RAIPON’s vice-president: 20 thousand tonnes of the diesel oil spilled in the Russian Arctic will not harm indigenous reindeer herding

Arthur Gayulsky, vice president of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON), noted that there are no deer pastures at the scene of the accident.

Arthur Gayulsky

The spill of the petroleum products at TPP-3 (Thermal Power Plant) in Norilsk will not cause problems for local reindeer herders, as it occurred in an industrial zone that is not used as a pasture. The wild reindeers will not be affected either, said Artur Gayulsky to TASS on Friday.

“This is actually an industrial zone. There is no harm to domestic reindeer herding. There are no wild deers and no reindeer herders’ pastures,” said Gayulsky, adding that this accident will not have a severe impact on the traditional economy of indigenous peoples.

At the same time, he noted that the incident negatively affects the general environmental situation, and the petroleum products spill in Ambarnaya River will cause damage to the local fish.

Reindeer husbandry is one of the main types of economic activity of the indigenous peoples in the Russian Arctic as many of them continue the nomadic lifestyle. Also, Russia’s largest wild deer population lives in Taimyr, north to Norilsk. Experts estimate its number as 1 million individuals. In 2017, one of the leading experts in the Arctic biology, Leonid Kolpashchikov from the Taimyr Reserves Directorate, told TASS that the Taimyr population of the wild deers could drop to 150-200 thousand individuals.

The other indigenous expert, the deputy of the Taimyr Dolgan-Nenets District Council of Deputies and the secretary of the Russian Aborigen Forum Gennady Schukin, do not agree with Artur Gayilski.

Геннадий Щукин
Gennady Schukin

“Arthur Gayulsky lives in Evenkia, and he has no idea what he is talking about. The accident of the diesel oil spill concerns us because the amount of fuel will go through the places of the fish spawning and the places where wild deers cross rivers and through birds’ habitats. The diesel fuel lies in the water like a cellophane. It will settle to the bottom after a while. All river flora will die. A fish will die and a bird. If the deer calf crosses the river, he will die because of breathing the fumes. People who live downstream will have nothing to eat.”

It should be reminded that on the morning May 29, as a result of the depressurization of one of the spare tanks of the TPP-3 in Norilsk (Taimyr region of the Russian Arctic), 21 thousand tones of diesel fuel spilled on the industrial site of the Nadezhda Metallurgical Plant (Norilsk Nickel company). A significant part of oil products fell into the Ambarnaya river. On June 3, President Putin announced the “federal level of the state of emergency” to start the accident management measures. According to experts’ estimates, the recovery of the damaged environment will take years, and the owner of the Norilsk Nickel company Vladimir Potanin, said that the repayment measures would cost more than 10 billion rubles (130 million euro).

Some experts compared the accident with the Chernobyl NPP accident and said that it could be the most significant Arctic environmental disaster since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. The exact reason for the leak is yet to be established, but a statement from Norilsk Nickel company, which operates the site suggests it could have been caused – worryingly – by collapsing permafrost.

Indigenous Russia

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