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Environmental problems of Northern Eurasia

Environmental Impact of Oil and Gas Development

Oil and Gas Development: Environmental and Social Impacts

<<< Environmental Impacts of Oil and Gas Production | Environmental Problems Index | Reindeer Herding >>>

Clean-up Practices and Restoration of Ecosystems

Currently between 4 per cent and 20 per cent of ecosystems disturbed by production of hydrocarbons are restored across Russia (Federal Report, 1996). The lack of regulation of restoration and clean-up practices, contradictions in existing regulations, and aberrations in their implementation are responsible for a poor rate of rehabilitation. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, administrative authority over a broad range of environmental issues was decentralized and administrations at the regional level were made responsible for enforcing environmental regulations.

Originally seen as a positive development by many observers of the Russian environment, this has resulted in a weaker role for the central environmental agencies, conflicts of interest between the central environmental agencies and the regions and jurisdictional disagreements surrounding control of natural resources and environmental protection (Yablokov et al., 1996). At present, restoration practices in the north include waste removal, burning of the spilt oil or ploughing it into the ground (Tishkov, 1997a).

More often than not, however, oil-soaked litter is found in abundance around the oilfields, and the disposal methods lead to soil and ground water pollution, and forest and tundra fires. While oil companies often claim that oily water and brine extracted together with oil are reinjected into the wells, an expedition funded by the World Bank and the European Commission, which worked in the region in 1993, did not see this operation in practice (Pearce, 1993). It is obvious that elaborate measures are required, such as: (I) mechanical restoration; (II) pollution clean-up (detoxification) and improvement of soils through the input of mineral or organic (such as peat from neighbouring wetlands or silt from lakes) fertilizers; (III) biological restoration, such as planting species which dominate the undisturbed regional communities (Tishkov, 1997b). Such a restoration strategy proved successful at the experimental level and can contribute to a more sustainable way of gas and oil production in the future (Tishkov, 1997b). Remoteness of the area and harsh environmental conditions, however, imply a high cost of restoration.

<<< Environmental Impacts of Oil and Gas Production | Environmental Problems Index | Reindeer Herding >>>

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