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Date: Fri, 14 Mar 97 18:17:52 CST From: rich%pencil@VM.MARIST.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Siberia: Health and Environment
/** headlines: 199.0 **/
** Topic: Read Report On Siberian Health And Environment **
** Written 10:31 AM Mar 13, 1997 by econet in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 4:39 AM Mar 10, 1997 by in env.siberia */
/* ---------- "Siberia: Health and Environment" ---------- */

Environment and Health of Arctic Peoples

Lauravetlan Information Bulletin, #2, 13 March 1997

[The following article is taken from the "L'auravetl'an Information Bulletin" #2. The L'auravetl'an Information Center is a Moscow based training center run by indigenous organizations. It attempts to give indigenous grassroots representatives from the Russian North, Siberia and the Far East skills for human rights activism and to serve as an information bridge to Western organizations. The bulletin is published in Russian and English. For contact please see below.]

Arctic environmental problems have attracted much attention in recent years. This is due to two facts: The first is the critical environmental situation in areas with ongoing oil and gas development, both land-based and on sea-shelves. The second is the increasing international awareness of conditions under which indigenous peoples live in these areas.

The environmental damage to the land, the waters and air has a direct impact on all living organisms from plants to humans. According to the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences the "general health resources" of the indigenous population of the Russian North will be exhausted in 2-3 generations, unless something is done to improve the situation.

The average life expectancy of indigenous people [in Russia] is 43-45 years. Especially alarming is the death rate amongst indigenous peoples in the Russian North. With 12 people out of 35 it is higher than the average rate throughout Russia. Furthermore, the death rate among indigenous peoples is 1,5 times higher than among the non-indigenous population of the North. The first place among all causes of death is taken by alcohol poisoning and alcohol related accidents, upper respiratory and infection diseases. However, the main reason is the destruction of the environmental balance of our territories.

For instance most of the reindeer meet exported from Western Siberia to Scandinavia was returned due to high content of heavy metals and radionucleids. Due to pollution, the sturgeon population in the Ob river has decreased by ten times within the last 15 years. Saturation of the riverbed with oil and by-products is 10%. This is especially dangerous to indigenous peoples who traditionally eat raw fish. In some areas contamination of people by helmintis is 100%.

Contamination of reindeer herders by Cezium-137 and Strontium-90 is 100 times higher than of people in Russia proper. In the North the decline of Cezium-137 in the human body received through the nutrition chain moss- reindeer-human or ptarmigan-human takes 5-10 longer than in Southern regions. Nuclear pollution of the Arctic is mainly caused by military facilities, the Northern fleet, the Bilibino nuclear power plant on Chukotka peninsula and the nuclear test site of Novaya Zemlya. The military facilities are as well sources of chemical pollution. In the summer season, about 5000 ships in the Arctic leave behind 430,000 cubic meters of oil containing liquid emissions. In order to ease this critical situation deliberate investigations will have to be undertaken. It has to be decided if in the long run it is really beneficial and necessary to continue environmentally dangerous industrial and military activities in the Arctic.

An infrastructure that uses natural resources of a certain region must allow its environmental endurance. The practice of other countries of the Arctic Rim shows that all of them consider the creation of large cities impractical and damaging. They practice a shift method to exploit Northern resources and take only those resources from the Arctic for which they have no alternative sources. This eases the pressure on the fragile Arctic environment. Diversification of economic activities in the North is the way chosen by these Arctic countries. The focal point for those strategies are the traditional activities of the Indigenous Peoples of the North.

Our contact address for recipients outside of Russia is:

L'auravetl'an Indigenous Information Center
c/o L'auravetl'an Foundation
Heiligkreuz 40
P.O. Box 39
FL-9490 Vaduz

Fax: 41-75-237 45 46