Appeal of the Belarusian public to the international community in connection with the arrival of the UNESCO's General Director in Belarus

Minsk, June 25, 2002

Rescue the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Primeval Forest from degradation and destruction

We, signed below, take the planned arrival of Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, the General Director of UNESCO, in Belarus as a very intense and elated occasion. The visit of the world renowned man brings about the sensation of optimism and national pride. This visit strengthens hopes for near homecoming of our country to the civilized direction with cultural prospects.

The Mirski Castle, awarded with a heritage title of the world importance, is the second Belarusian site. However, this exceptional fact of the Belarusian recognition by the mission of the respected guest these days gives us grounds to talk about the other expressly protected natural site, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest, which in 1992 was included in the List of World Heritage, ergo under the protection of UNESCO.

In spite of its high world-scale title ( and more than one), the destiny of this natural Reserve forces us to beat the bells, by Cassandra's vote appeal to the international community, that the źNoah's ark╗ of European Life World, so-called European lowland primeval forest, faces the danger and is under the threat.

As a result of the industrial-economic potential strengthening here and of the industrial operational mechanism intervention, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha as the reserved and recognized site of the natural heritage all over the world has turned into a timber industry object, where secretively the commercial timber harvesting, so-called "currency" hunting, and other doubtful activities are being carried out. The exploitation of the Pushcha is unstoppable. The state governmental bodies, which lead the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, trade the wood riches of the world importance to load up the shadow budget, thus masking the striving of the daily profits behind international awards and titles.

The building of the high-productive sawmill factory in the National Park in 1999 is one of the latest examples that demonstrates how there the predatory can adapt the Belovezhskaya Pushcha for commercial objectives and take forces of both collective and managers, which are needed for solving the prime tasks of the National Park. As the continuation this barbarous project was supported by the project of the present administration of the National Park for the sanitary clear cuttings in 17 compartments within the protected area, which in fact contradicts all norms of the management in places like the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Consequently, the unique natural systems fall into decay. The biodiversity is devastated. A number of species decreases. Wilderness leaves the forest, the biological integrity and historical primeval environment is lost. The change of a water level is observed, which causes the death of spruce and other coniferous stands and bogs.

In dangerous affinity to the Pushcha a huge gas tank has been constructed, which creates a threat and reduces the reputation of the Pushcha as a world treasure. No longer do we soothe ourselves with optimism that there is a so-called Pushcha's core zone, an absolutely untouchable reserve. It never will replace the whole Belovezhskaya Pushcha, since it is not the equivalent image of the Primeval Forest, it does not represent its greatness and infinity, and it does not show all the biological and aesthetic value of this world treasure. The status of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a specially protected natural territory is under the definite skepticism. To tell the truth, the Pushcha is really not a Reserve and, unfortunately, is barely a protected natural territory.

These are not some unsubstantiated statements or some common thoughts of the dilettantes. The laconic size of the letter prevents us from describing everything in detail. We have to be given the diagnosis, while the description of the illness requires completely other conditions, place and time, which we still have hope to do in future. Like the former communist regime, the today's Belarusian one does not admit the destruction of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Primeval Forest; it aspires to create a myth about good conditions of the Forest and continues to ignore outsized problems or else forge the real situation.

The financial activity of the National Park is blocked for the society and due to the current political situation in Belarus is completely uncontrollable, which enables authorities to further deceive and steal from the nature. Requirements of the independent scientists and democratic public to reject obsolete stereotypes of economic activity and to replace threatened methods for the sake of the preservation of the national sanctity and the values of the mankind have been deviated during many years. The public opinion is ignored or unambiguously tangled up through the state TV and press, which are under full governmental control.

Ascertaining such a situation, we understand pretty well that the problem of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, its Belarusian part, is primarily the problem of the Belarusian society . However, at the same time, there is the other connection, the other basis. We would not have proclaimed our alarms and have not put the hopes on somebody, least the rules of the international Convention on the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage, signed by Belarus, that are to be carried out by the Parties, did not require its implementation and its execution supervision.

In the connection with the latter, regarding the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, we responsibly testify: rules of the Convention are violated both directly and indirectly; the practice and quality of the national preservation of the world rarity do not correspond to high requirements. In particular, most often paragraphs 4, 5, 27 are not followed and are violated. These paragraphs concern concrete tasks of the national heritage protection and information to the public about the dangers that threaten the national heritage.

We consider the present situation in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a result of gross infringements and therefore would like that the attention of world community and also the competent benevolent attention of Mister General Director concerning the unique forest world heritage be drawn to our doubts, anxiety and disappointment for the sake of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha preservation against the further deterioration of its condition and degradation.

We do not exclude the expediency of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha entering into the List of Threaten World Heritage Sites, if on the basis of the available principles the appropriate international committee will see such a necessity. We appeal the public to initiate such a study and on the basis of the objective expertise to achieve a complete and clear vision of the situation in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha at the beginning of third millennium.

The text of this Appeal is fixed on the basis of our Letter to the personally General Director of UNESCO to Mister Koichiro Matsuura.

Svetlana Alexeevich, Writer
Radzim Garetzki, National Academy of sciences of Belarus, Member of Russian Academy of sciences, Professor
Vladimir Dackevich, Scientist-Ornithologist, lives in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha
Nil Gilevich, People's Poet of Belarus, Professor
Valeriy Dranchuk, Belarussian Green Piece Association, Editor-in-Chief of "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" Newspaper
Leonid Lych, Culture and Art, Professor
Peter Sadovski, Belarus Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary in Germany in 1992 - 1994
Stanislav Shushkevich, ex-Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Belarus, Professor