WRI and its partner environmental NGOs in Russia have begun the development of a methodology to assess the terrestrial footprint of the oil and gas industry on the Russian landscape.
The activities of the oil and natural gas sector in Russia have had a series of negative effects on the natural landscape. Fires, oil spills, and pipeline ruptures from systematic exploration, extraction, and transportation activities have wreaked havoc on local ecosystems. The resulting damage has led not only to a fragmented forest landscape, but also to the corruption and erosion of local settlements, which depend upon those ecosystems’ services to sustain their communities. As an extension of its forestry work, WRI and its partner environmental NGOs in Russia have begun the development of a methodology to assess the terrestrial footprint of the oil and gas industry on the Russian landscape. The majority of research conducted in this field lacks a straightforward, accurate, and comprehensive methodology. However, as more spatial information becomes available, it is now possible to objectively assess the scale of the environmental footprint of the oil and gas industry on the landscape. The satellite images have always been instrumental for specialists in conducting such assessments, but as of recent, websites such as earth.google.com made remote-sensing data available to a wide audience, enabling anyone to see the evident environmental footprint through the Internet.
A forthright and objective analysis of the activities of the oil and gas sector on the Russian landscape will have many positive outcomes. Primarily, it will set a baseline which we can use to measure future impacts. Additionally, such an assessment will assist in the prioritization of reclamation activities and efforts to reduce future impact. One can also expect it to allow for setting of environmental performance targets (e.g. voluntary commitments). With this work, we will promote transparency and social propriety in both local and international corporations currently operating in Russia, thereby securing the Russian citizenry’s right to a responsibly developed landscape, as well as a strong economy.
This new project is based on past successes of cooperation between WRI and Russian NGOs in the form of Global Forest Watch (GFW) Russia. In 2002, the GFW Russia initiative released Atlas of Russia’s Intact Forest Landscapes that was widely adopted by the Russian forest sector. Having examined the forest sector with remote sensing and GIS, GFW Russia found substantial evidence of impact from the oil and gas sector on the forest landscape. Now WRI and its Russian partners have posed the larger question at hand: How has one of the most significant industries in Russia affected the country’s landscape.