Friday, March 16, 2007

Leopard habitat spared as Siberian oil pipeline re-routed

13 Mar 2007

Moscow, Russia – Responding to appeals from WWF and other conservationists, the Russian government agreed to re-route part of the new East Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline, sparing the last remaining habitat of the Amur leopard, the world's most endangered cat.

The decision announced by Rostekhnadzor — Russia's federal service for ecological, technical and atomic supervision — marks the end of a two-year battle by WWF to have the oil terminal moved to Kozmino Bay from the originally proposed site at Perevoznaya Bay, south-west of Vladivostok, which required the pipeline to run through the centre of the Amur leopard's last remaining habitat in Russia's south-western Primorskii Province.

"This is a truly momentous victory for Russian conservation," said Dr Evgeny Shvarts, WWF's director of conservation policy in Russia.

"The decision to re-route the pipeline to a new terminal site in Kozmino Bay spares the Amur leopard's habitat, avoiding the kind of environmental destruction that could have pushed them into extinction."

Designed to carry crude oil from the Russian Far East to markets in Japan, Korea and the United States, the 4200-kilometre-long East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline will be the world's longest when completed in 2008. It is the largest development project in Russia's history, expected to cost US$11.5–$15 billion.

Construction of the terminal is scheduled to begin next month. When complete, the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline will cross 50 rivers and include 32 pumping stations. It will have the potential to transport as much as 56 millions tons of oil a year from the town of Tayshet — 400 kilometres north-west of Lake Baikal — to the Sea of Japan. The terminal's loading complex will be 400 metres from the coast and minimal dredging works will be required at Kozmino. The latest in storage and pumping technology will be used to help preserve the ecosystem of the bay and its surrounding areas.

The pipeline and terminal are a project of Transneft, the legal successor to the USSR Ministry of Oil Department for Oil Transportation and Supplies.

"WWF applauds the Russian government's decision to relocate the pipeline and terminal," said Dr Shvarts. "Transneft had simply underestimated the ecological importance of Pervoznaya Bay."

When WWF and a number of leading institutes and universities in Russia's Far East examined ten possible locations for the terminal, Perevoznaya Bay was considered the worst site because it is an open and shallow bay close to two state nature reserves — the Far Eastern Marine Reserve and the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve, home to endangered species such as the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger.

"These are the most critically endangered big cats in the world with only 40 individuals left. A pipeline slicing through the heart of their last outpost could have spelled disaster," said Darron Collins, WWF's leader for Amur-Heilong conservation.

"Russia's decision to re-route the pipeline gives the Amur leopard a chance to survive in the wild."

For further information:
Daria Kudryavtseva, Press Officer
Tel: +7 495 7270939
E-mail: dkudryavtseva@wwf.ru

http://www.panda.org/news_facts/ newsroom/index.cfm?uNewsID=96540

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