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Preserving native peoples - using every means possible

Preserving native peoples - using every means possible

14.12.2012 — Analysis

Russia's Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, an area rich in natural gas, is changing rapidly. Following the discovery of new oil fields in the region, a transportation infrastructure is being developed: the Nadym-Salekhard highway is being constructed at the same time as the Obskaya - Salekhard - Nadym - Pangody - Novy Urengoy - Korotchaevo railroad. Future plans include building a seaport and expanding airports. Yamal's governor, Dmitry Kobylkin, explained to RusBusinessNews that this is only a small sampling of the plans to transform one of the most important regions of the Russian Federation.

-  Gov. Kobylkin, you've headed the region for almost three years now, what results have been achieved?

-   According to the Ministry of Regional Development, Yamal is currently one of the leading Russian regions in terms of pace of construction. In other words, the district has become a huge construction site - capital investments in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District Targeted Investment Program have exceeded their 2010 levels by 400%! With the support of fuel and energy companies, more than 330 facilities are being designed and built in 2012, including new kindergartens, schools, and athletic complexes, in rural as well urban areas.

Housing construction is a priority - in three years we have constructed about 500,000 sq. meters of new living space that is already in use. By 2015, we plan to reach the level of 500,000 sq. meters per year, with the inclusion of the neighborhoods in Tyumen.

Another achievement is that Yamal has one of the ten highest fertility rates of all the regions of Russia. Over the past ten years, the district's population has grown by 40,000 people. But our objective is not just to have higher demographic numbers, but to also safeguard the life and health of each resident of Yamal. Therefore, 2013 was declared the Year of Preserving Ethnic Peoples on Yamal.

In early 2012, Yamal introduced a food-security program, to what extent has this been achieved given the conditions in the Far North?

-  The goal of that project is for the residents of Yamal to be able to provide 100% of their own food. It's a fairly ambitious objective, but it can be done.

Currently our biggest achievement is in the production of venison - in 2012 we shipped over 450 tons of healthy, environmentally friendly meat, worth 2.5 billion euros, to Germany and Finland. By the end of the year we plan to produce 2,100 tons of venison, which is 200 tons more than last year. This increase was possible because of a new slaughterhouse that opened in the Yamal district. In 2013, there'll be a similar facility in the Priuralsky district, and later - in the Tazovsky and Nadymsky districts as well.

But we're just getting started on the program's other aspects. The district is 74% self-sufficient in terms of fish and fish products and can produce 30% of its own meat, but only 1% of its dairy products. To improve these numbers the region needs to establish programs to grow vegetables, create dairy, pig, and poultry farms, and begin to gather and process wild herbs. In the near future there are plans to construct and renovate 11 livestock-breeding factory farms, five poultry farms, and six pig farms on Yamal. Mini-complexes will be established to process wild berries and two processing plants will be built. Projects are also in the works to construct industrial greenhouses that use natural gas and thermal energy.

But there's still a lot to do. Yamal's agro-industrial complex currently needs highly skilled workers, businesses need to modernize and become more energy efficient, and the transportation and logistics infrastructure needs development.

-   Staying on the topic of transportation... Today, because of geography and other issues, the road density on Yamal is 20 times lower than the average for Russia...

-   I'm constantly being asked when we’re going to finish building the Nadym-Salekhard highway. This is an important route for Yamal and construction is ahead of schedule. We plan to have it open by 2015, so we're really running ahead of schedule. Once it's operating, freight shipments will increase to almost 100 million tons per year by 2020, making it possible to provide communities in the region with basic necessities at reasonable prices.

-   But for now, much of the transportation in the North is done by air ...

-   And yes, we're working to develop that as well. We've bought 16 aircraft in the last two years. A regional program of airport expansion is underway on Yamal until 2020. This year renovations began of the runway and airport in the village of Krasnoselkup. The fleets of specially equipped vehicles in Salekhard, Nadym, and Tarko-Sale have been updated, and there are plans to do the same in Novy Urengoy next year.

Thanks to the decision made by the president of the Russian Federation, the ownership of major airports has been transferred to the district. Next year we are planning a major renovation of the aviation gateways of Salekhard and Novy Urengoy, and in the future there are plans to bring those up to an international level.

-  But aren't there other transportation projects underway on Yamal as well?

-  Of course. We also plan to revive the Northern Sea Route through the Yamal-LNG plant and the port of Sabetta. And Sabetta, incidentally, was named one of the biggest investment projects in Russia.

The construction of the Northern Latitudinal Railway also looks promising - it will stretch for 707 kilometers and cost 154 billion rubles, linking the cities and districts of Yamal while providing further access to the national rail network. I'd like to note that the Northern Latitudinal Railway will be important far beyond the Urals. If we run the railroad as far as the Sabetta seaport, then instead of a single port we end up with a versatile hub for the Northern Sea Route, making it possible to export gas from Yamal, grain from Siberia, metal from the Urals, coal from Kuzbass, and petroleum products from Tatarstan and Bashkortostan ...

And don't forget that the Northern Railroad also terminates on the Yamal Peninsula, running from western Russia through the Komi Republic. In the future, many areas without access to the Arctic will have a stable delivery route through the North.

We have one significant advantage when getting this type of transportation and logistics project off the ground. We're the same distance from Paris as from Beijing. This means we can connect the markets of Asia, Europe, and America. When that happens, we won't just be unloading cargo off the Trans-Siberian Railway and creating a shorter transit route for many Russian regions, we'll also become a full-fledged global trading partner. Of course, this won't be finished in the next year, or even in five years.

-   What are the plans to develop the primary sectors of Yamal's economy - oil and gas?

-   Over the course of eight months in 2012, businesses on Yamal invested over 280 billion rubles into the district's real economy, and that money mostly came from the oil and gas industry.

This year, work has picked up at the Samburgskoye and Medvezhye fields. In the fall, Sibur began operations at the Vyngapurovsky gas-processing plant. In October, production was officially launched at the unique Bovanenkovo field. Currently gas production there is low, but by 2013 Gazprom plans to extract 46 billion cubic meters per year and be up to 115 billion cubic meters annually by 2017.

NOVATEK has begun construction of the Yamal-LNG plant, which is designed to produce over 15 million tons of liquefied natural gas every year. This project is unfolding at the South Tambey gas-condensate field, a rich source of natural resources, and involves the creation of transportation infrastructure, including a seaport and airport near the village of Sabetta. These projects are estimated to cost approximately $20 billion. In 2014, NOVATEK also plans to increase the capacity of the Purovsky gas-condensate processing plant. Plus, construction is nearing completion at the Novy Urengoy gas-processing facility.

There are plans to develop the Kharasavey field by 2016, as well as to finish building the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta-Torzhok and the Arctic Circle - Purpe - Samotlor pipelines. The latter project will involve the development of the largest oil fields on Yamal. This will help increase the amount of "black gold" that is pumped through Russia and abroad to the Asia-Pacific region ...

-  When developing natural resources at such a rapid rate, isn't there a risk that environmental concerns will be overlooked?

-  You're right, we have to proceed with caution in order to safeguard the environment and the traditional lifestyle of the indigenous peoples. It's symbolic that 2013 in Russia was declared the Year of Environmental Protection. On Bely Island we began fine-tuning the balance between rapid economic growth and ecology. Volunteers cleaned up a 6,000-sq. meter area, collecting about 75 tons of scrap metal and other debris.

Next year a meeting is scheduled on Yamal between representatives of the nations that are members of the Arctic Council, and they will be discussing issues of environmental security. Because of its unique location, Yamal can and must become the center for new ecological innovations. This view is also shared by other Arctic regions - at a conference on permafrost in June 2012, representatives from 31 countries signed a resolution on the need to establish an international scientific center on Yamal.

And, most important - this year, in conjunction with Roshydromet, Yamal organized the Yamal-Arctic 2012 scientific expedition. The initial data are encouraging: there are no signs that pollution has reached critical levels or that biological resources have significantly diminished. Therefore our task is to save what has been thus far preserved.

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