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Brief review On RFE-Siberian BRI and forestry initiatives – 2019

Last several years of the Russian Far East (RFE) and Siberian reality had been focused upon increasing ignorance of  regional interests and indigenous peoples subsistence from federal empire,with concentration of  all national-regional governance on the need of Chinese-BRI investments into broad destruction of the last intact environment in favor of feeding Chinese industry with natural resources, remaining still pretty rich. Brief analysis of priority investment projects over RFE Federal district, enriched recently with Zabaikalsky Krai and Buryat Republic, legally promoted under models of Territories of Advanced Development (TAD) and Vladivostok Free Port (VFP) demonstrates continued invasion of Chinese BRI investments into big scale forestry, coal andgold mine enterprises over the region. Culturally and traditionally, that high scale investment model, focused by the government and president, target to destroy traditional family and community resilience and household on the region, controlled and supported by the women. Privilege for officially licensed businesses on fisheries and destructive logging enforces local males to become gold miners and loggers by the slavery mode with low salary, and leave the only choice for women to run traditional hunting and fishing at the last rivers and intact forests, left still alive.

Broad scope of projects under TAD and VFP demonstrates quite positive involvement of city based women into adopted investment projects under BRI, including businesses on hotels, tourism, food and agro-processing services. But, main profits from them still remain concentrated on the municipal level of middle and big cities, keeping rural communities and families out of general profits from those projects. While males in small settlements keep dying as victims of industrial disasters on the gold mines, floods and forest fiкes, and keep working hard together with CIS migrants on the logging sites, their women try to maintain their kids and great traditional Siberian culture of environmental harmony, keeping still great intact forests alive as their core livelihoods.

If to extract resource based projects with Chinese investment from hundreds of them in the lists of TAD and VFP,which is covering main part of the Asian Russia, we can find not many forest concerned projects. The reason is clear, as itis turned obvious from the recent federal investigation in Irkutsk Oblast: biggest logging activities in Siberia are based upon “grey” schemes of legal logging leases, labelled as “sanitary” or other “maintenance” operations. They used to be highly popular at the southern Far East about 20 years ago, and now successfully moved to Siberia. Underlying cause of that shift and sustainability are identified by WWF-Amur and other NGOs, including GFC (Global Forest Coalition) members. We succeeded to use satellite control data to activate governmental agencies for control legality of forest use, and found lot of violations, paid over by Chinese consumers of Siberian raw logs from intact forests, leased for “sanitary” or “maintenance” operations. That operations left Siberian families and women without their only source of subsistence. Siberian actors of logging successfully used  former experience of their colleagues from the RFE and found new models of violations. Result of Chinese “green BRI” strategy, target to move environmentally destructive logging and mining  practices to the intact forests of Siberia, turned disastrous for rural culture and ecosystems in Asian Russia – millions ha of burnt intact forests and rivers, died by corrupt gold mining.

We can give bunch of examples of that from Khabarovsk too. It became already “mauvais tone’ to remind super scandalous pulp mill project of 100 % Chinese company “Polaris” in Amazar of Zabaikalye Krai, launched and invested by China more than 17 years ago, and turned absolutely absurd by the lack of forest resources and underlying hidden goals of Chinese partners to create a new bridge over Amur to get raw logs to China. Despite hard efforts of Siberian environmental community to stop this project, it was adopted by the federal government as “priority national one” (but it lost such status in April 2019), relying on created processing infrastructure, Chinese companies continue to try use it for some new fantastic purposes. The same fake story, occurred with Amursky pulp mill at the low Amur river city Amursk in Khabarovski krai. After signing promising agreement with regional governor by the end of 2018, Chinese investors simply had gone, leaving territory with a set of questions on the awaited investments and local taxes. 

Hundreds of small and big logging and mining businesses keep operating over the vast region on the traditional lands of indigenous families, supplying timber, gold and coal to Chinese “green BRI” consumers and leaving local communities without real rights to survive. And none court or prosecutor is able so protect that constitutional right. Recent disaster on the river gold mine illegal dam in Krasnoyarsk region with real victims demonstrated all the cynical level of ignorance to the human rights and environment from national and regional officials, interested in getting profit only by any cost, including human lives. Under pressure of “Entire Russia” party they keep resource concerned legislation targeted not upon territorial and social development, but upon extracting extreme profit from Siberia in favor of Russian national and Chinese oligarchs, hidden behind fake motto of “Green Silk Road” or Green BRI. So, our key problem, during last 20 years, remain the same – to change governance and legislation in favor of local community and municipalities, versus timber and mining oligarchs, in favor of local families and their resource rent, granted by the Russian Constitution.