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Russian Arctic zone council to address preservation of nature, indigenous culture

On October 8, the Public Council of the Russian Arctic zone was established to ensure that the interests of the people of the Arctic are observed

MOSCOW, October 16. /TASS/. Preservation of the unique ethnic culture of the low-numbered indigenous peoples and of their traditional occupations, development of transport infrastructure and environmental control will be key directions for the newly organized Public Council of the Russian Arctic zone, experts, participating in the organization, told TASS.

On October 8, Deputy Minister for the Development of the Far East and Arctic Alexander Krutikov signed an order on the establishment of the Council, which features 19 members. According to the official, the Council will ensure that the interests of the people of the Arctic are observed.

In the Russian Arctic zone, the work to preserve traditional lifestyles and environmental management in conditions of commercial exploitation continues in particular in Yakutia.

"Protecting their [the North’s indigenous peoples’] interests and adding provisions on their protection to federal documents and regulations - is our major task," Avgusta Marfusalova of Yakutia’s Civic Chamber, a newly appointed member of the Public Council of the Russian Arctic zone, said. "This is the position of the regional public council, which I represent."

Her opinion is shared by deputy head of the Murmansk Region’s Civic Chamber, Yulia Velichko. She also pointed to the ministry’s earlier adopted standard of the Arctic resident’s responsibility to the indigenous peoples, which contains a list of principles to be guided by when interacting with the indigenous peoples. The procedure of complying with the standard will contain an agreement, she said. The ministry will offer the agreement’s form after public discussions.

Balance between economy and ecology

It is vital to observe a balance between the territory’s economic development and its unique ecology in the Arctic, Chukotka’s Microcredit Company’s Director Alexei Fedichkin told TASS.

"Doing business in the Arctic regions is a difficult task," he said. "It is important to ensure that the local businesses are able to develop the district's economy without damaging the fragile Arctic ecosystem," he said. "Besides, in Chukotka, a very important aspect is to preserve the unique ethnic culture of the North’s indigenous peoples."

This explains why Arctic regions with poorly developed industries require more tight ecology control for boosting nature tourism, the Council’s member Yuri Rybakov of the Basin Council of North Karelia Coast said.

"We need tighter control in the Kandalaksha Gulf, as the Vitino oil port and a terminal in Kandalaksha are operational there," he told TASS. "There should be monitoring of big vessels, as any potential accident may totally destroy the region’s ecology. Northern territories are very fragile, we’ve had a few examples of emissions."

Transport and economy

President of the Krasnoyarsk Region’s Association of Low-Numbered Indigenous Peoples of the North Artur Gayulsky will draw attention of the Public Council to the need to support traditional occupations, including reindeer husbandry, fishing and fur production. According to him, in the Krasnoyarsk Region, where most indigenous ethnic groups are registered, the traditional occupations are outside the real sector of the economy.

"The distribution of fishing quotas is not transparent," he continued. "We have a fishing company in the Nosok village (Taimyr), where 170 people work, and if you take their families, the Nenets usually have big families, it is about 1,700 people. They receive a quota for 2.5 tonnes. And there is a businessman in Dudinka who he receives a quota for 28 tonnes. What’s the approach to distributing the quotas? <…> Making traditional occupations a part of the real economy is above all."

Another member of the newly organized council, Deputy Director of Chukotka’s Fund for Economic Development and Direct Investments Viktor Mestetsky wants to promote transport and housing projects. "The Arctic boasts prefabricated homes - comfortable and reliable - and a developed system of local flights. This is not a luxury but a basic requirement. We want to develop such practical projects, which are very important for people living in Chukotka," he said.

Another expert, Deputy President of the Ammosov North-Eastern Federal University Alexander Kugayevsky, also mentioned the development of transport infrastructure and modernization of the indigenous peoples' traditional occupations among priority tasks.

"We can name many aspects, including development of local aviation, aviation industry and training specialists for the sector," he said. "We must also focus on the development of the Northern Sea Route’s eastern sector, on the river fleet. Another important issue is modernization of the North’s traditional sectors - reindeer husbandry, horse breeding and introduction of modern technologies into the life of reindeer herders, fishers and horse breeders. We also need to focus on education and healthcare in the Arctic regions, which have their specific problems due to being hard-to-reach."