2001
Cat I Cat III Total Cat I Cat III Total Cat I Cat III Total Cat I Cat III Total
Murmansk 1,5 2,1 3,6 2,0 2,7 4,7 2,0 2,7 4,7 2,0 2,7 4,7
Nenets - - - 1,8 - 1,8 1,8 - 1,8 1,8 - 1,8
Yamal-N 0,8 1,2 2,0 0,8 1,2 2,0 2,0 1,2 3,2 2,0 1,2 3.2
Taimyr 3,7 0,9 4,6 3,7 0,9 4,6 6,2 1,4 7,6 6,2 1,4 7,6
Sakha 0,7 - 0,7 0,7 - 0,7 0,7 - 0,7 0,7 - 0,7
Chukotka 1,1 0,5 1,6 1,1 0,5 1,6 3,0 0,5 3,5 3,0 0,5 3,5
Source: author’s calculations based on Dumnov et al (2003)
As the table demonstrates, the largest Russian Arctic region, Sakha Republic, has the
least percentage of protected area. Two federal zapovedniki were established in Sakha quite
recently, in 1987. However, as Gosudarstvenniy doklad Sakha (2003) argues, Sakha has 5
regional nature parks, 78 resource reserves, one protected landscape and other regional
protected areas, which together account for 28.5 per cent of the region’s territory. Similar
situation is in other Russian regions, including circumpolar ones, where regional protected
areas occupy significant portions of the territory.
Currently, there are a total of 22 protected areas of federal importance in the Russian
Arctic, including 12 zapovedniki (Category I) and 10 zakazniki (Category III). There are no
national parks (Category II) in the Russian Arctic. There are three zapovedniki (Pasvik,
Laplandskiy, and Kandalakshskiy) and three zakazniki (Tulomskiy, Kanozerskiy, and
Murmanskaya Tundra) in Murmansk Oblast; one zapovednik (Nenetskiy) in Nenets AO; two
zapovedniki (Gydanskiy and Verkhne-Tazovskiy) and three zakazniki (Nizhneobskiy,
Kunovatskiy, and Nadymskiy) in Yamal-Nenets AO; three zapovedniki (Great Arctic, Taimyrskiy,
and Putoranskiy) and three zakazniki (Severozemelsky and Purinskiy) in Taimyr (with
Putoranskiy zapovednik also covering some area in Evenk Autonomous Okrug); two
zapovedniki (Ust-Lenskiy and Olekminskiy) in Sakha; and one zapovednik (Wrangel Island) and
one zakaznik (Lebediniy) in Chukotka. In 2001, the total area of protected areas of federal
importance in the Russian Arctic was 8196,5 ha, or 4.4 per cent of the region’s territory
(Dumnov et al, 2003). Considering that there are also protected areas of regional importance,
the percentage of protected area in the Russian Arctic is somewhat higher. In addition, two new
federal zapovedniki (Russian Arctic in Arkhangelsk Oblast and Berengia in Chukotka) are
planned to be established by 2010 (MNR, 2001). There are also plans of regional
administrations to establish regional protected areas, e.g. Central Chukchi national park and
Pribrezhniy zapovednik in Chukotka (Smirnov, 2003).

Page 163

The problem of preserving the Arctic forests, particularly the unique Arctic near-tundra
forests, remains urgent. As mentioned above, the network of protected areas in the forested
part of the Russian Arctic is small. Vil’chek et al (1996) reported that the question has been
raised of protecting forests along the lower course of the Taz and Pur rivers (Yamal-Nenets AO)
but unfortunately such proposals have been made only after these territories had experienced
significant losses as a result of the impact of oil and gas sector. Ten years after this publication,
the area is still not protected.
In Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, there are also so called special protective areas with
logging prohibited, which are established by state forest inventory according to special by-laws.
These are intended to protect forests of catchment areas, habitats of rare species, such as
capercaillies’ mating-places, etc. A kind of protection status is also established for so called
Forests of Group I, which are managed by the state forest service. They do not fully correspond
to protected areas because various kinds of thinning are allowed. Some high conservation value
forests, including most of intact forests, are not legally protected. This means that they are open
for all kinds of logging, including clear-cutting. Still some efforts are made by NGOs to protect
them. In 1996, NGOs initiated a moratorium supported by a number of foreign companies on
purchasing wood from intact forests of Karelia and Murmansk Oblast. However, only a legal
protection status can stop all harvesting in these forests (Lopina et al, 2003).
Fires remain one of the major threats for the protected forests. For example, in 2002,
fires destroyed more than 53,532 ha of protected forested area in Sakha Republic; over 50 per
cent of Djerono regional reserve was burnt out (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Sakha, 2002).
In general, the recent changes in protected area network in the Russian Arctic look very
positive. The total protected area has steadily increased, and new reserves and national parks
are being planned. Yet experts notice alarming trends that facilitate increasing vulnerability of
protected areas in Russia, particularly in the Arctic areas. They are: political and socioeconomic
instability; on-going privatisation and change of ownership; decreasing quality of life
that fuels inefficient and unsustainable use of resources; shift from environmental awareness to
the psychology of survival in the public consciousness; criminalisation of society allowing for
various forms of poaching; and emphasis on natural resource exports in federal and regional
economic policies (Dumnov et al, 2003). Conflicts between various agencies that manage
protected areas in Russia have become usual. The development of new oil and gas reserves at
the expense of protected areas has become characteristic for the Russian Arctic. Smirnov
(2003) reports that in 2002 three regional zakazniki were closed in Chukotka in relation to the oil
field development that started in 2001 in those areas. Since 2002, no new protected areas in
Chukotka have been established. In the meanwhile, WWF (2002a) recommends expanding
protected areas in Chukotka to include: Kolyuchin Island where a lot of polar bear dens have
been discovered; the Sirenik polynia in the northern part of the Anadyr Bay which is the
wintering and birth place of whale-calves of bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus); the zakaznik


Page 164

near Elgygytgyn Lake for mountain sheep (Ovis canadensis); and a unique Markov talik
woodland. The strengthening and expansion of the borders of Wrangel Island zapovednik is
necessary as well.
The suggestions for better protection of arctic ecosystems, including unique arctic and
subarctic forests have been consolidated ten years ago in two important works, Vil’chek et al
(1996) and Serebryannyy and Zamotayev (1997). The latter emphasised socio-economic
problems that may arise from creating new protected areas in the forested parts of the Russian
Arctic, like in Arkhangelsk where environmentalists have been long demanding the southward
extension of the zone of near-tundra forests. Yet such extension may result in the closing of
Lukovets leskhoz where the whole population (around 3000 people) may be left without a
means of existence. These examples are numerous in the forested arctic areas. In addition, in
planning the organisation of protected forest areas it is important to deal with the complete
statistical data on the state of forest resources which are now unavailable due the prevailing
lack of co-ordination among departments concerned with forest management. None of the
major forest users analyses the overall negative impact from their activities which makes it
impossible to comprehensively solve the problem of preventing and eliminating their
Development dynamics of “forested” and protected lands will be influenced up to 2015
by development of energy production. For example, according to available estimates, one dollar
of investments in development of northern fields destroys 2 to 4 square metres of natural
ecosystems. The multi-billion dollar spending required for new developments makes the
ecological damage obvious. Vast tracts of pristine land will have to be developed for new
energy production infrastructure: pipelines, roads, etc. (Bobylev, 2004).
Vil’chek et al (1996) stress the important question whether it is necessary to strive for an
increase in the area and number of protected areas under circumstances in which vast areas
are actually safeguarded by poor transport infrastructure and virtual inaccessibility. Such
regions are thus capable of forming the environmental framework of the Russian Arctic. The
principle of universal protection of nature should be successively implemented and the total
area of protected lands should be no less than 30 to 40 per cent of the entire area of the
Russian Arctic. This principle implies not only the development of a protected area network for
the region, but also the adoption of necessary measures for limiting human pressure, optimising
environmental use, and restoring disturbed ecosystems within areas of technogenic
disturbance. Environmental protection of the areas of traditional environmental use should be
reconciled, and ethnonatural parks included in the system of protected areas in the Russian
In the light of few changes occurred in the system and management of protected areas
in Russia since those two publications, these proposals still apply today.


Page 165

4.4.6 Air Emissions – Our Fatherland’s Smoke is Sweet to Us
Controlling air pollution and ensuring good air quality is a key sustainability objective in
reducing adverse human health impacts, in particular in urban areas.
The main pollution related sustainability indicators such as air emissions, wastewater
discharge, and hazardous waste generation and management are a basic means of drawing up
the picture of environmental situation in a region (Bobylev and Makeyenko, 2002).
As with other both industrialised and developing countries, air quality in Russia is a
major issue for large cities, especially for Moscow and St Petersburg, where non-point pollution
from the increasing number of motor vehicles traffic is growing. During the 1990s, private
transport sector has grown enormously in Russia. Environmental regulations are still minimal for
motor vehicles, and cars with catalytic converters and lead-free petrol have been introduced
since very recently (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya, 2003).
With its lack of modern pollution control and strict environmental standards, the industrial
sector is a major contributor of single-source pollution in most industrial centres. As a
consequence of the glaring absence of environmental policies, some places, like the copper
smelter town of Karabash in Chelyabinsk Oblast, have become notorious as “environmental
disaster zones” due to enormous releases of pollutants: in the case of Karabash, those are
immense sulphur dioxide emissions, fall-out of metal-rich particulates and mounds of black slag
that are considered responsible for higher incidences of birth defects, skin diseases and internal
organ failure among the town’s residents.
Although in the recent years Russia’s air quality standards have become stricter, the
environmental issues, in particular air quality, remain an issue of concern. As Table 4.28 shows,
total air pollutant emissions from stationary air pollution sources in Russia have decreased
significantly between 1990 and 1999, by 45.7 per cent due to the overall decline in production.
However, beginning from 2000, with the shift to resource economy and increased industrial
activities, air emissions steadily grew by 7% in 2003 compared to 1999.
As Table 4.29 demonstrates, in the structure of total direct atmospheric emissions,
particulate matter amounted for almost 20 per cent between 1990 and 2003, followed by SOx
(around 13 per cent) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) (around 12 per
cent). Tropospheric ozone formation potential (TOFP) which is used to give an indication for the
potential formation of ozone due to emissions of NMVOC, NOx and to a lower extent CO and
CH4 was 28 per cent in 1990 and increased to 37 per cent in 2003.


Page 166

Table 4.29. Atmospheric emissions in the Russian Arctic and Russia, 1990 to 2003, thousand tonnes

Region 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Murmansk 699 650 617 539 469 543 505 557 448 368 373 369 333 318
Nenets AO 546 580 506 49 45 24 24 8 8 8 22 18 15 37
Yamal-Nenets AO 2982 2370 2079 525 560 757 617 505 525 540 576 587 725 914
Taimyr 3148 3183 2810 25 21 22 18 18 19 15 16 12 12 15
Sakha 192 191 178 136 134 120 141 129 135 124 134 130 131 134
Chukotka - - - 97 70 72 67 56 51 41 36 32 28 38
Russian Arctic 7,5 6,9 6,2 1,4 1,3 1,5 1,4 1,3 1,2 1,1 1,1 1,1 1,2 1,5
Russia5 34,1 31,8 28,2 24,8 21,9 21,3 20,3 19,3 18,7 18,5 18,8 19,1 19,5 19,8
Source: Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003); Rosstat (2004)


Million tonnes


Page 167

Table 4.30. Atmospheric emissions in Russia by specific air pollutant, 1990 to 2003, thousand tonnes

Pollutant 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
NH3 1191 1161 1084 903 772 824 749 730 675 657 650 625 600 600
NMVOC 3668 3361 3297 3062 2924 2857 2622 2386 2376 2451 2450 2613,5 2777 2777
NOx 3600 3435 3123 3054 2667 2570 2467 2379 2488 2494 2357 2461,5 2566 2566
Particulates 6453,1 6252,0 5620,4 5229,9 4532,3 4392,8 4148,8 3924,2 3850,5 3729,2 3569,1 3680,9 3792,8 3792,8
SOx 4671 4603 4033 3637 3131 2969 2774 2524 2275 2062 1997 2063,5 2130 2130
PM2.5 376 376 376 376 376 376 376 376 376 376 376 376 376 376
TOFP 9526,2 8981,7 8394,4 8033,1 7344,1 7086,3 6665,9 6424,9 6553,5 6682,1 6514,7 6844,6 7174,4 7174,4
Source: EEA (2004)


Page 168

The regional data on specific air pollutants for the Russian Arctic were not available. It is
apparent however that in the context of total air emissions in the Russian Arctic, Yamal-Nenets
AO was the largest contributor to atmospheric emissions and the only region where those have
steadily grown during the past years. Some Russian Arctic regions, e.g. Nenets AO, Yamal-
Nenets AO and Taimyr, have witnessed more than tenfold cut in air emissions, largely due to
the decline in production. The drop in air emissions in those regions was responsible for the
overall reduction in atmospheric emissions in the region between 1990 and 1993 as shown in
Figure 4.20.
Figure 4.20. Air emissions in the Russian Arctic

tonnes 6000















Source: author’s calculations based on
Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya (1998, 1999, 2000,
2001, 2002, 2003)
Since 1993, aggregate air emissions in the Russian Arctic have stabilised which followed
overall trend in Russia.
The major contributors to air pollution in the Russian Arctic are the mining and smelting
sectors, with the largest centres at Norilsk, Monchegorsk, Nikel, Zapolyarny, and Olenegorsk
which are characterised by increased levels of toxic compounds (mainly sulphur and nitrogen
oxides and heavy metals) and increased human morbidity rates for broncho-pulmonary and skin
diseases and cancers. Sulphur dioxide dominates the composition of artificial aerosols, with 2
million tonnes released annually from Norilsk alone. Dust and heavy metals (copper, nickel and
cobalt) with air concentrations 2 to 3 times higher than maximum permissible concentration
(MPC) dominate releases from the non-ferrous metallurgical industry. The concentrations of
compounds of nitrogen, carbon, chlorine and phenol are enhanced in air near the plants and
exceed MPC values for several instances (Evseev et al, 2000).


Page 169

In particular, smelting of copper-nickel ore in the cities of Nikel and Zapolyarny on the
Kola Peninsula is the main air pollution source in the border areas. The emissions peaked at
some 380,000 tonnes of SO2 per year in 1979 and have been reduced to some 150,000 tonnes
per year by 2000 due to lower production in the early 1990s and later due to cessation in the
use of Norilsk ore (UNEP, 2004). The mean atmospheric sulphur dioxide concentration around
those places is ten times the mean for the country, exceeding the MPC by a factor of 2.5,
whereas the maximum one-time concentrations are almost 30 times the MPC. The maximum
nitrogen dioxide concentrations exceed the MPC by a factor of 25. Such large-scale discharges
produce acid precipitation that affects an area of up to 400,000 km2, with the largest
environmental impacts of the emissions being felt on the Russian side of the border with
Norway, but the easternmost parts of Norway are also affected. The transboundary emissions
have led to acidification of soils and surface waters, direct effects of SO2 on vegetation, and
higher concentrations of some metals in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (Vil’chek et al, 1996;
UNEP, 2004). As a result of the massive sulphurous gas emissions from Pechenganikel and
Severonikel plants in Murmansk Oblast, many lakes were oxidised and the vegetation is dying
on Norwegian and Finnish territory (Andreev and Olsson, 2003). In particular, Svalbard is one of
the Arctic areas most affected by anthropogenic transboundary air pollution since it is one of the
first land masses in the path of the pollutant-laden air masses from Central Europe and northwestern
Russia and as a consequence its atmosphere, snow, and ice have a high content of
anthropogenically derived impurities, most notably sulphates (Simões and Zagorodnov, 2001).
The extent of the impacted zones depends not only on the volume of the discharges, but
also on geographical conditions. For example, the affected area around Norilsk extends for
more than 200 km2, but geochemically it can be detected even at a distance exceeding 1,500
km. A so-called “anthropogenic desert” exists within a 3 km radius from the source of pollution.
The thinly vegetated taiga is totally degraded in this area. Conifers have virtually disappeared
and greatly damaged single willows and birches occupy small depressions. Most mosses,
lichens, and shrubs typical of the taiga are absent. Vertical landscape zones on the windward
side of local highlands have been completely destroyed. The concentration of the most
important pollutants in plants and in the snow cover exceeds the background levels by a factor
of greater than 50 (Yevseyev and Krasovskaya, 1998).
The air emissions in the Russian Arctic also include metals, particularly nickel (maximum
emissions approximately 500 tonnes per year), copper (maximum 300 tonnes per year), and
other environmental contaminants (UNEP, 2004). In 1994, the content of copper, nickel, and
cobalt was reported to be very high in the soils (up to 3-5 MPC in the vicinity of the plant and up
to 150-200 MPC at industrial sites) and in plants (the accumulation of copper and nickel in
sphagnum mosses exceeded background levels by a factor of 200 or more) (Vil’chek et al,


Page 170

Transport centres in the Russian Arctic (at Murmansk, Salekhard, Tazovsky, Amderma,
etc.) also constitute sources of environmental stress but of a somewhat different extent. These
cause the formation of hot spots because of contamination of waters by oil products, suspended
substances, heavy metals, etc. Automobile transport in the several cities of the Russian Arctic
contributes to atmospheric pollution by nitrogen compounds, benzo(a)pyrene and carbon
oxides. This activity also leads to significant mechanical degradation of soils and ground
surfaces, especially in the regions with permafrost (Evseev et al, 2000).
Apart from the pollution from industrial activities, one of the major contributors to air
pollution in Sakha are forest fires that are the main source of particulate matter emissions,
especially in the period between May and September (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Sakha-Yakutia,
Russia's ongoing transition to the resource economy means that the government has
been strongly inclined to promote economic growth rather than environmental protection. While
professing to protect the environment, Russian authorities have not always been steadfast at
enforcing compliance with environmental laws and regulations or cleaning up or repairing
environmental damage. For example, as AMAP (2004b) points out, the existing system in
Russia for statistical reporting of environmental releases do not cover most persistent toxic
substances (PTS), and in particular, those covered by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent
Organic Pollutants. The levels of human exposure to PTS in the Russian Arctic, specifically to
HCB and HCH, and, in some cases, also to DDT and PCB is one of the highest reported for all
of the Arctic regions. In some cases, exposure has been shown to exceed levels assessed for
residents of territories, which are internationally recognised as disaster areas, such as the Aral
Sea region, due to long-term use of persistent pesticides. As the party to the Stockholm
Convention, Russia should develop and approve new forms of state statistical reports on
industrial atmospheric emissions, waste water discharges and solid waste which should be
adequate for the requirements of the Convention and other international treaties and
agreements aimed at the limitation of environmental and human health effects of persistent
toxic substances.
Golub et al (2003) found that morbidity and mortality risks in Russia appeared to be
directly proportional to the concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere. Concentrations of SO2,

PM10, sulphates and nitrates were analysed as annual mean concentrations, and concentrations

of ozone as seasonal six hour average concentrations. Coefficients to derive years of life lost
(YOLL) were used (YOLL per one case of chronic disease) to consider premature mortality.
According to listed values of life expectancy, an increase in annual concentrations of PM10 by 10
(g/m3) causes loss of 157 years per 100,000 inhabitants due to chronic diseases. An increase in
the YOLL factor for Russia compared to the YOLL for 15 countries of the EU was reported.
Central Federal District, including the city of Moscow had the highest annual number of new
cases of chronic bronchitis per 100,000 inhabitants in children (253273 cases) and adults


© 2009 All Rights Reserved.