There are achievements, but tundra people still face challenges Kh. Ezynghi, Vice-President of the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” From the editorial office:
We met Khatyako Ezynghi, Vice-President of the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” and deputy to the State Duma, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (YNAO), at the Roundtable on Interaction of Oil Production Companies and Indigenous Peoples in Naryan-Mar in December 2004. Kh.М. Ezynghi spoke after he heard mutual accusations of representatives of oil companies and indigenous residents of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. In his address, Ezynghi pointed out that disputes in terms of tundra people and extracting companies coming to terms with one another, the YNAO is notably ahead of other regions , judging from what he had heard in Naryan-Mar, and he spoke about the positive experience gained from the interaction of indigenous peoples, the YNAO administration and the oil and gas production companies. Actually, his address made a great impression on everybody and changed the tone of the discussion. Whereas previously, indigenous people complained about abuse by the oil producers and the companies denied abuse and the need for refinement of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug (NAO) legislation to settle conflict situations, after Ezynghi’s address, the representative of the biggest company operating in NAO, Naryanmarneftegaz, called upon the Legislative Assembly of the NAO to follow the example of the YNAO and refine the legislation of the Okrug.
I was very interested in what Ezynghi has said so I asked him to furnish me with the text of his speech for publication in our magazine. He promised me to do that and two weeks later he provided me for publication the text of the interview that he gave to the newspaper «Krasnyy Sever» (recorded by Olga Zhelobaeva). That interview contained facts which I had heard in his address in Naryan-Mar, although the conclusions and the tone were quite different. The reason for this disparity is evident: if one compares the situation of indigenous peoples in the NAO and YNAO, the achievements of YNAO are clear, and others should strive for them, but back home the vice-president of the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” should focus on the problems yet to be rectified. There are many achievements in Yamal, but the tundra people still face a number of challenges. That was my summary of the address of Kh.М. Ezynghi in Naryan-Mar. The text of the interview is published below.
О. Murashko “Before the advent of the oil and gas industry, the Okrug economy was built upon traditional occupations, based on the traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples. That is why the indigenous people are wary of and sometimes negative toward the great attention received by the administration at all levels to the development of the oil and gas industry.
I am aware of the inevitable – when the resources of gas and oil are finished, there will be nothing left in the memory of the local people. At the same time, the local people will lose their traditional subsistence skills and, particularly, spiritual culture.
For indigenous peoples such a prospect is disastrous.
In addition, we are engaged in the study of health, the quality of people’s food and metabolic processes.
During recent years (the period of economic reforms) according to our observations and the statistical data of the Okrug, the health status of the indigenous peoples of the North has deteriorated considerably. This is accounted for by the following reasons:
Lack of high-quality food;
Bad socio-domestic conditions, both in the migratory and, especially, in sedentary population in rural areas (irrespective of ethnic affiliation);
Lack of public health monitoring, particularly for indigenous people;
Lack of attention on the part of local administrative agencies to protect social and economic rights of indigenous people engaged in traditional economic activities.
The Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!”, jointly with the Tyumen Research Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, has been engaged in investigating these problem for three years. Primary data, even before they are analysed, are not comforting as they indicate that there are ongoing irreversible processes in the health of the migratory population.
Unfortunately, the need for support of scientific research does not receive due attention of the YNAO administration authorities. We are fully aware that somebody does not like that the Association is engaged in the study of the important problems mentioned above, and, moreover, that the study findings may become known to the indigenous people. It would be much simpler and more efficient for the administration to employ each year research organizations from all over Russia or, say, from Africa. That situation would be covered by the media at length, including TV, and with time the people would calm down and be satisfied. In the meantime, the health of indigenous people decreases every day.
Fundamental science is concerned with such topical problems associated with processes, which may “delegate” the risk and responsibility to the coming generations. Presumably, the most important thing is to know in what way metabolic processes operate in the human body under the effect of ecological and biological factors, whether human life is shortened, and what is the quality of the food consumed in a particular natural and climatic environments.
We only showed the tip of the iceberg to demonstrate that there are limits to the socially-admissible human impact on the ecosystems. The study’s results allow us to establish criteria of a socially-admissible risk as applied to the technologies of the development of natural resources, and also to assess the generation of “pioneers” and the development they generate.
In the meantime, the existing system of medical service is based on budget investments and relies on statistical data, for instance, that the number of sick people increased, which implies that further allocations are called for. The lack of understanding is not always obvious, but time is lost and the grief and misfortunes of the people increase. I am saying this to urge the Okrug’s administration and the municipalities to help the Association “Yamal to Our Descendants!” to identify and rectify the causes of the indigenous people’s health problems.
In order to preserve the culture of indigenous people, including their traditions and customs, the Association carries out various activities, like festivals and meetings of the indigenous people in big industrial cities where people of various ethnic affiliations and cultures have come to reside, to develop natural resources in indigenous residence and traditional subsistence areas. Such gatherings marked the beginning of improving interrelations and pursued two purposes:
to demonstrate the highly-developed and unique culture of the indigenous people;
to call particular attention of oil and gas producers, including their managers, to the need of preserving the environment and to the various environmental and technological problems.