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Environmental problems of Northern Eurasia

Environmental Impact of Oil and Gas Development

<<< Radioactive Contamination: conclusion | Environmental Problems Index | Oil and Gas Development: Environmental and Social Impacts >>>


Northern Eurasia is extremely rich in oil and gas; it contains 13 per cent of the world's known oil reserves and 35 per cent of gas reserves (World Resources 1994-95, 1994). Exports of hydrocarbons have long been a major source of revenue for Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. As in many other parts of the world, including the capitalist economies of North America and Europe, hydrocarbon industries have a long history of causing disturbance of landscape, pollution of air, water, soil and biota, and destruction of habitats (Table 20.1).

Environmental impacts of oil and gas development

Table 20.1 Environmental impacts of oil and gas development

The main oil- and gas-producing areas of Northern Eurasia are shown in Figure 20.1.

Oil and natural gas basins of the former Soviet Union

Fig. 20.1 Oil and natural gas basins of the former Soviet Union

Each region accommodating large-scale oil and gas development projects experiences high levels of environmental disruption. For example, natural landscapes at about 1 per cent of the national territory have been destroyed by the development of oil shale reserves in Estonia (Punning, 1993). One of the highest levels of water pollution across the former Soviet Union (FSU) are registered in the Volga and the Caspian Sea. Such cities as Baku (Azerbaijan), Omsk, and Ufa (Russia), which possess oil refining and a petrochemical industry, rate among the worst in terms of air quality (Shahgedanova and Burt, 1993). Pollution, caused by the development of hydrocarbons, is not limited to the regions named, nor is it confined to the boundaries of the regions where it originates. In this chapter, I will focus on two oil-and gas-producing regions, north-western Siberia and the European north-east, where the massive scale of production, remoteness, and harsh natural conditions have created the most pressing ecological problems. In addition to possessing ecosystems, which are highly susceptible to industrial impacts, these areas are home to over 50 000 indigenous people whose traditional occupations (reindeer herding, hunting, trapping, and fishing) are inseparable from nature. Industrial development, which for years continued virtually unrestrained, has had a profoundly negative impact on the indigenous peoples of the Russian north and their way of life.

<<< Radioactive Contamination: conclusion | Environmental Problems Index | Oil and Gas Development: Environmental and Social Impacts >>>



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