Are "Resorts of Northern Caucasus" trustworthy?

Feature story - 20 September, 2011
Greenpeace is waiting for explanations from OJSC "Resorts of Northern Caucasus " (OAO "Kurorty Severnogo Kavkaza") with respect to the concept of location of new resorts presented recently. Despite the promises made by the company, the touristic objects will be located in nature reserves.

On September 16 during 10th investment forum "Sochi-2011" OJSC "Resorts of Northern Caucasus " and French Bank Caisse des Depots et Consignations (CDC) have signed an agreement on creation of joint venture. Also, at the above-mentioned forum the "Concept of creation of touristic cluster in the North-Caucasus Federal District, the Krasnodar Region and the Republic of Adygeya" was presented.

Section 10 of this document, titled "Land-property relations" provides that at least 3 of 5 resorts will be located at the territories of the State Nature Reserves. This conclusion is also confirmed by the Schemes of Borders of projected resort areas attached to the Concept.

The place where "Lagonaki" resort will be built is specified directly: "The lands that are intended for inclusion into the Special Economic Area are partly situated at the territory of Kavkazsky State Nature Biosphere Reserve named after H. G. Shaposhnikov" (hereinafter referred to as "KSNBR"). At the moment government of Republic of Adygeya is preparing proposals to modify the territory of KSNBR." Apart from KSNBR, at the territory of presented area are, possibly, located natural monuments included into UNESCO World Heritage List: "Head waters of Pshekha and Pshekhashkha rivers", "Head waters of Tsitse river", "Khrebet "Buyny" mountain range.

The worst fears of ecologists are confirmed: "Resorts of Northern Caucasus" are not only planning to build at the territories of reserves, the company is also planning to modify the borders of reserves for this purpose. Currently, it is directly prohibited by the law.

We recall, that on 15 July Greenpeace Russia received a letter from OJSC "Resorts of Northern Caucasus ", where the company states that it is "not planning to carry out construction works at the territory of natural reserves of Northern Caucasus or any other activity prohibited by the legislation of Russian Federation."

In order to resolve the controversy, Greenpeace Russia sent OJSC "Resorts of Northern Caucasus" an official inquiry asking to clarify, how to treat the plans to locate resorts at the territories of conservation areas, as declared in the Concept.

"The Concept, pursuant to its front page, was prepared in the August of 2011, which means that the company is either, choosing the words carefully, "pulling the wool over community's eyes" or is deceiving the investors – says Mikhail Kreindlin, Head of Greenpeace Protected Areas project. – However, it seems that this does not bother the authors of the Concept, since they have strong allies - the ruling party and the Ministry of Natural resources of Russian Federation."

At the round table "Preservation of ecological system of Northern Caucasus" held on 17 September Svetlana Zhurova, the Vice-Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation confirmed intention of deputies of "Yedinaya Rossiya" fraction to amend the environmental legislation in order to exclude these lands from the territory of natural reserves. She is sure that UNESCO will allow building of "Lagonaki" resort.

Ministry of Natural Resources of Russian Federation is also not making secret out of its fierce desire to seize the lands of nature reserves and transform them into national parks.

However, it may not work out with UNESCO. At the last session the Committee of World Heritage unambiguously expressed its attitude towards plans to build recreational objects at the area included into the World Heritage List and amending relative legislation: both, according to Committee's experts' opinion, is unacceptable.

Maps of resorts from attachment 4 to the Concept, with the borders of conservation areas and national parks marked, showing that all the resorts are affecting territories of Specially Protected Natural Areas

Map of "Bezengi" resort with the borders of the Kabardino-Balkarian State High-Mountain Reserve and "Prielbrusie" national park marked.

Map of "Elbrus" resort with the borders of "Prielbrusie" national park marked.

Map of "Lagonaki" resort with the borders of Caucasian State Natural Biosphere Reserve and area of World Heritage "Western Caucasus" marked.

Map of "Mamison" resort with the borders of North-Ossetian State Natural Reserve, reserve and national park "Alania" marked.