MOSCOW - Responding to appeals from World Wildlife Fund and other conservationists, the Russian Government agreed to re-route part of the new East Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline sparing the last remaining habitat of the Amur leopard, the world's most endangered cat.
The decision announced by Rostekhnadzor--Russia’s federal service for ecological, technical and atomic supervision--marks the end of a two-year battle by WWF to have the oil terminal moved to Kozmino Bay from the originally proposed site at Perevoznaya Bay, southwest of Vladivostok, which required the pipeline to run through the center of the Amur leopard’s last remaining habitat in Russia’s southwestern Primorskii Province.
“This is a truly momentous victory for Russian conservation,” said Evgeny Shvarts, WWF’s director of conservation policy in Russia. “The decision to re-route the pipeline to a new terminal site in Kozmino Bay spares the Amur leopard’s habitat, avoiding the kind of environmental destruction that could have pushed them into extinction.”
Designed to carry crude oil from the Russian Far East to markets in Japan, Korea, and the United States, the 2,600-mile-long East Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline will be the world’s longest when completed in 2008. It is the largest development project in Russia’s history, expected to cost $11.5-$15 billion.
Construction of the terminal is scheduled to begin next month. The pipeline and terminal are a project of Transneft, the legal successor to the USSR Ministry of Oil-Department for Oil Transportation and Supplies.
“These are the most critically endangered big cats in the world with only 40 individuals left. A pipeline slicing through the heart of their last outpost could have spelled disaster,” said Darron Collins, WWF’s leader for Amur-Heilong conservation. “Russia’s decision to re-route the pipeline gives the Amur leopard a chance to survive in the wild.”
When WWF and a number of leading institutes and universities in Russia’s Far East examined ten possible locations for the terminal, Perevoznaya Bay was considered the worst site because it is an open and shallow bay close to two state nature reserves-- the Far Eastern Marine Reserve and the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve, home to endangered species such as the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger.
“WWF applauds the Russian Government’s decision to relocate the pipeline and terminal,” said Shvarts. “Transneft had simply underestimated the ecological importance of Pervoznaya Bay.”
When complete, the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline will cross 50 rivers and include 32 pumping stations. It will have the potential to transport as much as 56 millions tons of oil a year from the town of Tayshet--250 miles northwest of Lake Baikal-- to the Sea of Japan. The terminal’s loading complex will be 437 yards from the coast and minimal dredging works will be required at Kozmino. The latest in storage and pumping technology will be used to help preserve the ecosystem of the bay and its surrounding areas.
For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The largest multinational conservation organization in the world, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level, from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature.