Environmental and Social Impacts of Industrial Development in Northern Russia (ENSINOR)

Project phases

Phase 1 (2004). The ENSINOR team has done two first field trips in spring and summer 2004. The purpose of these were preliminary consultations among the collaborators and field reconnaissance encompassing consultation and participation of local communities to select representative study areas undergoing oil and gas development in Nenets AO and Yamal-Nenets AO. It has been decided to place emphasis on two intensive study areas in each region. In YNAO this is the main gas field and extraction activities around Bovanenkovo, an area that is used by two big reindeer herding communities of the Yarsalinski sovkhoz with their herds of more than 6000 reindeer on their way to the coast of the Kara Sea in summer. The same area is also used by a group of less migratory private reindeer herders, whose actual grazing regimes with their herds have not been studied so far.

Another area of future interest will be the railway corridor on the Yamal Peninsula between the village of Laborovaya and Yuribei River, an area whose legal land user is currently the sovkhoz Panaevskii. In the NAO, we identified the tundra around the oil terminal of Varandei as our intensive study area. There, reindeer pastures are used by herds of the Erv reindeer herding collective, the first reindeer enterprise in the NAO to separate from the Soviet kolkhoz system in the early 1990s. In these areas we would like active participation of herders to advise the scientists. For this purpose we have started intensive conversations with herders themselves and their representatives in cities and towns. They indicate places of special interest where any environmental changes have taken place (permafrost degradation, rapidly changing vegetation, etc.). We also encourage them to comment more generally on social, economic and institutional changes since the start of petroleum exploration. In ENSINOR, we combine herders’ knowledge, their special way of relating to their social and natural environment, and their assessment of both environmental and social (community-level) change with scientists’ assessment of the trends and extent of change. Herders are asked to envision how reindeer management will survive in future. To what extent can they adapt, or not, if changes continue as petroleum extraction continues?

Phase 2 (2005-summer 2007). From spring 2005 on, we began intensive surveys of (i) Anthropology - local perceptions of recent (last 30+ years) past and present environmental and socio-economic change; (ii) Geography – high-resolution satellite mapping of the extent of visible changes in pastures; (iii) Biology – on-the-ground classification of critical habitats for reindeer and detection of recent changes in shrub abundance. The main biological and geographical fieldwork takes place in summers 2005, 2006 and 2007. Anthropological fieldwork takes place in winter, spring and summer.

Phase 3 (Autumn 2007). Data analysis and development of scenarios for Finland’s potential roles in this process and disseminating the accumulated information to the public and relevant authorities through AC’s science centre, publications, and data and information services. A final public exhibition and symposium will directly inform policy makers and administrators.