16 March 2010 Russian authorities need to better assess the impact of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and tourism projects on the local ecosystem and put in place appropriate mitigation measures, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced in a report released today.
While Russian authorities have conducted assessments on the direct impacts of the project, they “did not take into account the cumulative and synergetic effects of the various projects on the ecosystems of the Sochi region and its population,” according to the report, which follows a visit to the Black Sea city of Sochi, where the Olympic sites are being constructed from scratch.
Calling the Sochi Games a possible “unique environmental showcase,” UNEP said the implementation of mitigation plans that are meant to ease the burden on the environment have been taking too long.
The stalled measures include the creation of new protected areas along the Black Sea coast to protect important wetlands and migratory routes of birds, as well as key types of natural habitats for wildlife, and the enlargement of the Sochi National Park.
The region is also home to the Caucasus State Biosphere Reserve (CSBR), which is taking part in leopard revitalization. The animals, once endemic in the Caucasus region, are now believed to number only 10 or 12 as a result of poaching and a shrinking habitat.
During the visit, conducted between 28 and 30 January, UNEP officials toured the leopard breeding centre, tree nursery and zoo.
UNEP called for a strong monitoring programme involving a third party, and offered to help mediate between authorities and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that cut off ties saying their suggestions or inputs were not being taken into account.
UNEP officials also met with the Russian Railway Corporation to discuss plans for the combined road-railway project linking Sochi with the sites for the Games. Some NGOs had criticized the project for what they said was its negative impact on fauna and flora.
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