Reclaiming the North

Volunteers manually cleaned several miles of Bely Island. Source: Pressphoto

Volunteers manually cleaned several miles of Bely Island. Source: Pressphoto

Activists and the Russian government are working together to restore a fragile northern environment damaged by years of industrial development.

This summer, a team of volunteers spent a month cleaning trash from a 2.3-square-mile area on Bely Island in the Kara Sea, the northernmost boundary of Russia’s Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District. They removed 75 tons of scrap metal and erected a church dedicated to sailors killed during World War II. The expedition was the beginning of an attempt to restore the natural environment after years of industrial development.

According to district governor Dmitry Kobylkin, a full cleanup of the island will continue until the area’s ecology is fully restored. Volunteers from various organizations, including the People’s Friendship University in Moscow, will continue restoration work next year as part of Russia’s broader national policy in the Arctic region.

More than 25 percent of the world’s total gas reserves are located in the area, including at offshore sites in the Kara Sea, but far more is at stake than oil and gas. Said Kobylkin, “We must enter the Arctic with science. That’s why we plan to establish an international ecology research center on Bely Island after restoration work is complete.”

This article was prepared in cooperation with the Yamal Administration Press Service.

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