Salekhard (AsiaNews) - It is time for an industrial
breakthrough in the Arctic, which must take place in full respect of the
environment. Russian President Vladimir Putin said. As the controversy that
followed the arrest of 30 Greenpeace activists protesting against the drilling
of Gazprom in the Pechora Sea continues, the Russian leader delivered his
message at an International Arctic Forum titled The Arctic-Territory of Dialogue that ended
yesterday in Salekhard.
Only city located exactly on the Arctic Circle, the capital of Yamalo-Nenets
(Western Siberia) is considered a treasure trove for Russian hydrocarbons. On Tuesday
and Wednesday, it hosted a forum with more than 370 experts, scientists,
politicians and businessmen to discuss the issue of environmental security in
Due ice melting, the region has become important from a geostrategic and
economic point of view, vetting the appetites of various countries like China,
USA, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Russia. Indeed, the latter wants to
play the leading role in oil and of gas development.
According to estimates by the US Geological Survey, under 22 per cent of
the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas lies under Arctic Circle. Climate change has made these deposits more accessible, and opened the so-called "northern
routes", which will cut both time and sea transport costs.
Moscow is planning an ambitious development of the Arctic coastal
shelf - which, the Natural Resources Ministry says, contains more
than 80 billion tons of oil and gas - and has high hopes
of drawing in foreign companies to participate in the boom,
those with the right skills,
technologies and adequate financial support, as Putin put it.
Despite the fears of environmentalists for the possible destruction of
the fragile Arctic ecosystem and the safety of indigenous peoples who inhabit these
lands, the Kremlin ruler said it was impossible to stop Arctic development. At
the same time, he insisted that it would take place in full respect of the
environment, thanks to the use of the latest technologies.
one-third of all Arctic territories and was the first country
to begin oil and gas production in the Arctic in 1970s.In the
past decade, more than 1,000 oil and gas fields have been discovered, as
well as deposits of diamonds and other rare metals.
state companies - Rosneft and Gazprom - are authorised
to work on the Arctic coastal shelf. Whilst Gazprom mostly
operates using its own resources, Rosneft is actively attracting foreign
companies and already has contracts with companies like ExxonMobil
Barents Sea has huge potential," said Jan Hegel
Skogen, president of Statoil Russia, who was among the participants at the
Forum in Salekhard.
In cooperation with Rosneft, "We have elaborated
a programme for the large-scale exploration of this area
and increased the budget for reconnaissance works by three
times last year".
hopes the Arctic shelf will open new perspectives for the country's
energy development," Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Sergei Donskoi
Putin, the minister tried to calm
environmentalists, stressing that next year, some 700 million rubles (US$ 20
million) will be spent on protection next year. About 1.4 billion rubles (US$
40 million) has already been spent on industrial waste disposal.
As evidence of Russia's commitment to the environment, Defence Minister
Sergei Shoigu, who also heads the Russian Geographic
Society that organised the forum, promised that by 2020, two national
parks would be created in the Far East. In addition, a law that came
into effect on 1 July requires that all oil companies working
in the region to take responsibility for possible oil spills.
In view of
its ambitious goals, Russia would likely ask the commission on the UN
Law of the Sea to expand Russia's territory over the areas
of Lomonosov Ridge and Mendeleyev Ridge, Donskoi said. Russia had applied to the UN in 2001
but its request was declined due to a lack of proof that the two
areas were a part of the Russia's coastal shelf.
take "unprecedented measures" to encourage companies
to take part in the Northern Sea Route project by slashing taxes
for companies willing to get involved. "By introducing such benefits
we are making it profitable to work in the Arctic region despite its
severe conditions," Donskoi said. (N.A.)