Ecologists are calling for the IOC to save the environment of the Caucuses from Russian power

Press release - 9 January, 2007
29 December 2006, Moscow. Today Russian environmental organizations addressed the International Olympic Committee with a joint statement about the serious ecological problems associated with preparation for the possible conduction of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the town of Sochi, the official application of which should soon be presented to the IOC. Ecologists say that as a result of recent changes to Russian conservation law it will be impossible to ensure environmental safety throughout the games, and are calling on the IOC not to allow the disturbance of intact environment of the Caucuses.

Ecologists are calling on the IOC not to allow the disturbance of intact environment of the Caucuses.

Not long ago, on 26 December 2006, the Department of State Policy in the realm of environmental protection of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) of Russia had a meeting with social organizations about the Russian application to host the 2014 Olympic Games.  However, social organization representatives were notified of the meeting less than 24 hours before, and therefore many were not able to participate.  Besides this, many NGOs which actively work with this problem, such as "Environmental Watch through the Northern Caucasus" and Students Association for Nature Conversation of the Moscow State University, were not even invited to the meeting.  This seems to suggest that this meeting was organized solely in order to give the International Olympic Committee the illusion of dialogue between Russian power and social organizations about ecological problems associated with preparations for the Olympics.  It is evident, that without the resolution of ecological problems, Sochi has little chance of becoming the Olympic host in 2014.

  The text of the statement can be found below.

For more information contact Greenpeace Russia by telephone +7(495)926-5045 and ask for Expert Mikhail Kreindlin or Press Secretary Yevgenia Beliakova.

Declaration in view of submission of the application for hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and implementation of the Federal Target Program "Development of Sochi as a Mountain and Climate Resort (2006-2012)".

In autumn 2006 non-governmental organizations repeatedly declared the concern of the Russian environmental community about gross violations of the law and the threat of destruction of unique nature landscapes of the Sochi national park and the Caucasus state biosphere reserve (UNESCO World Natural Heritage property).

The situation has been strongly aggravated since then. After the Russian laws "On Protected Nature Areas" and "On Environmental Impact Assessment" were changed (mandatory environmental impact assessment of project documentation was cancelled and the public was deprived of its lawful right to participate), it is not possible any more to ensure environmental safety of the Olympic Games. The new laws eliminated all obstacles for plundering of natural resources of the country - in particular, they gave way to unimpeded economic development of territories of national parks in Russia that are treasures for millions of Russians.

There is still no approved General Plan for Development of Sochi. The existing documents are being changed all the time to enable construction in the territory of the Sochi national park of facilities that are related neither to the Olympics nor to the mountain and climate resort. In our opinion, this is done in the interest of business structures connected with the "Sochi-2014" Application Committee and the (created by the Russian Government) Organizational Committee to support the application of Sochi as a candidate city to hold XII Winter Olympic Games and the Coordination Council for Implementation of the Federal Target Program "Development of Sochi as a Mountain and Climate Resort (2006-2012)". This creates the conflict of interests.

The concerned environmental non-governmental organizations have no possibility to participate in the preparations for the Olympics. They have no representatives in any bodies responsible for preparations for the Olympic Games.

The Audit Chamber checked the use of the funds allocated from the federal budget to Sochi and the Sochi National park. The auditing showed numerous violations of the law. Particularly, only 5 lease contracts in the territory of the national park out of 18 examined, had all approvals and the positive findings of the environmental impact assessment.

The detailed information about the current and planned environmental violations will the submitted to the International Olympic Committee in January 2007 before the arrival of the expected evaluation commission in February.

According to the Olympic Charter, one of the main functions of the International Olympic Committee is to ensure observation of environmental standards during the Olympics and to support the Olympic movement in its efforts to protect the environment. We expect the Committee to take an active and responsible position in this issue. We hope that the Committee will not allow the Olympics to be held in Sochi if this results in destruction of the high conservation value nature territories and further violations of the environmental legislation.

If Russia really wants to host the 2012 Winter Olympics, it should urgently take the following measures:

1. To restore to the full the functions of the state environmental impact assessment and restrictions for construction in the territory of national parks.

2. To immediately declare moratorium on any construction and land allocation for lease in the territory of the Sochi national park until the final General Plan of Sochi is presented, a comprehensive and impartial environmental impact assessment is prepared, the Plan is discussed, and approved by the assessment commission.

3. To revoke the Order of the Ministry of Natural Resources №239 of 9.10.2006 about introduction of changes in the regulation about the state institution "Sochi National Park", according to which territories allocated for sports facilities were excluded from the protected area of the park. To revoke as well the Order by Rosprirodnadzor №355 of 27.09.2006 about approval by the state environmental impact assessment expert panel of the "Feasibility Study of Functional Zoning of the Sochi National Park".

4. To revoke or suspend the RF governmental regulation №357 of 8.06.2006 about approval of the Federal Target Program "Development of Sochi as a Mountain and Climate Resort (2006-2012)" until the broad public discussion is held and the state environmental impact assessment approves the Program. Also to revoke the RF governmental regulations №238-р of 27.02.2003 and № 1592-р of 20.11.2006 about the land plots of the Sochi national park that can be allocated for lease before the construction of the mountain and climate resort.

  We will ask the International Olympic Committee to check that these demands are met (possibly with participation of experts from UNESCO and the Convention on Biodiversity) and to consider them when choosing the city to host the Olympics.

International Social Environmental Union

Environmental Watch through the Northern Caucasus

Greenpeace Russia

Biodiveristy Conservation Center

Birds Conservation Union of Russia

WWF