Herder opposed by oil producers in Siberia

Sergey Kachimov — representative of the nation and Khanty reindeer herder, living in one-room house without running water 32 miles from the nearest Western Siberia village. But his life is not as peaceful and quiet as it may seem.

Among the swampy forests heard the whistles and the roar of excavators, producing oil in order to maintain the crisis of the Russian economy. Question for the environmental protection of local land lately left unattended.

Kacimov that the community has appointed a guardian of the sacred lake, Imler, remembers what used to fish in lakes and rivers was so much that it could catch the hands, but the oil drilling caused a lot of damage to the ecosystem.

According to him, the compensation that the regional oil giant Surgutneftegaz gives herders, can not compensate for the harm caused by their indigenous way of life. “They poison us with mud, and lying.”

March 17 in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, where Kacimov, went expert UN indigenous peoples ‘ rights to monitor what the government calls “sustainable development of indigenous minorities”. But the main issue is the escalation of the conflict between mining companies and indigenous peoples vulnerable, by analogy of the American confrontations in the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and Dakota Access, as well as pipelines in the Peruvian Amazon and in the Australian state of Queensland.

The Chairperson of the expert mechanism, UN albert Barum stated that the purpose of the trip was not providing any support for activities in the region.

Imlor is not the only area that is under threat. In October, the regional government changed the designation of the reserve around the sacred lake Numto — habitats of the endangered Siberian white crane and was allowed to drill there for oil wells, despite objections from the local indigenous population.

Khanty-Mansi region is the main center of production of hydrocarbons in Russia, it produces more than half the country’s oil.

A significant part of this amount is produced by the company “Surgutneftegaz”. The company employs a third trehsotmillionnogo population of the city of Surgut. Last year there was built a 20-meter high symbolic monument in the form of a fountain of oil.

But the region is also home to thousands of indigenous peoples, the ancestors of some of them revolted against Soviet collectivization in the 1930-ies and were brutally suppressed by the red army. Language and religion of the Khanty was banned until the 1980s, and now their nation is in conflict with the oil companies.

About four thousand people remain in the Surgut region — there where there lives Sergey Kachimov — and most of them still continue to lead a traditional lifestyle, engaging in reindeer herding, hunting and fishing, says activist Agrippina Sopochina.

Satellite images of lake Imlor indicate the degree of implementation in the Khanty land access roads and oil wells. As lower oil prices and subsequent weakening of the Russian economy, the number of wells increased, with the result that last year saw a record level of production.

“There is an incredible amount of drilling rigs”, — shared with us called Alex, the contractor and excavator operator company “Surgutneftegas” during the break after 12 hours work close to home Kazimova.

“Surgutneftegaz” has not responded to a request for comment on the situation.

As a herder, the farm which contains two dozen reindeer, and Keeper of the sacred hunt lake Imlor, which, like lake Numto, according to legend, are the traces left descended to earth by the God Num, Kacimov for many years has been fighting with the oil companies.

Main complaint is that the access roads “Surgutneftegaz” disconnected rivers and streams, destroying fish populations and trees, preventing the movement of deer and contaminating their food. Kacimov also added that this situation has allowed poachers, engaged in hunting and fishing, unduly burden these vital local population.

Oil spills also poison the habitat of fish and plants. Kacimov claims that in the past year, there have been at least four oil spill, and a major leak that occurred to the North of the lake in 2013, is the elimination of only covered with sand.

According to the state service of environmental monitoring, 2014 in Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug happened 2 538 accidents on oil pipelines, with the result that has been contaminated 4 668 hectares of land. The amount annually poured into the Russian oil more than twice as much as the consequences of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon platform.

“Surgutneftegas” offers hunt money, snowmobiles, mobile generators, hoping to convince them to agree to new oil projects.

According to Sergei Kachimov for the current construction of the oil wells near his home each of the 10 families living in the area, promised about 2,200 pounds (156 thousand).

But the herder, who read the documents can not say that the representatives of the company and some other person had on him and his neighbors pressure, forcing to sign the agreement.

In February Sergey Kachimov was convicted of threatening to kill representatives of the oil company because they, as he said, intimidated him. In connection with the nationwide Amnesty, he was sentenced to hard labor.

In most cases, referring to local residents, the company already has a license to drill, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

National legislation passed in December 2013, removed the status of protected lands with the territories in which the indigenous population engaged in hunting, fishing and reindeer herding, and this, in turn, means that to start drilling operations in oil companies no longer need government environmental impact assessment, including comments and suggestions from the community.

The representative of Greenpeace Russia, Mikhail Kreindlin called it a “classic example of colonialism, which was observed in the late 19th — early 20th century.” Indigenous peoples can only rely on “a small compensation that does not go to any comparison with the wealth that the oil companies get through their territories.”

Sergey Kacimov says that the battle for district Imlor is likely to be lost, but I’m sure that the domination of oil companies is doomed.

“Before, there were fires and floods, because the land is thus purified,” he says. “Soon the earth will not remain, and Russian will be defeated.”