Press release of the Project Group "Belovezhskaya Pushcha - 21st Century"
Over the last years the administration of Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park actively developed tourism on a background of incessant public scandals and unmasking related to infringements of legislation on nature protection and large-scale fellings of the reserved relic wood of Belovezhskaya Pushcha on a poor scientific base. For these purposes the government allocated significant finances and equipment. An overhaul of basic infrastructure was conducted, service was improved and a residence of Grandfather Frost was built in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. All this, plus permanent advertising in central mass medias and some governmental decisions to limit the number of children staying abroad, contributed to a considerable increase in the number of visitors coming to the National Park. In this way the Belarusian state pursued perspective politics and created a kind of a tourism model in Belovezhskaya Pushcha which should serve as an example in other regions and as a tourist card for Belarus.
As it seems one should be glad of such events and evolutions because, surely, development of tourism needs to become a priority in the course to make progress in the region of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and it should replace a fast consumption of natural resources of reserved wood in the future, which is the practice until today. Nevertheless, events of the last months make a basis to doubt the governmental planned success. It turned out that advertising and external luster of the repaired buildings and show-windows hide a "facade for show", a non-professional level, weakness, and it frequently functions simply as a pot-boiler of how the eco-tourism activity was organized. First of all, it concerns ecological education in the National Park.
In particular, ecologists and naturalists from the newspaper "World of Animals" (city of Gomel) listed defects of tourism and nature protection spheres in Belovezhskaya Pushcha after an excursion tour.
In their letter addressed to the Presidential Administration the ecologists and naturalists from Gomel concluded that protection of the reserved wood, tourism management and ecological education are currently unsatisfactory in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. This conclusion is drawn in despite of the fact that Belovezhskaya Pushcha is under proper protection of the government which, as it is permanently emphasizes in statements and publications of rank-various officials, intently draws attention to challenges of nature protection, tourism development and the ecological education of the people. Activities which would be hard to characterize as nature protection provided in an ecological way are in progress in the National Park.
The major reason of the ecological disaster in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, according to the ecologists from Gomel, is the lack of a Strategy and National Program aimed at preservation and management of the forest. Therefore a logical question is raised in the letter – when will such a Strategy and Program be developed in the country, who will elaborate it and which party will make the ecological examination? In other words, which party will bear the responsibility for its success or failure?
From our side we specify the defects as follows:
All facts mentioned above testify to the fact that tourism and ecological education currently suffer serious lacks and deficits in "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park. Tourism and ecological education provided currently in the way described above qualitatively are not better than preservation of the reserved wood of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
However, the official answers from the top bodies do not draw any basic attention to the above described lacks and problems. They continue to mention "harmful bark beetles and windstorms". Moreover, these answers, as before, avoid and hush up numerous cases of infringements of the legislation of nature protection, the unsatisfactory quality of the forest management – which contradicts principles and norms of sciences of wildlife and ecology –, poor common management, inefficiency, waist of finances allotted by the government, etcetera. Allocation of financial support to "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park has been planned again, in stead of developing a Strategy and Program aimed at the preservation and management of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
This testifies a lack of understanding of Belarusian officials that the basic problem of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a systematic crisis (!) in the management of this institution of nature protection! In truth the activities of the National Park have generally become non-professional, adventurous and irresponsible over the last years. Surely it will not be money nor facades that will change this situation of crisis, which has grown and is growing from the viciousness of the management system adopted in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and from the "secrecy" and the closed regime of this National Park, which blocks public control.
We are sure that only taking off the secrecy which covers the activities of the administration of "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park and involving the public into the decision making process concerning important problems in the management of Belovezhskaya Pushcha can overcome the present crisis situation and may guarantee the preservation of this reserved area – Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site – for ours descendents. We are sure that only a transformation of the "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park into a Park for the NATION – instead of a Park for the administration (a small group of the high-ranked officials) – matches the interests of Belarus, the Belarusian people and the worldwide community.
Philosophy Doctor of Biology
Coordinator of the Project "Belovezhskaya Pushcha - 21st Century"
October 18, 2005
tel. (01631) 56-577 (home)
address: Kamenyuki village, Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Kamenetz district, Brest region, Belarus 225063
1. Belovezhskaya Pushcha: a way to scientific and moral devastation Alexander SAVARIN, «Mir Zhivotnyh» (Gomel), No 8, August 2005 (http://bp21.org.by/en/art/a050831.html)
2. Conclusions after a trip to Belovezhskaya Pushcha and responses of the participants of excursion. Natalia SLYADNEVA, «Mir Zhivotnyh» (Gomel), No 8, August 2005 (http://bp21.org.by/en/art/a050831a.html)
3. Wild nature and tourism. Are they combined in Belovezhskaya Pushcha? Heorhi Kazulka, «Brestskiy Kurier», No 33, August 11, 2005 (http://bp21.org.by/en/art/a050811.html)
1. Open Letter to the Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus on tourism development in Belovezhskaya Pushcha" written by Gomel ecologists and readers of the newspaper "Mir Zhivotnyh" (Gomel), No 9, September 10, 2005 (http://bp21.org.by/en/docs/minp_p1.html)
1. National Park shows its anti-ecological ways to tourists, 2004 (http://bp21.org.by/en/ff/foto34.html)
2. The residence of Santa Clause: the violation of legislation and ecology-planning (http://bp21.org.by/en/ff/foto42.html)
3. Empty ecological paths (http://bp21.org.by/en/ff/foto43.html)
4. Tourist complex and the destruction of ancient traditions of Belovezhskaya Pushcha (2001 - 2003) (http://bp21.org.by/en/ff/foto27.html)
5. Making forest look "good" or disappearance of rare plants, 2004 (http://bp21.org.by/en/ff/foto33.html)
1. Answer from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment protection of the Republic of Belarus to the letter of the editor team of the newspaper "World of Animals". October 06, 2005 (http://bp21.org.by/en/docs/minp_o1.html)
2. Answer from the Property Management Department of the President of the Republic of Belarus to the letter of the editor team of the newspaper "World of Animals". October 31, 2005 (http://bp21.org.by/en/docs/adminp_o1.html)