NEWS ARCHIVE: October 2003

October 17, 2003 «Sovetskaya Belorussiya» (The Soviet Byelorussia) Newspaper, #195 When image comes first

The 32nd session of the UNESCO General Conference ends today in Paris. Among many issues, the UNESCO countries discussed a project of convention on World Heritage Sites conservation. Belarus was represented at the session by Minister of Culture Leonid Pavlovich GULYAKO.

October 10, 2003 «Sovetskaya Belorussiya» (The Soviet Byelorussia) Newspaper, #190 It spins for all that!

Next year the third Belarusian World Heritage Site, after Belovezhskaya Pushcha and Mirski Castle, can become so-called Duga Struve. Scientists from Russia and Western Europe together with their Belarusian colleagues have recently visited 4 of 31 sites of Russian and Scandinavian Duga Struve, which can be found in our country. 200 years ago Duga Struve helped scientifically prove the hypothesis that the Earth is not spherical, but elliptical and, moreover, not ideally. The four sites were discovered in the Ivanovsk district of the Brest region.

Antonina KIT
October 10, 2003 «Zvyazda » (The Star) Newspaper, #256 Russia's gas supplies to be the same for Belarus

The volume of Russian gas supplies to Belarus in 2004 will be not less than this year's. That information was announced at the press-conference after the countries which supply, transit and buy gas using the Yamal — Europe gas pipeline met in Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

Sergei GRIB
October 1, 2003 BelaPAN News Agency, #12 (22.17) Public not satisfied with official inspection of the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha»

Minsk, October 1. The public ecological organizations do not agree with the principles of the official inspection of the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha», famous Belarusian ecologist and public activist, one of the founders of the democratic coalition «Svabodnaya Belarus», editor of the newspaper «Belovezhskaya Pushcha, head of the ecological public initiative «Terra-Convention» Valery Dranchuk said at the press-conference in Minsk on October 1.

He stressed once again that following the public demands a group of 10 people (including parliamentarians, scientists and officials) carried out the official inspection of the National Park at the end of June. «The results of the inspection in many aspects contradict the longstanding assurances of the Property Management Department of the President that »Pushcha is in good hands«», said V.Dranchuk. «The results also directly and indirectly prove numerous alternative statements aired by the green« opposition about the deep crisis of and real threat to the protected forest, which is the World Heritage Site, about the incompetent management of the protected territory and the arbitrary treatment of local people by the administration of the National Park». According to him, the gathered information in the final report, in particular, shows that the National Park is in a very difficult forest pathological situation and suggests that the Property Management Department of the President study the issues concerning the park administration policy of recruiting local people and allowing them access to the protected areas.

Nonetheless, «the acknowledgement of »single facts« is superficial and refers solely to the consequences and not the causes of the situation», V.Dranchuk said. He sees the causes in «the uncontrolled management of the forest by the administration of the National Park and thinks that the final report «is just a formal reply, which should be returned to the Parliament for further study». «The conclusion does not even mention the discrimination against and the arbitrary treatment of local people by the park administration», he said.

One of the participants of the inspection, deputy director of the Institute of Experimental Botany under the Belarusian National Academy of Science, Philosophy Doctor of Biology Aleksander Pugachevski noticed that the methods of the forest treatment in Pushcha are incompatible to its ecosystem. Scientist called «rather arguable» such artificial methods as stubbing, the use of turn plows and arranging forest plantations in rows rather than providing for natural sowing of the pristine forest. At the same time, the preparation of technical assignments for the international experts' examination, which is awaited by scientists, has been stopped, A.Pugachevski said.

Touching on the issue of the «live» forest felling in the National Park, the scientist said that there is no direct evidence of that, even though local people talk about it. According to A.Pugachevski, the truth can be found «only following proper sanctions and actions against those people in power».

A.Pugachevski pointed up that the group which was inspecting the National Park during two days and could not study all the facts, especially since they visited only those few parts of the park, where they were allowed to.

Among the main unresolved problems concerning the pristine forest, the participants mentioned the lack of the National Park regulations, which could correspond to the status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site; the need to increase the wilderness protection zone of Pushcha from 18 to 50 per cent so that it fully represent its nature resources; the need to attract more scientists for work in Pushcha; irrational allotment of the government money for the park, which does not take into account the needs of the whole Pushcha area; the issue of massive dismissals of people indigenous to Pushcha.

The meeting with journalists, which was held on October 1, laid the basis for a new project of the democratic coalition «Svabodnaya Belarus» (Free Belarus) which will be a series of alternative press-conferences «Environment: view of independent experts».

The press-conference was timed to honor the veteran of wilderness protection work, coordinator of «Terra-Convention» Zdislav Muraviev, who died on September 7 of this year. He, in particular, wanted all area of Pushcha to acquire the status of a wilderness protection area.

October 1, 2003 Charter '97 Pushcha needs international experts' examination

The public in Belarus is not satisfied with the results of the official inspection of the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» and demands that Pushcha be inspected by international experts. This opinion was expressed today at the press-conference with head of the ecological initiative «Terra-Convention», member of the Democratic coalition «Svabodnaya Belarus (Free Belarus), editor-in-chief of the newspaper «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» Valery Dranchuk and Philosophy Doctor of Biology and forestry specialist Aleksnder Pugachevski.

The group which inspected Pushcha included two persons from «The Chamber of Representatives» — deputy chairperson of «The Chamber of Representatives» Regular committee on issues of the Chernobyl catastrophe, ecology and nature management Maria Khudaya and deputy chairperson of «The Chamber of Representatives Regular committee on human rights, national relations and the media Aleksander Svirid. The group was also represented by ecologists and forestry specialists, although, acting only as consultants.

The inspection of Pushcha was carried out in response to a letter by the public ecological initiative «Terra-Convention», in which there was a suggestion to the government authorities to go to Belovezhskaya Pushcha and hold an open discussion on the fate of the reserved area. Head of the initiative and one of the founders of the democratic coalition «Svabodnaya Belarus» Valery Dranchuk took part in it as a public observer and journalist.

The inspecting group spent in Pushcha only two days, but the results of its work were made public attention almost two months later, and only after the public ecological initiative «Terra-Convention» insisted on that.

At today's press-conference the head of «Terra-Convention» Valery Dranchuk admitted that the results of the inspection in many aspects contradict the longstanding assurances by the Property Management Department of the Belarusian President that «Belovezhskaya Pushcha is in good hands' (published in the state-run press before 2001), that the present deep crisis in Pushcha is to blame on the bark beetle and hurricanes. According to the ecologist, the results also directly and indirectly prove numerous alternative statements aired by the »green« opposition about the deep crisis of and real threat to the forest which is the World Heritage Site, about the incompetent management of the protected territory and the arbitrary treatment of local people by the administration of the National Park. It is well-known that 260 park workers have been made redundant over the last two years (on the whole the park is employed with about 800 people). In most cases, V.Drunchuk says, they were made to leave their job because of their opposition to the park administration.

Important in the final inspection report, according to Aleksander Pugachevski, is the admission that there is lack of regulations and scientists in Pushcha, and the management of the National Park is inadequate to its status of the World Heritage Site.

The final inspection report, though, did not come out of the walls of «the Chamber of Representatives». In any way, the Belarusian National Academy of Science did not get it. Local people also did not get a reply to their numerous complaints sent to various government organizations. The representatives of the inspection group did not even hold a press-conference to announce the results of their work to the public. Of course, there will not be anyone responsible for the situation in Pushcha.

Today, Belovezhskaya Pushcha needs to be inspected by international experts, V.Dranchuk says. The Belarusian authorities must bare international responsibility for the situation in Pushcha. At the beginning of the year the UN office in Belarus together with the Belarusian government negotiated the possibility for technical experts' examination of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. In the spring of the current year, former head of the UN office Neil Bune told Valery Dranchuk that the UN was ready to find resources for the experts' examination and the only remaining obstacle was the permission by the Belarusian authorities. Despite that, V.Dranchuk has been recently said by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection that the Belarusian authorities do not think the international experts' examination is necessary.

«Belarus decided that our own experts are enough. The international experts' examination of the World Heritage Site is not considered now. That may mean that the Property Management Department of the President covers up the traces. It does not want international experts to come to Belovezhskaya Pushcha and see first hand what it has done there over the ten years of its work. It is not going to be responsible for its actions», V.Dranchuk said.

It should be noted that there are traces to cover up: since 1991, once a reserved area, Belovezhskaya Pushcha has begun rapidly to turn into not even a forestry, but a timber industry enterprise. The forest, which has the status of the World Heritage Site, has retained only a scarce handful of wilderness protection area of the total area of the former reserve. It looks as if a sop to the public and nature. There is no here whole wilderness protection zone which could effectively support biodiversity, and those existing 5 wilderness protection patches are in the places of the forest which do not fully represent Pushcha's beauty and is of local importance. The most part of Pushcha — 57,000 hectares or 65.2 per cent of the whole area of the park — constitutes the area of controlled management.

Moreover, the law «On specially protected natural territories and sites» requires all management of land in the area be defined by the National Park Regulations. Though, Belovezhskaya Pushcha has been working without the Regulations for four years now. It seems like somebody may be getting benefit from the situation. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection does not want to make the park administration act in accordance with the law.

The public ecological initiative «Terra-Convention» is going to insist on clarifying the matters in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. «Supported by people indigenous to Pushcha, we are going to make us heard by the Property Management Department of the President, because, today, it is time that one forgot their political ambitions and seriously talked to the Property Management Department, directly to President Lukashenko', V.Drunchuk said.
October 1, 2003 «Vecherniy Minsk» (The Evening Minsk) Newspaper, #218 20-metre high bison weighing 76 tons

The symbol of the Brest region — a big metal sculpture of a bison from Belovezhskaya Pushcha — was put up on September 30 at the border of the Brest and Minsk regions by the village of Petkovichi of the Baranovichi district. The sculpture weighs 76 tons and is 20 metres high. Having 11 parts, it was assembled at the scene of its erection. Now it will welcome everyone who drives into the Brest region by the main highway of the country.

The image of the bison is also at the emblem of the Brest region which has been recently adopted at the session of the regional Deputies Council. The emblem is now sent for adoption to the Heraldic Council under the Belarusian President.

BelTA News Agency
October 1, 2003 Website News Service The situation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha

Dear friends!

Today there is going to be a press-conference in Minsk on «The Situation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha (based on the last official forest inspection suggested by the public initiative)».

The inspection was carried out by Deputies of the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus in response to a collective letter by the public and a number of ecological organizations sent to the Regular Committee of the Chamber of Representatives of the Belarusian National Assembly in connection with the situation in the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» and violation of social justice by the park administration. We will let you know the results of the press-conference as soon as we get them.

We offer to your attention the final report prepared by the inspection group on completion of its work in the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» which was carried out on July 29 — 30, 2003. (The bold type is for convenient reading)

We would like to add on our behalf that the final report covers many aspects of management in the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» and its conclusions do not paint that optimistic situation as it has been presented by the park administration over the past years. It may be the first time that the government authorities admitted serious failings in the work of the National Park administration and suggested that a number of measures be implemented to make the situation in Belovezhskaya Pushcha better.

The Initiative group «Belovezhskaya Pushcha — XXI Century»