English translation from the official periodical of RAIPON “Мир коренных народов - живая арктика” (Indigenous Peoples’ World - Living Arctic) No. 17, 2005

There are achievements, but tundra people still face challenges

Kh. Ezynghi, Vice-President of the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!”

From the editorial office:

    We met Khatyako Ezynghi, Vice-President of the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” and deputy to the State Duma, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YNAO), at the Roundtable on Interaction of Oil Production Companies and Indigenous Peoples in Naryan-Mar in December 2004. Kh.М. Ezynghi spoke after he heard mutual accusations of representatives of oil companies and indigenous residents of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. In his address, Ezynghi pointed out that disputes in terms of tundra people and extracting companies coming to terms with one another, the YNAO is notably ahead of other regions , judging from what he had heard in Naryan-Mar, and he spoke about the positive experience gained from the interaction of indigenous peoples, the YNAO administration and the oil and gas production companies. Actually, his address made a great impression on everybody and changed the tone of the discussion. Whereas previously, indigenous people complained about abuse by the oil producers and the companies denied abuse and the need for refinement of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO) legislation to settle conflict situations, after Ezynghi’s address, the representative of the biggest company operating in NAO, Naryanmarneftegaz, called upon the Legislative Assembly of the NAO to follow the example of the YNAO and refine the legislation of the Okrug.

    I was very interested in what Ezynghi has said so I asked him to furnish me with the text of his speech for publication in our magazine. He promised me to do that and two weeks later he provided me for publication the text of the interview that he gave to the newspaper «Krasnyy Sever» (recorded by Olga Zhelobaeva). That interview contained facts which I had heard in his address in Naryan-Mar, although the conclusions and the tone were quite different. The reason for this disparity is evident: if one compares the situation of indigenous peoples in the NAO and YNAO, the achievements of YNAO are clear, and others should strive for them, but back home the vice-president of the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” should focus on the problems yet to be rectified. There are many achievements in Yamal, but the tundra people still face a number of challenges. That was my summary of the address of Kh.М. Ezynghi in Naryan-Mar. The text of the interview is published below.

О. Murashko

“Before the advent of the oil and gas industry, the Okrug economy was built upon traditional occupations, based on the traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples. That is why the indigenous people are wary of and sometimes negative toward the great attention received by the administration at all levels to the development of the oil and gas industry.

I am aware of the inevitable – when the resources of gas and oil are finished, there will be nothing left in the memory of the local people. At the same time, the local people will lose their traditional subsistence skills and, particularly, spiritual culture.

For indigenous peoples such a prospect is disastrous.

In addition, we are engaged in the study of health, the quality of people’s food and metabolic processes.

During recent years (the period of economic reforms) according to our observations and the statistical data of the Okrug, the health status of the indigenous peoples of the North has deteriorated considerably. This is accounted for by the following reasons:

The Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!”, jointly with the Tyumen Research Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, has been engaged in investigating these problem for three years. Primary data, even before they are analysed, are not comforting as they indicate that there are ongoing irreversible processes in the health of the migratory population.

Unfortunately, the need for support of scientific research does not receive due attention of the YNAO administration authorities. We are fully aware that somebody does not like that the Association is engaged in the study of the important problems mentioned above, and, moreover, that the study findings may become known to the indigenous people. It would be much simpler and more efficient for the administration to employ each year research organizations from all over Russia or, say, from Africa . That situation would be covered by the media at length, including TV, and with time the people would calm down and be satisfied. In the meantime, the health of indigenous people decreases every day.

Fundamental science is concerned with such topical problems associated with processes, which may “delegate” the risk and responsibility to the coming generations. Presumably, the most important thing is to know in what way metabolic processes operate in the human body under the effect of ecological and biological factors, whether human life is shortened, and what is the quality of the food consumed in a particular natural and climatic environments.

We only showed the tip of the iceberg to demonstrate that there are limits to the socially-admissible human impact on the ecosystems. The study’s results allow us to establish criteria of a socially-admissible risk as applied to the technologies of the development of natural resources , and also to assess the generation of “pioneers” and the development they generate.

In the meantime, the existing system of medical service is based on budget investments and relies on statistical data, for instance, that the number of sick people increased, which implies that further allocations are called for. The lack of understanding is not always obvious, but time is lost and the grief and misfortunes of the people increase. I am saying this to urge the Okrug’s administration and the municipalities to help the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants! to identify and rectify the causes of the indigenous people’s health problems.

In order to preserve the culture of indigenous people, including their traditions and customs, the Association carries out various activities, like festivals and meetings of the indigenous people in big industrial cities where people of various ethnic affiliations and cultures have come to reside, to develop natural resources in indigenous residence and traditional subsistence areas. Such gatherings marked the beginning of improving interrelations and pursued two purposes:

March 1993, Salekhard. Festival of the peoples of the North of the YNAO, organized by the Committee of the Peoples of the North of the YNAO administration (head of the committee, S. Kharyuchi) and the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” (vice-president Kh.M. Ezynghi) with the participation of the State Committee of the North of the Russian Federation (headed by A. Evai). The main sponsor of the festival was Gazprom and the immediate sponsor Nadymgazprom (Director General V.V. Remizov). Invited were the managers of construction and oil and gas producing enterprises not only from the YNAO but also from other regions of Russia . After these festivals the relations between the indigenous people living in the areas where oil and gas companies are operating and the residents of industrial cities of the Okrug improved. Agreements on mutually advantageous partnership relations with state farms and hatcheries were made. The company Gazprom is constructing facilities for the processing of traditional products (the collective farm Baydaratskiy), and negotiations on the construction of a pipeline to the YNAO capital Salekhard were started. On the initiative of the regional branches of the Okrug Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” oil and gas companies allocate to reindeer herders and fishermen snowmobiles, outboard motors, boats, cloth, beads, tarpaulins, Russian leather, tinned goods, and boarding school supplies. Musical instruments are distributed to cultural centers in rural areas.

Expected at festivals of reindeer herders and fishermen are the managers of oil and gas companies, the administration of industrial cities, and commercial companies. Today, in accordance with the old tradition, guests of the festivals come with gifts.

March 1992, Yarudei station, Nadym Region. The Conference of Reindeer Herders of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug: “Reindeer Herders – Preservation and Development of the Major Livelihood of the Peoples of the North”. In addition to other issues the problem of interactions of the traditional livelihood with modern development was brought up. The main sponsor of the conference was Nadymgazprom. During this conference, in a talk with S.N. Kharyuchi, V.V. Remizov, V.D. Arteev, Kh.М. Ezynghi, S.P. Yar, and A.I. Kuzin, a proposal was about organizing a reindeer herders’ meeting in the city of Nadym .

February 1995, city of Nadym . The competitions of reindeer herders in ethnic sports. When we were preparing for the competitions, they predicted all kinds of results, particularly negative ones. But time has shown that the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!”, the Committee for the Peoples of the North of the YNAO Administration, and the management of the Nadymgazprom company to be right. 2005 will see the tenth annual competitions. Such activities have also been repeatedly conducted in other big industrial cities of the Okrug.

Conservation of the environment and meeting environmental protection standards in the Okrug today are far from comparable with those ten years ago, thanks to technological advances. For instance, the geophysical investigations of the Yamalgeofizika company used to involve drilling and explosives, but nowadays they have started to use the environmentally safe Sonic Impulse Response Method.

The construction of the Obskaya – Bovanenkov railway in its time was heatedly discussed by everybody, including non-specialists. According to the proposal of the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” reindeer herders of three state farms of the Yamal area were invited to the railway construction site, where the tundra residents saw with their own eyes that railway is the most environmentally safe compared with other means of transport. The reindeer herders analysed all pros and cons and came to the conclusion that:

What decided it for the reindeer herders was that they saw the railway with their own eyes. The railway seemed to have been dropped from above and it eliminated the need to travel through the tundra. The resolution of the reindeer herders’ assembly was to allow the construction of the road to the Bovanenkovskoe field. It is noteworthy that no tundra resident objected to the extraction of oil and gas. The people have one demand: development should not stand in the way of our traditional lifestyle and reindeer herding, fishing and hunting must be protected. The implementation of nondestructive technologies by the oil companies instills hope for the preservation of the traditional lifestyle.

In April, 2004 the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” jointly with the YNAO Department of Natural Resources Regulation supervised the operation of geophysical investigations. From June to September 2004, the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!”, the Yamalgoefizika enterprise, jointly with the environmental commission of the Tazovskiy District inspected the work of Nakhodkaneftegaz Ltd., a subsidiary of Lukoil-Western Suberia Ltd. Our meetings promoted further fruitful work both for the companies and for the indigenous people. The Director General of Lukoil-Western Siberia, V.M. Nekrasov, signed an agreement with the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!”, which guarantees the mutual responsibility of the parties, the production of oil and gas while conserving the environment, and the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous peoples. During a visit to the Nakhodka field there was a curious episode that might have disturbed the mutual accord. But thanks to V.Ya. Rogachev, Deputy Director General of Lukoil-Western Siberia Ltd., the incident was soon dismissed. This convinces us once again that in Russia there are people who are guided by principles and enthusiasm in their work. And we indeed appreciate their efforts. No less productive was the attitude of N.N. Kharyuchi, head of the MO of the Tazovskiy District, who approved the Agreement between the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” and Lukoil-Western Siberia Ltd.

When the Nakhodka field was developed, the new environmentally safe methods had become familiar, and this mostly served as an incentive for further cooperation. We admit that the technologies used by YNAO oil and gas companies for environmental protection are excellent; we merely call upon everybody for openness and confidence among the indigenous people, including the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!”.

A major question in the development of oil and gas fields is where reindeer herders, fishermen and hunters are to go from their lands occupied by oil and gas production facilities.

For reindeer herding enterprises the profit loss can be estimated. Urengoygazprom allocated about 100 million rubles to the CJSC Nydinskoe for the liquidation of a single reindeer herding team at the Pestsovoe Field. But who would return the lost profit to the families of reindeer herders – to reindeer-herders, fishermen, hunters, who are dependent on their own reindeer? And the moral loss, which can hardly be evaluated in terms of money?

Reindeer herders have lost lands for over 50 years. Where should these people live, what should they do? Where will their children live, what they will study, how will they be dressed, will they be healthy? These questions could have been solved long ago, if not for the monopoly of state farms in the social sector. But reindeer have not been publicly owned since the establishment of reindeer-herding joint-stock companies. Reindeer herders are not deer owners but rather a paid work force, having no tools to protect their social or economic rights. That is why in March 1992 at the Yarudei Station, participants of the reindeer herder conference of the Okrug demanded that the reindeer herding farms must not be turned into joint-stock companies. Back at that time we foresaw what would happen today. Employed in the public sector are from 12 to 20% of the migratory population, and 75-80% of the population get their food and clothing from their reindeer.

In March 1992, at the Yarudei Station, the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” recommended to the local and administrative bodies and local self-administration to start a Program for the Preservation and Development of Traditional Livelihood of the Autonomous Okrug.

A research conference, titled The Concept of Socio-Economic Development of Northern Indigenous Peoples of the YNAO, was arranged. It was a good basis for the solution of the problems at the time of sheer lawlessness.

The traditionally based economic activities of the Northern peoples are only poorly developed. First, at the municipal level no financial or material assistance is rendered to the newly-formed indigenous clan communities. Second, the managers of commercial enterprises are often not to be relied upon. Third, the state and municipal authorities have no agencies responsible for the commercial activities of Northern indigenous peoples.

The existing, commercial reindeer-herding and fishery enterprises are fully supported by local administration. The monopoly thus created in the agricultural field brings misfortunes to indigenous people; in fact natural resources are massively destroyed due to overgrazing by reindeer, cutting of antlers, and reduction of fishing and hunting grounds for individuals.

Over the last 10 years, at the initiative of the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!”, some fairly big opportunities are offered at the state and municipal levels, i.e., programs and subprograms are funded for the preservation and development of reindeer herding and trading stations. Several reforms in fishery have taken place. But the fact is suggestive that the reindeer herders themselves, the tundra residents and fishermen, are not living any better.”