[IMC-Prague] [EWNC] The "Resort-rush" Ruins Khmelevsky Lakes!
ies at nc.ru
Sat Jul 31 03:25:25 PDT 2004
"ENVIRONMENTAL WATCH on NORTH CAUCASUS"
<July 31, 2004>
RUINS KHMELEVSKY LAKES!
Unauthorized construction and jeepping
in a unique mountain lakes area
in the buffer zone of the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve
Khmelevsky Lakes natural monument is located in the vicinity of
the village of Krasnaya Polyana (Sochi, Krasnodar Territory) on a
spur of Mt. Achishkho Ridge. These are four picturesque high-
mountain lakes, 1700-1750 meters above the sea level. They belong
to the territory of the Sochi National Park, next to the border
with the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve, in its buffer zone.
The ecosystem of Khmelevsky Lakes is characterized by great
biodiversity. This area is a habitat for many rare plants and
insects. There are many nesting species of rare birds here.
Khmelevsky Lakes are a popular hiking area in the vicinity of
Krasnaya Polyana village.
This area remained undisturbed for a long time. Backpackers did
not bring impairment to its nature. There were many kinds of wild
animals here. But the situation has sharply changed in the recent
years. The "resort-rush" began in the area of Krasnaya Polyana due
to the plans for the development of a mountain-skiing resort there.
Expected high profits led to mass purchase of land, construction of
hotels, cafes, saunas, and the development of more and more exotic
kinds of rest. All of this negatively affected Khmelevsky Lakes
located near the village. It is very seldom that one meets wild
animals there now. Mountain meadows are degrading, rare kinds of
plants and animals are under the danger of extinction, natural
landscapes are being destroyed. The main threats to Khmelevsky
Lakes are the unauthorized building of tourist-recreational objects
and the so-called "jeepping".
The term "jeepping" is translated as "travel on the cross-
country capacity automobiles with overcoming natural obstacles".
For nature, these "travels" turn into the destruction of
landscapes. Jeeps with tourists come into subalpine meadows, travel
about, make new tracks and leave behind deep scars on mountain
meadows, which take a long time to heal. This "extreme" tourism is
one of the most promoted kinds of rest in Krasnaya Polyana. Many
Internet sites tantalize campers with promises of "travel with
obstacles on mountain meadows" on Khmelevsky Lakes.
But the most critical are the facts of illegal construction in
the area of the natural monument.
In 2001 Polyansky Mir Company built a hotel at the Big Lake
located next to the borders of the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve. It
was done in violation of the Federal legislation norms. Agreements
for this construction go backdating and still have not been made.
The worst situation is across the Khmelevsky Lakes. Sochi
National Park rented this area to the businessman Afuksionov from
Krasnaya Polyana. It is the area of the Western Lake, one of the
cleanest in the system of these lakes. Negative influence on the
ecosystem here has increased in the last two years.
Near the lake, a cafй was built and a capital building of
tourist shelter is under construction in violation of all norms,
without permission and any design documentation. A bath was built
on the coast of the lake. Water for the bath is taken from the lake
and gray water drains back into the lake. Only scattered patches of
former motley grass mountain meadows remain. The area around the
lake is trampled down and littered.
It is a paradox that all this is happening in the area with a
triple protection status. It is within the Sochi National Park, a
buffer zone of the Caucasus Reserve, and a natural monument. In
1993 this area was included in the general plan of Sochi as the
natural area of preference protection. But it is obvious that all
these protective statuses do not provide protection for the
ecosystem of this unique natural object.
This is mainly the fault of the Sochi National Park. According
to the basic document regulating activity of this natural area of
preference protection "Regulations about Sochi National Park" as
its primary task is "preservation of wildlife complexes, unique and
reference natural sites and objects". However the situation on
Khmelevsky Lakes demonstrates that the Sochi National Park
authorities have other priorities.
Instead of protecting this open to injury high-mountain
ecosystem, the Sochi National Park practically sanctioned nature-
destructive activity there. Moreover, it profits from the rent of
sites in the lakes' area and collects payment from tour agencies
and motorists who are carrying out jeepping on Khmelevsky Lakes.
The situation here is a glaring example that the function of the
Sochi National Park is not the protection of unique natural areas,
but making business through the rent and inevitable destruction of
the wild and beautiful land.
In connection with wide public resonance acquired by
infringements in this area, the roads leading to Khmelevsky Lakes,
are now partly blocked. Sochi Interdistrict Department of RF's MNR
Main Management of Natural Resource and Environment on Krasnodar
Territory put a ban on any construction in the area of Western
However it is quite clear, that these are provisional measures
caused by public resonance to the infringements. Someone will
hardly pull down illegally built constructions. Their placement
here will formally be legalized sooner or later. Jeepping will
certainly start again, as soon as possible.
The main danger of Khmelevsky Lakes is that what’s happened in
this area is only a preamble to the further large-scale
development. The wild nature of Khmelevsky Lakes awaits for the
Its destiny is already predetermined at the level of the Russian
Government. According to the decree of February 27, 2003 all area
of Khmelevsky Lakes is attributed like lots "which can be rent for
construction of mountain - climatic complex "Krasnaya Polyana".
Sochi National Park has already exposed more than 8 hectares of
territory of natural monument for construction. The RF's Ministry
of Emergency Measures plans to build a base with helicopter
platform. The building of ropeway, ski lines, cafes, restaurants
and other tourist objects are in the "Krasnaya Polyana" development
plans. So not only wildlife complexes of Sochi National Park but
also the Caucasus Reserve will suffer. The ski lifts going down
from Khmelevsky Lakes in the north, on the territory of the
Caucasus Reserve are already designated on the schemes of the
future mountain-skiing complex!
Basic changes in approaches to the use of this area are
necessary. It is necessary to stop further rental of land for
construction, as well as jeepping activities. Any activities
conducted in this area should have minimum impact on its unique
Otherwise natural landscapes and Khmelevsky Lakes ecosystem will
irreversible degrade, and this natural monument will cease to
exist. It will be loss for the future resort too as Khmelevsky
Lakes will lose the appeal and recreational potential in many
Environmentally concerned public does not protest against the
resort development of Krasnaya Polyana, but demand the highest
possible protection of the unique nature of this area.
(Environmental Watch on North Caucasus)
(Sochi branch of Russian Geographical Society)
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