NEWS ARCHIVE: November 2003

November 28, 2003 «Minskiy kurier» (The Minsk Courier) Newspaper, #219 Make the land healthy

Belarus has completed the first stage of the international ecological project «Key botanic areas». 10 Belarusian natural territories which can be given the status of Europe's valuable botanic sites have been examined during the project. There have been expeditions to the local reserves «Golubie ozera», «Yelno», and «Nalibokskaya Pushcha», the Pripyatski National Park, the Svislochsko-Beresinski, the Polesski and the Beresinski Biosphere Reserves.

November 22, 2003 «Zvyazda» (The Star) Newspaper, #293 Belarusian Santa to live in Belavezhskaya Pushcha

It's well-known that some countries have «offices» where one can meet this fairy-tale New Year's Father and these «offices» are flooded with tourists. At the moment the «residence» of Santa Claus, or Father-Frost, is being prepared for its first grand opening in a beautiful nook of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The workers of the National Park don't want to talk much about it, asking journalists to wait and promising to give a press-conference when everything is ready. As rumors have it, there will be many surprises for us.

November 21, 2003 «Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belarusi» (The Komsomol Truth in Belarus) Newspaper, #217 (23162) Bison wait for Santa Claus

Santa Claus will come to live beside bison under a 150-year-old spruce tree in just a few weeks. A monumental construction is taking place on 15 hectares of forest in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Almost a hundred of builders and foresters are there to saw, plane and nail. A magic fretted gate, two buildings and a house for Santa have already been finished. Nearby them, the workers are making floor inside the building of a future museum which was built especially for keeping thousands of letters and pictures from children. A long fire escape has been put up to decorate a 40-metre high spruce tree with four thousand electric bulbs… Director of Belovezhskaya Pushcha Nikolai Bambiza says it will be a fairy tale for children. The first young visitors to Santa Claus are expected on December 15. They will be shown to a glade with 12 fires burning in honor of 12 months, where Santa Claus will listen to their songs and poems. After all, children are also getting ready to the meeting. Then, Santa will treat them with hot tea, honey and pan cakes. But who is going to be that most kind Santa Claus? The most favorable candidate so far has been the writer from the village of Kamenyuki Vyacheslav Simakov.

The address of Santa Claus is: Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Kamenetz district, Brest region, Belarus 225063

November 21, 2003 Website News Service No more science, but more hotels

One more hotel will soon appear in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. It will become a promptly renovated building which was used by the present park administration and scientific department. A group of repairers have recently arrived from Minsk and started rebuilding offices in it into hotel rooms by taking off parquet, breaking walls between the offices, literally reconstructing the building from scratch.

The building which is being renovated now was originally designed by the former director Stepan Kochanovski for scientific purposes only. In the mid of the 1970s it was going to be used as a base for a scientific and research institute of biogeocenology (forest ecology). By that time the scientific department in Belovezhskaya Pushcha had already had over 50 research employees. The two-storey building of the institute was located in the midst of a beautiful pristine forest, but it would not open. Top communist party officials suddenly «came to their senses» and decided the numerous researchers would be spoiling their recreation and get in the way with their secret hunting practiced in Belovezhskaya Pushcha away from the public eye (the forest had the status of the State Protected Game Ground at that time). That is why the previous policy of science development in Pushcha was reconsidered and the new building was given to the administration of the protected game ground and numerous departments, including the scientific department, with its laboratories taking up most of the building.

In 1999 and 2000 the building underwent major repairs and was added a third storey. The storey was built for the research department laboratories, as the department needed more space, and also for an ecological and educational centre with a conference hall. These changes followed the recommendations based on the results of the «Belovezhskaya Pushcha Forest Biodiversity Conservation» project by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) which was carried out from 1992 to 1995 and was allotted 1 million dollars by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Nonetheless, the present administration of the National Park headed by director Nikolai Bambiza all of a sudden changed the plans and intentions of their predecessors. The focus of attention in the park is now given to earning hard currency. Before that, from 2001 to 2003 all hotels had been thoroughly renovated and then offered at very high prices both for foreigners and Belarusian citizens. Today, the price of a hotel room for foreigners varies from 50 to 200 ^ depending on the comforts and type of accommodation, and Belarusian citizens pay the equivalent of 25 — 125 Euro. It is noteworthy that the prices in the National Park for foreigners are higher than the prices in the best European hotels, with service being remarkably worse.

In preparation to the building renovation, people in the bookkeeping and planning departments had to leave their offices in advance in summer. Instead of them, they were allotted the rooms of the timber mill shops and the garage controller's office in the industrial zone. The people, who had already worked there, had to give up part of their work place. As for the scientific department, it was moved in a few rooms over motor-car workshops, which were completely maladjusted for research work. The need to rebuild a former toilet and a wash-basin for researchers to use the freed space speaks for itself. Now, in the «new» research offices one can hear the noise of the operating equipment below and breathe gas-polluted air. The scientific department could have been moved in the building of a former branch of the clothes factory «Dinamo», if the rent had not been too high.

Here is what was said about the last developments by a worker of the National Park, who, understandably, did not want us to mention his name: «Everything that is happening in Belovezhskaya Pushcha today is natural and logical, in accordance with the policy of people in the park administration who need not science but obedient executors of their orders. No one thinks about people and science here. The resettlement of scientists from their equipped laboratories is one more proof of it. A few years ago the major repairs of that building cost a big sum of money, but now everything is being broken again and renovated a new. Earning hard currency from the hotels is just another whitewash for people and the government of our country. Four hotels which are available now are more than enough, as they are half-empty. Few people can afford them due to high prices and it is a rare thing to see foreigners here. When a timber plant was being built a few years ago, we were promised to have loads of money from the sale of timber. In the end, the National Park went bankrupt because of a huge outstanding debt for the power saw-bench while the park director, as a consequence, moved up the career ladder with a new position in Minsk. Before that, 25 thousand dollars had been spent on a tennis court with a special surface, probably, also with big profits in mind. Today, the situation is the same. The administration promises a lot of hard currency, but, in the end, there will be neither currency, nor science. In the Polish area of Belovezhskaya Pushcha only one hotel belongs to the park administration, and all others are private. This one hotel of the park's property is, first of all, for the needs of scientists, environmentalists and eco-tourists who cooperate with the park. In Belarus, neither student, nor scientist can stay at hotels in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, as the prices are high. Though, the park administration is not concerned about it'».

So now the scientists in the research department will have to move from the block of the laboratories, which in the mid of the 1970s were built in particular for research purposes. They will also have to leave the place surrounded by the wilderness forest, which has become their home for 50 years of work. Not to be left out is the fact that the building which is now being reconstructed into a hotel, apart from the scientific department, houses a library with many old, rare and unique books, and an archive with all documentation. There had been plans to keep them in a warehouse in the industrial zone, but then another room, above the boiler house in the same industrial zone, was found. The park workers say jokingly that when there will be shortages of fuel, the required temperature of the boilers might be sustained with volumes of research papers which have been written over the past decades. In the scientific department itself, employees make no doubts that the library and the archive can miss many materials and publications after such a hasty and chaotic removal. Perhaps though, all that renovation has been deliberately started so that any check or inspection, with necessary documents missing, could not help puzzle out, as it is thought by some park workers, numerous shady dealings of the park administration over the last years?…
November 20, 2003 «Sovetskaya Belorussiya» (The Soviet Byelorussia) Newspaper«, #217 Bark beetles are less abounding in depth of the forest
(From the editors' mail)

It was interesting to read an interview in «Sovetskaya Belarussia» with one of forest pathology engineers of the National Park Grigori Kravchuk. It reminded me of a football player kicking the ball into his own goal.

As it is known, one part of Pushcha belongs to Poland. There, the problem of the park conservation and avoiding the ecological catastrophe is dealt with quickly and efficiently, not by adding new areas of forest to it, of course. Dead spruce trees there are cut down and immediately removed from the forest. And what is it like in Belarus? The spruce trees which are cut down remain in Pushcha and become a good home-breeder for the bark beetle (the reason of the ecological catastrophe) which infests healthy trees. Once, the bark beetle used to be fought with by cutting down living spruce trees and removing them right after the beetle had infested them. Is this method so outdated? No. Is it then that the park administration is really going to fight the beetle by adding new young forest plantations which are, as they say, of the same structure with Pushcha? One more point which is not talked about much is people who live in the areas which are considered for adding them to Belovezhskaya Pushcha. What shall they do? After all, hunting, fishing, mushroom and berry picking are banned in the National Park. Will these people then have to be forcedly resettled to other, «not reserved» areas?

Aleksander DUBATOVKA, Svisloch town
November 20, 2003 «Narodnaya Volya» (The People's Will) Newspaper«, #219 «Best Trade Name» goes to two Belarusian companies

Two Belarusian companies received the international award for the «Best Trade Name of 2003». The award ceremony, which is carried out under the auspices of the Trade Leaders Club, Madrid, and based on the survey results of customer preferences to basic products and service in different countries of the world, was held in Rome on November 17. A bronze statuette was awarded to the State National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» and a unitary woodworking company «Verba» from the town of Molodechno (Minsk region), the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said to BelaPAN. Among the winners are also companies from Europe, America, Asia and Africa.

November 19, 2003 «Zvyazda» (The Star) Newspaper, #289 Parliamentarian groups to renew simplified border crossings

A second meeting promoting parliamentary cooperation of Belarus and Poland was held in Kamenyuki (Belovezhskaya Pushcha) yesterday. The parties have agreed to cooperate on renewal of simplified border crossings for their citizens — possibly, called «international minor border crossings», as well as to introduce a visa-free regime for both citizens of Belarus and Poland who live within 50 kilometres of the border.

November 17, 2003 «Mir Zhivotnyh» (The Animal World) Newspaper, #11 Enough wilderness in Belarus?

The majority of people will probably say that the area of wilderness protection territories in our country is one of the biggest in the world. But is it really so?

Let's open the «Encyclopedia for children. Ecology» published in Moscow in 2001. The book can be trusted at least because it is in the series of the encyclopedic books approved by the Russian Ministry of Education and a foreword to the volume «Ecology» was written by a prominent scientist, professor, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Science Aleksei Yablokov. On pages 413 — 433 of the volume one can find the information on the share of wilderness protection areas of the whole territory in different countries of the world for 1995. As nothing much changed in this regard since that year, the book provides interesting data. The following table shows an abridged list of percentage of wilderness protection areas in different countries of the world:

Ecuador           - 43,1
Venezuela         - 36,3
Denmark           - 32,3
Norway            - 30,5
Austria           - 28,3
Germany           - 27,0
New Zealand       - 23,6
Slovakia          - 21,8
Great Britain     - 20,9
Botswana          - 18,5
Switzerland       - 18,0
The Chech Republic- 15,8
Israel            - 15,0
Bolivia           - 14,4
Costa Rica        - 13,7
The USA           - 13,4
Sri Lanka         - 13,3
Latvia            - 12,6
Estonia           - 12,1
 France            - 10,7

On average in the world, wilderness protection areas constitute 6.6 per cent. Thus, THE AREA OF WILDERNESS PROTECTION IN OUR COUNTRY IS 1.6 TIMES SMALLER THAN ON AVERAGE IN THE WORLD…

Shall we conquer the nature or promote conservation?

Ales PCHELKA, the city of Gomel
November 13, 2003 «Byelorusskaya Lesnaya Gazeta» (The Byelorussian Forest Newspaper) Newspaper, #45 (450) Belovezhskaya Pushcha has common borders

research-and-practice conference «Conservation in Modern Economy» was held in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Leading scientists from Poland and Belarus discussed problems of rearing wild and domestic animals and related to them conservation issues which arise in intensive economy.

Alexander SERBUN, Valentina HUDYAKOVA
The Nature Protection Institution «National Park »Belovezhskaya Pushcha«
November 12, 2003 «Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belarusi» (The Komsomol Truth in Belarus) Newspaper, #209 600-year-old oak dies
The beautiful tree which grows in Belovezhskaya Pushcha has only two live branches left

Medieval-age trees could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and among them is the oldest one, the king of oaks, which is still growing in the Svisloch district of the Grodno region. The gaunt tree of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is 600-years-old. A former forest ranger and tourist guide to the famous oak Vasili Tkachev thinks that the tree is dying because of its old age. «It began to rot inside the trunk and it seems like it is time for it to die», he says with regret. «It began to die 20 years ago and has only two live branches left now. Besides, the oak suffered from storms. But nonetheless, I think it will live for another ten years or so and then will be cut down and used as firewood».

The giant oak stands on the bank of the river Rudavka. One can often see many tourist groups beside it and many enchanted tourists try to enfold the tree in their arms. It takes five people to do it. The king of oaks is 2.1 metres in diameter and 36 metres high. There are oaks which are more beautiful, but there are no oaks which are so majestic, and there, probably, won't be such trees any more in the present ecological situation, one of the forest rangers said.

November 12, 2003 «Argumenty i Facty » (Arguments and Facts) Newspaper, #46 UNESCO heritage to grow

The most important thing for any historic attraction is to retain its beauty as full and blooming as possible. If so, there is a chance then to be subscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Only Belovezhskaya Pushcha and Mirski Castle have been honored with that status so far. Though, in the near future Belarusian contribution to the World Heritage List will become more substantial.

November 11, 2003 «Vecherniy Minsk» (The Evening Minsk) Newspaper Santa Claus will live in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha

From now on, there is no need to travel to far-flung Lapland to see Santa Claus and receive greetings from him. Starting from December of the current year, he will live in Belarus. Creators of a «New Year's fairy tale» promise that his manor house in the famous Belarusian National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» will open on December 1. Belarusian Santa Claus will receive guests and give souvenirs, and, in his leisure time, read moving and innocent letters written by small childish hands. The idea of Santa Claus living here appeared back in the 1980s, but only now it could become true, director of the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha« Nikolai Bambiza said. By the way, yesterday Santa Claus received his first letter from little Inga who lives in the Gomel region.

November 09, 2003 Website News Service UNESCO and IUCN mission is going to inspect the Belovezhskaya Pushcha

A decision was made at the 27th session of the World Heritage Committee (UNESCO, Paris, June 30 — July 5, 2003, document: WHC-03/27.  COM/7B) to send a mission of the UNESCO and IUCN experts to inspect the condition of the World Heritage Site Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Puszcza Bialowiezhska (Belarus and Poland).The governments of both Belarus and Poland were informed about it. After their inspection is over, the experts will write a report on the condition of the World Heritage Site, which will be presented at the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee in 2004.

UNESCO in particular has made the following announcement: IUCN received a large amount of letters and emails from local and non-governmental organizations, as well as from interested parties, in which they express concern about the state of conservation of this transboundary area (Belovezhskaya Pushcha / Puszcza Bialowiezhska — Belarus and Poland). In particular, they draw attention to a large-scale wood harvesting in both countries around the World Heritage Site, felling of trees which are over 100-years-old, and, also, violations of sanitary regulations under conditions of bark beetle infestations, which have a negative impact on the World Heritage Site. At the same time, IUCN notes, that the information provided by various independent organizations and individual persons often contradicts the information which is given by the governments of both countries. That is why IUCN has strongly recommended the joint IUCN and UNESCO inspection of the area to get the information on the World Heritage Site first hand and meet the interested parties in Belarus and Poland. IUCN has advised the World Heritage Committee to ask the governments in both countries to help the joint IUCN and UNESCO monitoring mission to visit the World Heritage Site in 2003 and to assess the state of its conservation, as well as to study possibilities for transboundary cooperation in the area of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and to meet all interested parties in Belarus and Poland.

At present, the time of the UNESCO and IUCN experts' arrival is defined more exactly. Initially, their mission was scheduled for the end of November, though, now it may be postponed till January 2004. November 06, 2003 «Birzha Informacii» (The Information Exchange) Newspaper, #300 The king of forest leaves us Ecologists have officially confirmed the death of the oldest, as they say, tree in our country, a 700-year-old oak in the Svisloch district of the Grodno region. According to them, there are just a handful of such long-livers among trees in the world. The oak stands on the bank of the beautiful river Rudavka, just a few miles off the northern area of famous Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The specialists believe the giant tree began to grow in 1300.

The area of its cut at the trunk is about 6 square metres. The oak is over 30 metres high.

The specialists cannot determine the cause of its death for sure. It may be the age or the drought of the last years or the hurricane in 2002 or the tree's withered rootage… or, of course, «nature lovers» leaving piles of empty bottles and rubbish after themselves.

And surely, the recent prints and pits made on the ground by dragging tractors could not make the tree healthier. Today, as the specialists say, the focus of attention in Belovezhskaya Pushcha is more on wood harvesting than conservation of its unique nature.
November 01, 2003 Website News Service Timber mill destroyed by fire in Belovezhskaya Pushcha

A fire started at one pf the timber mills belonging to the National Park «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» in the early hours on Monday, October 27. The entire building with wood-sawing equipment burnt down. Here they used to make planks out of timber logs and, also, give the main output of plank timber, as the second-hand German saw-bench bought on credit of over 1.5 million dollars in Germany in 1998 often breaks down and has to be constantly repaired. According to the preliminary investigation, the fire was caused by gross violation of fire safety rules. The timber, which was produced at the burnt works, used to be sold and exported after proper finishing. The loss of this timber mill will, undoubtedly, affect the scarce finances of the National Park.
November 01, 2003 Specially for the «Belovezhskaya Pushcha — 21st century» website Death of the giant oak

We will never see again green leaves on one of the oldest giant oaks, which grew in sector 122 of the Svisloch forest ground in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. In spring 2003, the roots of the tree stopped feeding its mighty stem and the giant oak died. Its diameter at the height of the human's chest (a common way of measuring diameter in forest management) is 214 centimetres, and by the root neck it is over 270 centimetres, which makes the area of the tree cut be 5.7 square metres. The oak is, presumably, about 700 years old. The age cannot be defined more precisely because of a hollow in the trunk of the tree. With the height of about 30 metres, its volume of wood is over 40 cubic metres. The trunk of the tree bears a scar made by a saw of a woodcutter, who once wanted to conquer it, but gave up this mighty creation of nature. Perhaps, the tree has some kind of positive energy, as it all the time attracts people wanting to emotionally enrich themselves.

The cause of the tree's death is difficult to define. It may be the age or the tree's withered rootage or the air and soil drought of the last years or mechanical effect of the 2002 hurricane, which passed close-by felling a lot of other trees in the immediate vicinity. Fortunately, the tree sustained the strong gusts of wind, but, apparently, the hurricane affected its rootage. Even though the giant oak is dead now, one can still admire its beauty and mightiness. The bark will still be covering the tree for several years on. Still, its bare trunk reminds of a saying: «One feels sorry for a thing only when it is gone».

The unique nook of nature where the grand oak stands on the bank of the beautiful little forest river Rudavka was going to be part of a very interesting ecological route and, also, be protected from a natural flow of «nature lovers» who year after year go into the forest deep by their cars or on motorcycles, damaging on their way roots of trees and littering the forest. Ecology is not a priority in today's Pushcha. It is evident, as one can find local ways made by tourists' transportation which lead to the tree, or skidding roads made by wheeled tractors which drag timber very near to the oak, or plenty of empty champagne, vodka and cognac bottles, as well as tins and plastic packing.

All of that brings sad thoughts to mind. What is more important for the present park administration? The unique wilderness which managed to retain its beauty until now or the forest management and commercial activity aimed at harvesting and processing the wood of century-old trees which grow in Pushcha and then are processes into planks to be sold? One wants to believe that in the area of the forest where the grand oak stands there are trees which grew of the oak seeds and, thus, possess the unique genetic inheritance. Let's also hope that the people, who manage this area, are sound enough to understand the real value of this unique wilderness nook and not make it foul.

Yatvesk Starina Specially for website «Belovezhskaya Pushcha — 21st Century»