[Press release] Oil majors attempt to suppress Sakhalin indigenous peoples' protest
The Sakhalin Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North will tomorrow, January 20, hold a "Green Wave" protest action against the two oil and gas projects - Sakhalin 1 and 2 - that are under development by Exxon, Shell, British Petroleum, and their subsidiaries. The protest will go ahead, starting in the Nogliki region of Sakhalin, in spite of a recently signed agreement between the oil companies' representatives and two representatives of Sakhalin indigenous peoples' groups, as well as company threats of sackings for potential demonstrators.
The indigenous peoples of Sakhalin, who practice a traditional self-subsistence economy based on fishing, hunting, reindeer herding and wild plant gathering, are bearing the brunt of the negative ecological impacts of the Sakhalin extraction projects. Structural engineering has already destroyed reindeer pastures and forests, while offshore work has led to an abrupt decline in fish stocks, making traditional handicrafts the only source of livelihood. The absence of complete and reliable project information and the companies' unwillingness to engage seriously in dialogue with indigenous peoples' organisations have forced the Association to prepare for direct action.
The so-called Agreement, signed by just two indigenous group representatives, has been described as "merely a declaration of intentions" by an expert group including Vladimir Anikeev, the Chairman of the Russian Independent Environmental Assessment, Olga Murashko, State Duma expert on indigenous peoples issues, and Ekaterina Khmeleva, lawyer of NGO Legal Center Rodnik.
The agreement lacks specific agreement features including the subject of the agreement, the obligations of the oil companies (for example, a long hoped for environmental and ethnological survey, and damage minimisation), and mechanisms and directions for cooperation. This agreement can not be considered a basis for further relations between Sakhalin's indigenous peoples and the oil majors. Indigenous peoples' representatives continue to insist on the signing of a Memorandum that was elaborated by the communities and put on the table during negotiations between the indigenous groups and the oil companies. The oil companies have so far failed to sign it.
At the same time, Shell-led Sakhalin Energy and Exxon Oil and Gas are putting pressure upon participants to the Green Wave protest action. For the past few days oil company representatives have been visiting indigenous people settlements in an attempt to persuade them not to participate in the protest. They have also threatened to fire those employees who participate in the protest - roughly 30 indigenous people representatives are involved in different oil company projects. These employees have received threats to be fired even if one of their relatives should participate in the protest.
Several indigenous peoples' groups - the native Nivkh's communities, Sakhalin Evenks, Sakhalin Nanaytsy community, Association of Indigenous People of Nogliki Region, Association of Indigenous People of Sakhalin Region, Association of Indigenous People of Russia - are set to take part in tomorrow's protest.
Green Wave organisers also learned today that the oil companies' security squads have arrived in the Nogliki settlement to put further pressure on protesters. The organisers have called on the oil companies to respect legal and ethical norms.
For more information contact:
Alexander Markov, Dmitry Lisytsyn
Sakhalin Environment Watch
Tel. +7 (4242) 42-41-53, +7 (4242) 27-00-76
E-mail: sakhalinwatch at yandex.ru
Tel: +7 (4242) 44-17-52, .
Email: green-sakhalin at mail.ru
Detailed information on the Sakhalin 2 oil and gas project is available at SEW´s website.