Sakhalin Indigenous People Blockade Oil Development

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia, June 30, 2005 (ENS) - Sakhalin's indigenous people have blocked roads leading to oil and gas facility projects for two days to support their demands for an assessment of how the projects are affecting them and compensation for damages. The protests began in Nysh, where a coastal oil and gas processing complex is being constructed, said the Regional Ethnic Groups Council.

The Green Wave protest, permitted by the local administration, blocked roads from 9 am until 9 pm Tuesday and Wednesday. About 150 Nivkhs, Uiltas and Evenks are involved in the protest against Shell’s Sakhalin II project, which was timed to coincide with the Royal Dutch Shell annual general meeting in London.

The same groups demonstrated in January against Sakhalin Energy, Shell-led consortium that includes Mitsui and Mitsubishi, and ExxonMobil oil and gas development on Sakhalin island.

They have gathered an international group of supporters who have sent thousands of letters to these companies from all over the world. But, they say, "Shell still will not budge in response to the demands of Sakhalin’s indigenous peoples."

blockade

On the blockade. The banner reads, "I am not a guest here. I am the returning son. Here, for me everything is both beloved, and holy." (Photo courtesy Pacific Environment)
Green Wave said today, "The companies still have not agreed to the indigenous peoples’ demand for an independent cultural impact assessment and a compensation fund. They are still polluting Sakhalin’s waters and destroying key salmon and fisheries habitat. This massive industrial project continues to drastically disrupt life on the island."

The indigenous people also complain that Credit Suisse First Boston is serving as financial advisor to this project, even though the project violates the Equator Principles on environmental responsibility, to which the bank is a signatory.

The protest actions are being organized in part by the Russian Association of Indigenous Minority Peoples of the North, a national organization that represents over 30 indigenous groups across Russia. It is also supported by Russia’s Green Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, as well as by Pacific Environment, Sakhalin Environment Watch, Rainforest Action Network, Global Response, Friends of the Earth, CEE Bankwatch, and others.

Greenpeace activists picketed Credit Suisse's downtown Moscow offices Monday over the bank's involvement in financing for Sakhalin oil and gas development.

The indigenous peoples are protesting construction of two new oil and gas platforms in the north of Sakhalin; the construction of two 800 kilometer (500 mile) oil and gas pipelines running through the whole island; the construction of a liquid natural gas (LNG) production plant; and the construction of an oil and LNG terminal in Aniva Bay.

The Regional Ethnic Groups Council is demanding an independent ethnologic examination to determine the level of negative impact from the new projects and outline a set of measures to minimize it. The Council says that oil producers should finance the examination and ethnic groups should be permitted to choose experts.

Sakhalin Energy Investment Company says it does not support the protest action because "we believe there are more constructive ways to enhance co-operation between the company and indigenous people."

equipment

In drydock, the newly completed concrete gravity base substructure for the new Piltun offshore platform (left)next to the main concrete works for the Lunskoye platform, completed in November 2004. (Photo courtesy Sakhalin Energy)
The company points to a three-party agreement with the Sakhalin Oblast Administration, members of the Indigenous Peoples of Sakhalin (IP) and other oil and gas companies signed on January 18, 2005.

Parties to the agreement supported and funded an IP Special Congress, at which a Regional Council of Authorised IP Members was appointed as the legitimate body representing interests of the whole Sakhalin IP community.

Sakhalin Energy says it is currently developing a long-term (5-10-15 years) Indigenous Peoples Development Plan. "As we design this program we seek to adopt and use recognized international experience and consider recommendations of internationally acknowledged organizations. IP Council members and representatives of the Sakhalin Oblast Duma and Administration are also involved in the Plan development," the company said today.

In May the company announced initiation of the 2005 IP Program in the amount of US$110,000.

In addition, the company says it "reviewed" drafts of two documents - "Regulation on Conduct of Independent Ethnological Expert Review" and "Charter of the Regional Community Foundation Ethno-union Sakhalin Indigenous Peoples Development Foundation” - submitted by the IP Council in April 2005. But the company rejected them because it "found that neither of the documents appears to comply with international principles."

Sakhalin Energy says it "respects the IP members’ wish to be heard." But, the company says, "We believe that the protest action neither contributes to strengthening of the dialogue and cooperation with the IP, nor promotes implementation of the IP support program."

Sakhalin Environment Watch and other nongovernmental organizations supporting the indigenous peoples' protest have published a list of minimum standards for the oil development:

Sakhalin Energy says it has selected one site 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) offshore Sakhalin Island, over the Piltun feature of the Piltun-Astokhskoye oil and gas field.

map

Map shows location of oil development on Sakhalin Island, Russian Far East. (Photo courtesy Sakhalin Environment Watch)
The company has selected another site for its production platform at the Lunskoye field situated approximately 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from the coast in a water depth of approximately 50 meters (165 feet), with space to drill up to 27 wells.

The pipeline route will cross some 1,100 watercourses, mostly small brooks and streams, but also a number of rivers. Sakhalin Energy says it is "committed to ensuring that its activities are carried out in an environmentally responsible manner, and recognizes the importance of these watercourses to the ecology and local economy of the island, particularly in terms of salmon fisheries."

To learn more about Sakhalin Energy's development plans, visit: http://www.sakhalinenergy.com/

To find out more about the indigenous people of Sakhalin Island, visit: Pacific Environment at: http://www.pacificenvironment.org/index.htm and Sakhalin Environment Watch at: http://www.sakhalin.environment.ru/en/