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Altai communities and snow leopards threatened by pipeline

Telengit community in snow leopard habitat southern Russia.

Telengit community of Altai mountains in southern Russia are fighting a gas pipelines which threatens them and endangered animals like snow leopards. Photo Cultural Survival.

Last year I travelled through a remarkable part of Siberia I knew nothing about, in search of Russia’s last snow leopards. In the Altai Republic and the Altai mountains I found a spectacularly beautiful region with a fragile landscape and local communities hanging onto unique traditions and livelihoods thousands of years old. Much of this is now under threat.

According to Jennifer Castner, Director of the Altai Project, a gas pipeline project between the Russian and Chinese governments is proposing to export natural gas from here to northwestern China.”The pipeline threatens a UNESCO World Heritage Site, national parks, and sacred lands. The Telengit people and Russian environmental organizations are calling on the international community for help to stop construction of this gas pipeline on the sacred Ukok Plateau.”

Altaians and the Telengit feel a strong connection to their land, shown here.
This video tells the story of Slava Cheltuev, a Telengit community leader and shaman from the Altai’s high altitude Kosh Agach district.

Now the local Telengit people are so concerned about the negative impact of the pipeline they are keen to get a meeting with Russia’s President Medvedev.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Golden Mountains of Altai, which has been identified as cultural and environmental importance not only to the local Altains but also for the whole world community. The mountains being a vital habitat for endangered animal species like the snow leopard and argali sheep also influenced the decision by UNESCO.

The Altai Project is working with partners to help the Telengit and Russian environmental groups reroute the pipeline. The Altai seems far away, I know it seemed that way to me, but once I had a chance to see it and learn about it, I realised how important and special a place it is. You can read more and support this important issue through the Altai Project and their partners.

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