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Measuring Sustainability in the Russian Arctic: An Interdisciplinary Study

by Votrin, Valery, PhD

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applying in most cases. In a broader context, Granberg et al (2002) emphasise that the
environment and sustainability issues do not appear to become the national strategic goal that
could unite all Russians and help lessen destructive centrifugal and confrontational tendencies.
Criticising the new federal 2002 Environmental Protection Act, Mukhamet-Irekle (2002)
notes that the environmental function of the state in modern Russia “plays the only role which
consists in providing a legal basis for plundering Russia’s natural resources by bureaucrats and
2.3.2 Local Agendas 21 and Sustainability Initiatives in Russia
Despite the lack of a national Agenda 21 in Russia, there is a number of successful local
Agendas 21. One, the Murmansk Region-Barents Sea Sustainable Development Programme,
or Barents Agenda 21, has been operational from 1995 to 1998. Efforts to protect and clean up
the environment have been supported by the region’s government and are coupled with
measures to support economic growth and development. Such measures are based primarily
on the natural resources of the region’s mining, metallurgy, oil and gas production, fishing and
forestry. The programme is the UNDP Capacity 21-funded, complex initiative involving several
government and civil society institutions with many challenging issues. Phase 1 of the
programme focused on (i) developing a strategy for incorporating principles of environmental
governance and sustainable development into the region’s policies; (ii) strengthening of the
infrastructure and planning processes of the key agencies working on sustainable development
in the region; (iii) building local capacity to facilitate co-ordination of sustainable development
policies across different sectors; and (iv) assisting local institutions in prioritising the needs for
international investment and donor support. Phase 1 resulted in the development of the
Sustainable Development Action Plan (SDAP) presenting action strategies and
recommendations to strengthen the region’s economy and environment. The integration of the
SDAP into the regional socio-economic development plan is a real success of the programme
(UNDP Capacity 21, 1998; Andreeva, 1998; Eglington et al, 1998; Limonova and Olshanskaya,
Another UNDP-funded local Agenda 21 project is the Altai Agenda 21, in the Altai
Republic of Russia. The project ranged for one year, from 2001 to 2002. The main objective of
the project was to create consultative and participation mechanisms and build institutional and
human resource capacity for sustainable human development for planning and implementing
Local Agenda 21 in the selected regions of the Altai Republic. The project achieved great
interest in the sustainable development issues among local stakeholders. Three local
municipalities have been identified as the pilot projects for the further implementation of the
project, with broad public participation and comprehensive and integrated approach to socioeconomic
development and environmental problems of the Altai Republic (UNDP Capacity 21,


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Following the success of the Barents Agenda 21, the governments of neighbouring
Karelia and Leningrad Regions also requested the assistance of UNDP in preparation of their
own sustainable development plans. The project lasted for two years, in 1999-2001, and
resulted, as in case of the Murmansk, in the development of the SDAPs for the two regions in
the framework of the Socio-Economic Development Programmes. Investment strategies to
enhance socio-economic development of the two regions were also prepared. The project
included also capacity building and institutional strengthening components (UNDP Capacity 21,
Other important local Agenda 21 projects funded by EU’s LIFE programme, Milieu-
Kontakt Oost-Europa, and EBRD include the development of local Agenda 21 for St.
Petersburg; Sustainable Pechora; Sustainable Izhevsk in Udmurtia Republic of Russia;
Sustainable Pskov; Quality of Life Indicators for Tyumen and others.
2.3.3 Federal and Regional Sustainability Indicator Sets
The development of sustainability indicators in Russia started in 2000 when regional
administration of Kemerovo Oblast together with the UK’s consultancy Environmental
Resources Management (ERM) embarked on the project “Development of Concept of
Environmental Politics for Kemerovo Oblast. Interaction of Authorities, Business and the
Public” financed by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK. The
ongoing phase of the project focuses on the development of regional sustainability indicators.
So far, the initial 119 indicators have been proposed.
In 2002, in preparation for the WSSD, a comprehensive report “National assessment of
progress of the Russian Federation’s transition to sustainable development” containing some
prospective sustainability indicators for Russia has been prepared by Russia’s Ministry for
Economic Development and Trade (MEDT, 2002).
In 2001, the MEDT requested ERM’s assistance in designing a set of environmental,
social, economic, institutional and “social contract” indicators to measure the sustainability of
Russia's Socio-Economic Development Strategy. The project lasted for 2 years and consisted
of the two components: developing sustainability indicator sets for Russia at federal level and
for the two pilot regions. At federal level, an initial set of 141 indicators was developed, of
which 25 core indicators were selected to reflect major targets of Russia’s development in the
nearest decade. At regional level, the indicators for the Tomsk Oblast and the Voronezh
Oblast have been developed.


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Figure 2.3. Administrative division of the Russian Federation

The combination of two approaches was used: 1) all problems of the regions were

grouped into three categories – economic, social and environmental, and 2) core/baseline
indicators for each category were selected. The aggregated HDI was also calculated for both
regions. The indicators are divided into core/baseline, additional and specific, the latter being
actual for a given area. As a basis for the indicator development, the regional Socio-
Economic Development Programmes were used. Specific targets common for both regions
have been identified:
Economic development;
Modernisation of basic capital;
Investment attraction;
Development of small business;
Innovation development;
Improvement of quality of life; and
Waste management (Bobylev and Soloviova, 2003).
Sustainability Indicators for Tomsk Oblast. Tomsk Oblast (region) lies in the southeastern
West Siberian Plain, in the southwest of Siberian Federal District, and has a
population of 1,060,800 people (2002). The development of the territory which now belongs to
the oblast began in the early 17th century. Tomsk itself was founded in 1604. Most of the


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oblast’s 316,900 km2 territory is inaccessible because it is covered with taiga woods and
swamps. The oblast shares borders with Krasnoyarsk Krai and with Tyumen, Omsk,
Novosibirsk, and Kemerovo Oblasts. The oblast is rich in natural resources, particularly oil,
natural gas, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, peat, and underground waters. Forests are also
among the most significant assets of the oblast: about 20% of the West Siberian forest
resources are located in Tomsk Oblast. Industry makes up about half of the GRP, while
agriculture contributes 19% and construction 13%. Chemical and oil industries are the most
developed, followed by machine construction. The oblast’s major export items are: oil (62.1%),
methanol (30.2%), and machinery/equipment (4.8%).
In developing sustainability indicators for the region, the advantages and risks have
been considered as demonstrated in Table 2.1.
Table 2.1. Major economic development related advantages and risks in Tomsk Oblast
Strong oil and gas sector, with large local oil companies
Highly developed academic and research potential
Strong IT sector and information networks
Forests and other renewable natural resources
High level of literacy
Rich natural resources (with limited access)
Limited oil and gas resources (discovered oil reserves are likely to be exhausted in 30 years)
Reduction of world prices for oil and gas
Limited state support of economic development and education
Negative demographic processes
Source: Bobylev and Soloviova, 2003
The regional Socio-Economic Development Programme for 2001-2005 was used for
short-term planning with respect to the indicator development and application. The
Programme’s priorities are given in Table 2.2.
Table 2.2. Priority measures of the Tomsk Socio-Economic Development Programme
to maintain dominant position of oil and gas sector in the region’s economy;
to strengthen support for the development of education and research as a real sector of the
to increase the region’s investment attraction;
to develop innovation strategy;
to speed up the development of services sector;
to develop transport infrastructure and communications sector;
Poverty Reduction sub-programme:

- to create conditions allowing people to improve their living standards through their
- targeted social protection of most vulnerable categories;
- to solve health and housing problems;
- to start legalisation of “grey income”;
- to support and protect mothers and children.
Source: Bobylev and Soloviova, 2003


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The sustainability indicator project for Tomsk Oblast resulted in a set of 120 indicators
of which 36 indicators, including 12 core indicators have been selected. The whole set is given
in Table 2.3.
Table 2.3. Sustainability indicator set for Tomsk Oblast

No Indicator
1 Gross Regional Product (GRP) per capita, 1000 roubles/capita
2 Energy intensity of GRP, KWh per 1000 roubles
3 Physical index of fixed assets, %
4 Investments in fixed assets from all financing sources, % of GRP
5 Goods and services produced by small businesses, % of GRP
6 Share of innovation product shipped to the total industrial product shipped, %
8 Budget costs per capita, 1000 roubles/capita
9 Unemployment rate, %
10 Genuine savings, million roubles
11 Total pollution per unit of GRP, 1000 tonnes/million roubles
12 Share of unrecycled waste, 1000 tonnes
13 Paid services per capita, 1000 roubles/capita
14 Rate of renewal of fixed assets, %
15 Share of workers in small businesses to economically active population, %
16 Real disposable cash income, %
17 Poverty level, %
18 Gini Index of Income Inequality, %
19 Number of recorded crimes per 10,000 inhabitants
20 Mean age, years
21 Natural population growth, persons per 1000 inhabitants
22 Life expectancy, years, including males and females
23 Infant mortality, persons per 1000 infants
24 Total morbidity, persons per 1000 inhabitants
25 Cancers per 10,000 inhabitants
26 Share of economically active people with higher education, %
27 Protected areas, 1000 ha
28 Environmental protection investments in basic capital, 1000 roubles
29 Natural capital, million roubles
30 Total air emissions, 1000 tonnes
31 Total wastewater discharge, million m3
32 Tick-borne encephalitis per 100000 inhabitants

33 Lyme disease per 100000 inhabitants
34 Opisthorchiasis per 100000 inhabitants
35 Calculated felling area, %
36 Oil depletion rate, million tonnes
Source: Kozlovskaya, 2003

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The first twelve indicators in the set are the core indicators. The last five are those
specific for Tomsk Oblast. The set is planned to be used as a framework for designing
community sustainability sets for 4 rayons (districts) of Tomsk Oblast: Molchanov, Krivosheino,
Tomsk and Shegar Rayons.
Sustainability Indicators for Voronezh Oblast. Voronezh Oblast lies in the Central
Russian Upland, in the Central Federal District, and has a population of 2,378,803 people
(2002). Of a total area of 52.600 km2, 39,300 km2 are agricultural land. The oblast shares
borders with other Black Earth Belt regions: Belgorod, Kursk, Lipetsk, and Tambov that
together have the richest soil in Europe. The oblast produces airbuses, rocket engines for
space equipment, machinery for oil-gas industry, excavators, radio-electronic complexes,
synthetic rubber and tyres. Voronezh Oblast is a leader in the production of foodstuffs, in
particular dairy products, meat, and sugar.
In developing sustainability indicators for the region, the key problems and
development priorities have been identified as shown in Table 2.4.
Table 2.4. Key problems and development priorities of the Voronezh Socio-Economic
Development Programme
Key problems
Reduction of industrial potential
Low level of domestic and international investments
45% of agricultural enterprises are in the red
Low gasification level (only 18% of rural households have gas supply)
Underdeveloped education system
Culture, particularly theatres is in need of state support
State health system needs to be restructured
Low level of crimes but significant shadow economy
Development priorities
Modernisation of industrial potential
Development of small business sector, especially in the field of trade, construction, repair
services, and venture enterprises
Improvement of gas infrastructure
Rural development
Improvement of management system
Source: ERM, 2003
The sustainability indicator project for Voronezh Oblast resulted in a set of 120
indicators of which 35, including 17 core ones, have been selected. The whole set is given in
Table 2.5. Core indicators are marked in bold.


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Table 2.5. Sustainability indicator set for Voronezh Oblast
1 GRP per head, roubles
2 Total investments as GRP percentage, %
3 Breakdown of investments by source, %
Bank loans
Foreign funds
Breakdown of investments by economy sectors, %
Transport and communications
4 Fixed assets per capita, roubles
5 Rate of renewal of fixed assets, %
6 Production output, roubles

a) Production output per capita, roubles
b) Production output as percentage to previous year, %
7 Agricultural output, roubles

a) Agricultural output per capita, roubles
b) Agricultural output as percentage to previous year, %
8 Share of innovative products in industry, %
9 Share of products, goods and services of small businesses, % of GRP
10 Employees of small business as a percentage of employed population, %
11 Electric energy intensity of GRP, KWh per 1000 roubles
12 Natural population growth, persons per 1000 inhabitants
13 Infant mortality, persons per 1000 infants
14 Share of economically active population, %
15 Morbidity, persons per 1000 inhabitants
Cardiovascular diseases
Active tuberculosis
16 Share of residents with income below minimum subsistence level, %
17 Ratio of average per capita income to the minimum subsistence level, %
18 Income differentiation
19 Unemployment rate, %
20 Pressure on the labour market (registered unemployment per a vacant job)
21 Recorded crimes
Per 100,000 inhabitants


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Crime detection rate

22 Budgetary sufficiency per capita, roubles per person
23 Human Development Index
24 Area of cultivated (ploughed) land, ha
25 Share of cultivated (ploughed) land, %
26 Newly forested area per annum, ha
27 Wastewater discharge, m3
28 Wastewater discharge per capita, m3 per person

29 Waste generation per unit of GRP, tonnes per million roubles
30 Share of toxic waste properly disposed, %
31 Generation of solid municipal waste per capita, tonnes per capita
32 Gross air emission, tonnes
33 Share of transport emissions, %
34 Implementation of environmental activities with financing from the oblast budget,

35 Environmental investments from all financing sources, roubles
Source: ERM, 2003
Two indicators – “area of cultivated (ploughed) land” (24) and “share of cultivated
(ploughed) land” (25) - are the indicators specific for Voronezh Oblast.
When comparing the two indicator sets, it is evident that the Tomsk set contains two
environmental indicators only vis-à-vis eight environmental indicators in the Voronezh set.
Social and economic indicators are almost similar in number (ten and nine respectively) in
both sets.
Aggregated indices such as HDI and genuine savings were broadly used in designing
the core indicator sets, with HDI included in both sets and genuine savings in the Tomsk set
only. Both sets use environmental capacity indicators reflecting cost of natural resources per
unit of product, or specific pollution per unit of output (Bobylev and Soloviova, 2003; ERM,
2003; Kozlovskaya, 2003).
It is important to note that existing regional statistical data can be used for applying the
Among the problems in Russia the local experts (e.g. Ozharovsky, 2004) have
identified are: lengthy approval procedures at regional and federal levels (soglasovanie), low
public participation, and uncertainty whether the authorities will use the indicators.
In addition, specific multicultural and ethnic conditions in Russia require the use of
sustainability indicators that would reflect conflict potential, interethnic relationships,
federalisation processes, etc (Granberg et al, 2002).
Ideally, the “through” indicators would be required for federal, regional or local level
(Bobylev and Soloviova, 2003), and it was the main idea when developing the Russian
regional indicator sets. Currently, these are used as a framework for developing sustainability


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indicator set for Kemerovo Oblast, and there is strong possibility that other Russian regions,
including those in the Russian Arctic will use Tomsk and Voronezh sets as well.
As reported by one Russian expert in the early 2006, another two Russian regions –
Altai Krai and Republic of Chuvashiya – launched regional sustainability indicator projects.
2.3.4 The Russian Arctic
There is an obvious difficulty about defining the Russian North. In Russia, terms “North”,
“Siberia”, “Arctic region”, and others are used to denote the cold, distant, Northern periphery
and often without precisely defining the geographic area under consideration. There are two
official definitions of the Russia’s Northern territories: the Far North (Krainiy Sever), including
the Arctic, and the regions equivalent to the Far North (mestnosti, priravnennye k rayonam
Kraynego Severa). According to this definition, the European North and most of the West
Siberian, East Siberian, and Far East economic regions were classified as the North. The Far
North and the regions equivalent to the Far North encompass 11,900 thousand square
kilometres, or 69.7 per cent of Russia’s entire territory. Twenty-seven of the 89 subjects of the
Russian Federation fall partially or total into the Far North or regions equivalent to the Far North
(Heleniak, 1999).
Smorchkova et al (2000) provide the following useful account of specific features of the
Russian Arctic:
In administrative and political terms, the region occupies a peripheral position

within the country and within the relevant constituent parts of the Russian
Federation, meaning that many aspects of monitoring, implementation of new
management mechanisms, budgetary financing and adjustment of the activities
of economic entities within the region are not given due attention;

The region is divided into unequal large “fiefdoms” of ministries, departments,
Russian joint-stock companies (RJSC), transnational companies, oil companies,
etc. This is particularly true for northern European Russia, where Russian,
foreign and transnational companies have divided up land with potential oil and
gas deposits;
The transfer of environmental decision-making in the Arctic region from the
federal executive bodies to the regional authorities, which are solidly backed by
big companies;
Objective difficulties in obtaining reliable information on the state of the
environment because of underdeveloped communications (roads, transport and
telecommunications) and the ongoing closure of environmental inspection and
monitoring posts;
An unregulated, uncoordinated investment policy, not agreed upon with the
regional and local authorities, in terms of regional development and

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environmental protection (redistribution of profits towards the extracting
enterprises and environmental costs towards the State);

Demographic tendencies: the region is dominated by immigrants from elsewhere
in Russia and they form the basis of the so-called “conquerors of nature” and
especially of the middle-ranking managers, who operate on the “après moi, le
déluge” principle; the indigenous peoples of the North represent only about 2% of
the region’s population;
The point or, less frequently, ribbon (beside rivers) nature of anthropogenic
destruction, though the general impression is of complete degradation of the
natural environment. Accurate assessment shows that only 1% of the region’s
total area consists of totally destroyed ecosystems and some 8% are affected by
anthropogenic impact (not including the reindeer pastures, 20% of whose area is
traditionally regarded as damaged); and
The heavy dependence of the state of the natural ecosystems and biota on
global atmospheric pollution and global pollutant transfer and fallout.
As mentioned above, in 2003 Russia started the process of merging the okrugs into their
main regions to reduce the number of the Russian federal subjects. Following a referendum on
this issue held in 2005, the autonomous okrugs of Taimyr and Evenkia will be merged into
Krasnoyarsk Krai, their main region, on 1 January 2007. Other okrugs such as Yamal-Nenets of
Tyumen Oblast will probably follow. As Wilson (2003) correctly notes, despite the process of
territorial amalgamation in Russia seems fair and democratic and any territorial changes must
be approved by popular referendum, the merger of the okrugs may weaken the idea of regional
self-rule, one of basic principles of any true federal state.
Political and administrative entities in the Russian Federation (Figure 2.3) overlapping
the Arctic and thus covered by this study are (according to Young and Einarsson, 2004a): the
Murmansk Oblast, Nenets Autonomous Okrug (AO), Yamal-Nenets AO, Taimyr (Dolgan-
Nenets) AO, the Sakha-Yakutia Republic, and the Chukotka AO. The Russian Arctic is the
widest area in the circumpolar North and the most populated one. In 2002, there were
1,981,100 people living in this region (Young and Einarsson, 2004a).
Murmansk Oblast1 is located on the Kola Peninsula in the northeastern part of
European Russia. The region has coastlines on the Barents and White seas and borders on
Norway and Finland in the west and Russia’s Republic of Karelia in the south. The region was
founded on 28 May 1938. It occupies an area of 144 900 km2 and extends 400 km from north to
south and 500 km from west to east. It has a population of 1,048,000 people (956,000 urban
and 83,000 rural residents); the population density is 7.2 people per km2
. The region’s
administrative centre is Murmansk, with a population of 399,000. Murmansk is Russia's largest


The information on the Russian Arctic regions was taken from the site:


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