One step forward, two steps backward:
The continuing story about the situation in

Olga Murashko, RAIPON, and Elena Krikunenko, CSIPN/RITC

previous article on this topic

The last issue of the ANSIPRA Bulletin chronicled in detail events relating to the Sakhalin 1 and Sakhalin 2 projects taking place during the past 12 months’ on the island of Sakhalin. The indigenous peoples of Sakhalin carried out two protest actions, in spring and in summer this year, one of which they were forced to give up.

In any case, these actions were really effective for only a short time. In August 2005 Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd. proposed to the Regional Council of authorized representatives of indigenous peoples of Sakhalin to establish a joint working group to discuss an “Action plan for the development of the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin ” with RAIPON experts.

Obviously, this proposition was initiated by a the roundtable discussion on “Indigenous Peoples and Industrial Companies: Experiences and Perspectives” which took place in Vladivostok on 24-25 August, where representatives of the company participated. Eight indigenous representatives, who were members of the Regional Council, participated in the working group. Following a recommendation of the President of the Sakhalin Association of Indigenous Peoples, Aleksey Limanzo, the RAIPON experts Vladimir Bocharnikov and Olga Murashko joined the working group. The pitiful fact is that the joint work with the RAIPON experts has as yet only been an idea. Only on a single occasion has the company sent documents about the preparations of the round table meeting to the experts. Olga Murashko and Vladimir Bocharnikov had informed the company which steps were necessary from their point of view in terms of making a full “Action plan for the development of the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin ”. This happened in the end of August. Since then nobody has been in contact with the experts.

According to Aleksey Limanzo the following is happening in Sakhalin at the present time:

Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd., which had taken the initiative for the meeting, has essentially returned to a position like the one they had at the end of the previous year, when the indigenous population started to protest. This is obvious, as the company categorically declines an ethnological expert investigation. And its leadership does not take any steps to obtain information, which would be necessary for a realistic assessment of the impacts of the company’s Sakhalin 2 project on the traditional livelihoods and environment of Sakhalin ’s indigenous population.

This raises the question: Why was the working group established?

One has to see the start of the company’s interactions with the indigenous population in July in connection with the denial of a loan by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the realisation of their project in 2006.

The unwillingness of the company to further cooperate with the indigenous peoples results, to all appearances, from the diverging positions of the indigenous peoples and the company. On the one side the company is ready to think up an action plan, but it is not considering the input of these peoples, namely, it is not willing to assess the real impact of the project on the indigenous population. This is because the results of an environmental impact assessment would be even more expensive for the company then this action plan they say they are ready to work out.

At the present time a session of this very working group is being planned. But nobody is expecting real results. No matter which questions the indigenous representatives of the Regional Council would raise, they would not be followed up by action on the part of the company.

Right now Aleksey Limanzo considers it very important to assess the impact of the project on the fish resources of Sakhalin , and as a part of this, the traditional fisheries. The indigenous population of the entire island is worried about this question and wonder if it would be possible to approach Sakhalin Energy in this matter.

Aleksey Limanzo describes the relations with the company Exxon Neftegaz Ltd., which is working on the Sakhalin 1 project: After the round table meeting in Vladivostok , representatives of the company declared their willingness to cooperate, but no moves have been made from their side. If the situation continues like this, the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin will find themselves forced to renew their protest actions.

Thus it turns out that the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin find themselves in the same situation as at the start of their actions a year ago. What will be the next winding of this spiral? It is hoped that it depends not only on the patience of the indigenous peoples, but also on the real and considered steps by the company towards the people – forward, not backward steps.

To be continued …