29 october 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on developing the system for specially protected natural areas

Vladimir Putin

At a meeting on developing the system for specially protected natural areas

“Investment in environmental protection, that is, in the quality of life and prosperity of future generations is at the top of our list of priorities. We plan to establish 11 new federal reserves and 10 national parks in the next decade.”

Vladimir Putin's opening address:

Good afternoon,

Today we'll discuss the development of specially protected natural areas - federal reserves, national parks and federal sanctuaries. This unique infrastructure aimed at preserving nature covers an enormous expanse of land and is more than a hundred years old. This system was launched by remarkable Russian scientists, environmental experts, enthusiasts and educators.

The first national reserve - the Barguzin Nature Reserve - was established on Lake Baikal as early as in January 1917. Now Russia has 102 federal reserves and will not stop adding to this list anytime soon. For example, the Utrish Nature Reserve was set up in the Krasnodar Territory quite recently - in 2010. All in all, we have about 12,000 federal and regional specially protected natural areas. They occupy more than 200 million hectares or more than 11% of Russia's territory, and 90 of our reserves, national parks and sanctuaries have official international status.

This is Russia's way of making a significant contribution to the maintenance of the balance of the global environment and climate. Investment in environmental protection, that is, in the quality of life and prosperity of future generations is at the top of our list of priorities.

We plan to establish 11 new federal reserves and 10 national parks in the next decade. And the area of another 10 reserves and two national parks will be substantially extended. But to be successful with this, we must resolve a number of major systemic problems, for instance, reviewing the current legislation on environmental protection.

This year, as you know, I had a chance to visit several protected areas and personally examine the conditions there. I visited the Lena Delta Wildlife Reserve, the Kronotsky Nature Reserve and the South Kamchatka Federal Nature Sanctuary. Of course, they have serious problems that need to be resolved quickly.

First of all, the services responsible for managing the protected areas, including fire safety, are poorly equipped. Our national parks need better equipment, as well as effective monitoring and early warning systems to prevent major fires.

The second problem is the shortage of qualified personnel, especially in national parks located in the Far North as well as the remote and hard to reach regions of Siberia and the Far East. The key reason for this inadequacy is easy to guess - low salaries. We need to put forth specific proposals on improving this situation and supporting those who devote their lives to this extremely important work.

Third, a natural area's status as a nature reserve or sanctuary does not always reliably protect it from poaching, illegal logging or industrial pollution. I am convinced that punishment for such violations should be increased. On the other hand, I am sure you will agree that we should avoid taking it to the other extreme and closing the national parks to the public. One cannot be taught to love and value the natural world if it is only experienced in books and pictures. People should have direct contact with nature, to see it and touch it themselves, if possible.

Therefore, the fourth challenge we must address is the development of ecotourism, which plays an important role in educating the public. It also enables national parks to bring in money for development and improvement without causing harm to the natural environment. For example, Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. is visited by two million tourists a year, while a similar protected area next door - in Kamchatka - by only a few thousand.

This situation is obviously the result of a lack of the necessary tourist infrastructure, which should help people along with protecting the environment. I would like you to accelerate the amendment of the law on protected natural areas.

We need to create a proper legal framework for the development of recreational and tourist activity in national parks and other protected areas to make it possible to rent property there and build hotels and services for tourists.

Such economic activity in protected areas should certainly meet the highest environmental standards and be supervised thoroughly.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has drafted a comprehensive plan for the development of national parks and preserves in Russia. We will discuss it today; the basic concept should go along with a specific plan of implementation.

There is one more important point I would like to make. Every project involving the development of nature reserves and national parks should be implemented in close contact with the public and with non-governmental environmental organisations. The positive impact of such cooperation is obvious. The ongoing preparation for the 2014 Sochi Olympics is a good example. I expect this cooperation to continue in the future.

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Vladimir Putin's closing remarks:

In conclusion, I'd like to say that we have given our attention to a major issue today. Although it is so important, this issue is also often overlooked because we somehow tend to believe that our natural environment is permanent or endlessly renewable. True, we received nature as a gift from God, so to say. But this is also the reason we should take good care of it, for the sake of our country's future and future generations of people.

We certainly have a lot of work to do in this area. Let's finalise the draft resolutions and proposals raised during today's discussion; we should complete them by the end of this year, draft tax incentives, and work out financial incentives for employees. Thank you.