June 10th came and went in Russia without a signed deal for the proposed Altai Gas Pipeline. Following a month of optimistic Gazprom and government announcements saying the deal would be finalized by today, this past week saw fairly diverse coverage of the issue, with some sources saying it was a sure deal, some naysayers, and others saying “It’s complicated”.
While some analysts say that because the pipeline doesn’t make economic sense it will never happen, it does still seem likely that Russia/Gazprom and China/CNPC will eventually find common ground. Price is still the sticking point, with China not wanting to pay the European prices that Gazprom is demanding.
China is likely to come around, however, if nothing else because what it really wants is a transportation/trade corridor through the region – the pipeline is just the means of getting that corridor underway.
One glimmer of hope around the issue is that some news sources are finally beginning to mention environmental concerns and the fact that the pipeline will pass through the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site in their coverage. It’s still an afterthought, but as the situation progresses, I hope that we will see more comprehensive coverage of the entire situation, not just a clinical analyst’s approach.
www.upstreamonline.com/live/article259349.ece (notable only for its final paragraph mention of the UNESCO World Heritage Site)
In other news, the Kosh-Agach prosecutors’ office filed an appeal of the recent acquittal of 3 men in the January 2009 helicopter poaching incident with the Altai Republic Supreme Court. The accused claimed that they did not participate in hunting argali during the helicopter trip. There has been significant outcry by environmental and anti-corruption groups as well as by the general population of Altai Republic protesting this acquittal as well as the government’s failure to prosecute the accused and other government officials for what many view as clearcut corrupt involvement of government leaders and officials in the events surrounding the case.
www.listock.ru/17332 (in Russian)
On June 6, the Ere Chui Telengit Community Association held a public meeting to speak out against both the helicopter poaching acquittal and the proposed pipeline. The meeting was attended by almost 70 Telengit community representatives, as well as other Republic government officials, and representatives of regional conservation NGOs in Barnaul and Novosibirsk. The Telengit are demanding a meeting with President Medvedev to discuss their concerns about the pipeline.
www.listock.ru/17514 (in Russian)
A week earlier, green groups and Altaian indigenous groups held a joint press conference in Novosibirsk, speaking about their concerns about the Altai Gas Pipeline. Roman Tadyrov of Ere Chui Telengit Community Association, Mikhail Paklin of the Altai Republic’s “Russian Center” NGO, Mikhail Shishin of the Fund for 21st Century Altai, and Aleksey Gribkov of Geblerov Society all spoke to the media in attendance. They specifically demanded greater public access to detailed information and project documentation as well as calling upon Gazprom to conduct detailed studies of alternative pipeline routes, specifically pointing to concerns about the fate of the Ukok Plateau.