The spill, apparently one of the biggest in several years, is now threatening to seriously disrupt major parts of the vulnerable waterways in the Komi and Nenets tundra and ruin life conditions for local inhabitants. According to Greenpeace, at least 500 tons of oil is now spreading from the Kolva River into the adjacent rivers of Pechora and Usa.
The spill reportedly happened already on the 22 May. However, information about the accident became known to the press only several days later.
According to the local Emergency Situations Authority in the city of Usinsk, an oil spill preparedness plan has been put into action and more than 100 people and about 30 special equipment units have been sent to the affected areas.
In addition, locals are requested to assist and are being offered 10000 RUB for each barrel of cleaned-up oil, Energyland.info reports.
However, the local environmental group Save the Pechora Committee now calls on regional and national authorities to declare a state of emergency in the area.
Local settlements are being badly hit by the oil. According to an inhabitant “it smells oil all over the place, and both children and adults are days and nights breathing in it”.
Head of Greenpeace Russia’s Energy Programme, Vladimir Chuprov, now fears that the spilled oil will run all through the great Pechora River and end up in the Pechora Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
“The Komi spill again demonstrates the complete helplessness of the authorities and the lack of protection of the local population”, Chuprov says.
It was long not known where exactly the oil came from. However, according to Usinsk city authorities, the company RusVietPetro, a joint venture of Zarubezhneft and Petrovietnam, is to blame. The oil spilled from a pipeline crossing over a local stream.
RusVietPetro is operating the Tsentralno-Khoreverskoye structure which includes four major blocks in the Timan-Pechora province, first of all in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.
The Barents Region has some of the last largest areas of intact natural woodlands in Europe. Scientists, bureaucrats and environmentalists from all four Barents countries cooperate on preserving the forest, but an international initiative is needed.
August 9th, the Barents Region celebrated the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day was commemorated in several parts of the region, including Karasjok in Northern Norway and Teriberka in Northwestern Russia.