Greenpeace and WWF give a light on environmental violations related to Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Environmentalists started their fight against Sochi-2014 long before 2007, when the city of Sochi won the bidding process. Sochi was one of seven applicants and the winner among final cities Pyongchang, South Korea, and Salzburg, Austria. The basis of the fight against hosting the Games was the reality of how environmental and human rights standards are usually ignored in Russia. Corruption was also one of the major concerns. Unfortunately, civil society could not win that fight and now we are facing environmental and human rights abuses. We are also witnessing the most expensive Olympics in the history of the Games. This is exactly what was foreseen by opponents of Sochi 2014.
Making mid-term conclusions, several international environmental NGOs stated their opinion on environmental concerns related to Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
At the moment of making the decision by the IOC, Sochi practically did not have necessary Olympic objects to host the Games. Importantly, it was decided to conduct the Games on the territory of Sochi National Park – a federal natural territory with special protection (Category II according to IUCN Protected Areas Categories System).
Unfortunately, the Russian government is acting in a way that illegal construction becomes legal. This is proved by attempts to build Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on the territory of Grushevy mountain ridge and illegal logging of enlisted (protected by Russian law) endangered species for construction of the combined road Adler-Krasnaya Polyana (combined railroad and highway).
Grushevy mountain ridge is one of ecologically sensitive and the most valuable for ecological integrity of Western Caucasus (UNESCO World Natural Heritage site). The government took several illegal legislative actions to ‘justify’ the Grushevy ridge for Olympic constructions. In particular, the federal law on protected areas was amended in defiance of Constitution and State Duma Regulations by allowing any constructions on the territory of national parks. Later, the Government issues the order allowing construction of non-Olympic objects on territories of special value (Grushevy mountain ridge and Western Caucasus). Being under pressure of UNESCO, Greenpeace, IUCN, Vladimir Putin ordered to relocate Olympic objects from Grushevy mountain ridge in accordance with the IOC’s request.
As to the road Adler-Krasnaya Polyana, its construction on the territory of Sochi National Park had started long before this project was approved by the state ecological expertise. During the road construction, hectares of most valuable forests (enlisted, i.e. legally protected, endangered species) were cut without obligatory permits.
In 2009, the boundaries of Caucasian State Nature Biosphere Reserve (a part of UNESCO Western Caucasus site) were changed. In reality it means the expropriation of territories of the State Nature Reserve and a part of UNESCO site. It was done for purposefully, for the road construction that will lead to ski resort Psekhako.
Construction of Olympic object ‘Single-track detour on the sea side of Vidny peninsula’ was conducted without obligatory state ecological expertise and permits. Construction Public Corporation ‘Russian Railways’ admitted the violation. Construction was accompanied by destruction of enlisted endangered species.
WWF Russia marked down numerous environmental problems related to Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics:
- Low quality of project documentation. It is mostly concerned to environmental impact assessment (EIA). The major reason to that is low quality of the field studies. For example, EIA for combined road Adler-Krasnaya Polyana was conducted by less than 10 people and within 2 weeks only. Of course, the study did not allow inclusion of any mitigation and compensation measures;
- Absence of environmental monitoring;
- Inadequate compensation measures;
- Combined road Adler-Krasnaya Polyana was being built without obligatory permits and state ecological expertise during 2008-2009 years of construction. This led to destruction of unique forests. In the end of 2009, the expertise was eventually conducted, although from biodiversity standpoint, the project must have been rejected;
- Degradation of environmental legislation;
- NGOs are suppressed in public monitoring over Olympic constructions and are practically deprived of the right of public monitoring.
To conclude, WWF states in its opinion that preparation to Olympics is not within any control, construction quality is low, environment has already been seriously damaged and damage will continue to occur, and NGOs are deprived of the right to participate in independent public control over constructions.
In 2010, WWF and Greenpeace quit negotiation process with Sochi-2014 Organizing Committee.
By Sochi Watch based on materials by Greenpeace Russia and WWF Russia firstname.lastname@example.org