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Social and environmental impacts of oil and gas development in Northern Russia
Written by Philip Burgess   
Wednesday, 05 December 2007 01:00
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On 10-11 December 2007 the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland will host a 2-day workshop involving key stakeholders from northern Russia, Finland and Norway. Among the participants will be indigenous representatives, oil and gas industry personnel, NGO representatives, government personnel, and a broadly international mixture of natural and social scientists.


The workshop is the final activity of the 48-month project “Environmental and Social Impacts of Industrialization in Northern Russia (ENSINOR)”, which was funded by the Academy of Finland January 2004- December 2007. The project has made comparative case studies of oil and gas activities in two key federal districts – the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO) and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YNAO). NAO and YNAO contain Russia’s most productive proven energy sources for the present and the foreseeable future and so are of particular importance to the energy security of Europe. The extensive gas and oil fields overlap with the homelands of indigenous peoples whose traditional livelihoods – reindeer herding, fishing, hunting and gathering – are at risk from changes in land use associated with petroleum exploration and exploitation, in addition to climate-related changes. As major clients and/or partners of Russian oil and gas, Finland, Norway and other Western European countries have responsibilities to see that the developments proceeds in a manner that minimizes negative impacts in the affected areas.


The project has involved partners from six academic institutes in Finland and Russia: 1. Arctic Centre, University of Lapland (coordinator); 2. Department of Geography, University of Joensuu; 3. Department of Ecology, University of Joensuu; 4. Department of Biology, University of Oulu; 5. Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow; 6. Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Ekaterinburg and Labytnangi. Moreover, the project has extensively collaborated with civil society actors in the Russian regions.


The project has undertaken a thorough multidisciplinary analysis of the social and environmental consequences of energy development in the study regions. This has resulted in the co-production of knowledge that stems from different traditions among both scientists and herders and their respective ways of knowing about contemporary social-ecological systems. The workshop will encompass presentations and smaller working groups on a variety of topics, including: scientific assessments of social and environmental impacts; indigenous perspectives on arctic oil and gas development; building local partnerships and the consultation process; and issues of land tenure and legal rights. There will be invited plenary addresses given by experts from Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom. These topics are especially timely, as the Arctic Council will release its first circumpolar “Assessment of Oil & Gas Activities” in January in Tromsø, Norway.

The 2-day workshop at Arctic Centre 10-11 December has been funded primarily by Finland’s Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. StatoilHydro of Norway provides additional sponsorship. The main workshop languages will be English and Russian, with simultaneous translation between these during the plenary sessions.

A press conference will be held in the Polarium theatre, Arctic Centre at 12:30 on Tuesday 11.12.2007.

Contacts for further information:
Research Professor, Docent Bruce Forbes
Phone:  +358-40-8479202 , E-mail: bruce.forbes (at) lapland.fi
Senior Scientist Florian Stammler
Phone:  +358-40-0138807 , E-mail: florian.stammler (at) ulapland.fi
Scientific Communicator Riku Lavia
Phone:  +358-40-0624435 , Email: riku.lavia (at) ulapland.fi

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