Siberia's Telengit people protest Altai Gas Pipeline

The indigenous Telengit people in Russia's Altai Republic (see map) are turning to the international community to help stop a new gas pipeline to China that would cut through their sacred lands and a UN-recognized World Heritage Site. When first announced in 2006 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the 2,700-kilometer Altai Pipeline was slated to be complete by the end of 2011, but construction is only about to begin now due to cost disputes. Cultural Survival warns that the pipeline would bisect the Ukok Plateau, sacred to the Telengit, and the Golden Mountains of Altai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as Kanas National Park in China's Xinjiang province, one of that country's last undeveloped wilderness areas.

In their public appeal, the Telengit warn:

Damage to permafrost on Ukok is particularly dangerous, as it will hasten the melting of glaciers in the Tabyn-Bogdo-Ola and Southern Altai ranges. This region is also prone to earthquakes that could cause devastating pipeline leaks and spills. Construction of the pipeline also threatens our local economy. In our Territory of Traditional Natural Resource Use we practice free-range animal husbandry, fishing, and hunting, and we are developing cultural and ecological tourism. Construction of a pipeline, contamination, and the melting of permafrost will affect all our economic activities, we will lose our sources of food and livelihood.

In addition to Cultural Survival, the Altai Project and the Altai Territory Social Fund are petitioning against the project. (Intercontinental Cry, Aug. 5)

Indigenous peoples elsewhere in Siberia have been similarly protesting a network of new gas pipelines slated to grid their territories.

See our last posts on Russia, China and the regional pipeline wars.

Please leave a tip or answer the Exit Poll.

Siberians protest Russian rocket crashes

An indigenous people in Siberia is demanding compensation for damage to their health they say was caused by a series of crashes of Russian spacecraft. Representatives of the Tubalars—a Turkic people living in the Altai Republic's Choi district—are demanding that Roskosmos, Moscow's space agency, pay for damage done by the Aug. 24 crash of a Proton rocket shortly after it was launched from the Baikonur space complex in neighboring Kazakhstan. Tubalar leader Maria Sakova told journalists that many locals experienced respiratory problems and headaches after the crash, from inhaling toxic fumes from released fuel.

Sakova added that Proton rockets regularly crash on Altai territory, and the wreckage has damaged the local ecosystem. She said the Tubalars' traditional subsistence farming has been affected, as the heptyl-based has poisoned cedar cones, one of her people's staple foods. Roskosmos counters that no debris from the Proton rocket has been found. Local officials deny that any traces of heptyl have been detected either in the soil or in local rivers.

There were some 1,565 Tubalars living in Russia, according to the 2002 census. They are mainly clustered in about 20 villages in the Altai Republic. (RFE/RL, Aug. 30)

See our last post on the politics of space technology.