The sixth international forum The Arctic: Present the Future
© Press service of the 6th International Forum “The Arctic: Present and Future”

The Arctic: Present and Future forum - where questions get answered

The sixth international forum The Arctic: Present the Future ended in St. Petersburg on December 6. There were dozens of sessions on the most pressing Arctic issues, with the participation of researchers, government officials, explorers and Arctic enthusiasts.

Arthur Chilingarov, Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic, opened the forum, which was made possible by the Association of Polar Explorers (ASPOL). He read out the messages of President Vladimir Putin and Chairman of the State Commission for Arctic Development Dmitry Rogozin. The messages were sent to the association, but Chilingarov pointed out that ASPOL and the forum participants are inextricably linked, so the greetings extended to them as well.

"The Association of Polar Explorers, which was created 25 years ago, does a lot to draw the attention of government agencies, public organizations, and businesses to polar issues, actively participates in international environmental awareness projects, and does a lot to provide social support to the people who live and work in the Far North and to protect their legitimate rights and interests," reads President Putin's message.

Speaking at the first plenary session, President of the Union of the Polar Region and the Far North Towns Igor Shpektor said that only this particular forum can make decisions which are then seen through to completion, adding that all other Arctic-related events lack competence. According to him, the forum held in December helped resolve several fleet-related issues.

"This platform is the only one that provides answers to the questions that we ask about the North, the Far North and the Arctic. Today, all kinds of people may hold meetings on the Arctic. They organize platforms, give the floor to the people who are total strangers to the Arctic, and know nothing about related issues. I very much hope that today's meeting will be productive, as usual," Shpektor said.

During the breaks, participants toured the exhibition of modern Arctic research tools, Arctic-grade clothing, an exhibition of photos on the rescue of the Papanin expedition made by Yakov Khalip, and even bread baked from the grain kept for a long time in permafrost on the Taimyr Peninsula.

Developing the Arctic support areas

Developing the Arctic support areas was one of the most important forum topics. As Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in October, the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation is preparing a project for creating support areas for developing all regions of the Arctic zone of our country. The mechanism for their creation will be enshrined in the federal law On Developing the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation.

Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Alexei Struchkov presented the project for developing the North Yakutia support area. According to him, forming the North Yakutia support area will require an investment of over 700 billion rubles in priority projects in Yakutia. The funds will be spent to develop oil fields, rare earth metals, gold ore and placer tin deposits and associated components in the Arctic regions of that republic.

The regional authorities plan to renovate the Tiksi seaport in order to ensure safe entry into the port for ships with a draft of up to 10 m. The volume of cargo processing can be increased up to 300,000 tons per year. The project will require an investment of 1.9 billion rubles. Struchkov explained that in addition to renovating the port, plans are in place to complete the construction of the railway to Yakutsk and to develop navigation along the rivers in the region. The Zhataisk Shipbuilding Plant will be renovated, and the construction of a first-in-class river boat will begin there in 2019.

"Creating a transportation route will reduce the time and the cost of delivering cargo from the Asia-Pacific region to the European part of the continent," Struchkov said.

The North Yakutia support area will be developed through implementation of investment projects to develop hydrocarbon deposits both on the shelf and in the mainland of the Arctic zone, as well as the anchor solid mineral projects on land.

In closing, he said that in order to minimize risks, the regional authorities hope to provide substantial state support and to grant tax preferences during the initial stage of project implementation.

First Deputy Governor of the Murmansk Region Alexei Tyukavin presented the Kola Support area pilot project to test the project approach to developing the Russian Arctic zone. Thirty-five priority investment projects worth over 500 billion rubles were selected to create the Kola Support area.

The Murmansk transport hub will be central to the Kola Support area. The hub is on the list of the 17 most promising projects to develop the Arctic. The total amount of investment is about 145 billion rubles.

"Combined with the projects for renovating the airport, railway infrastructure, highways, and creating new and upgrading existing shipping support facilities, it will form the largest Arctic logistics center in Murmansk," Tyukavin said.

In addition, Novatek projects for creating a specialized shipyard for building large-capacity offshore structures, and Rosneft projects for building a support base for offshore project shore support are among the priority projects in the Murmansk Region. Mining company projects, as well as projects that ensure reliable power supply to industrial facilities, are also part of the priority projects.

From telemedicine to Arctic environmental standard

The participants discussed the most important Arctic issues, such as developing telemedicine, international cooperation, environmental safety, creating innovative materials, waste management, the issues faced by indigenous minorities of the North, fishing, shipbuilding and much more. In particular, the experts discussed the environmental safety standard to be introduced in January 2017. Its details will be agreed with the regional authorities within six months, and then the standard will be submitted for adoption at the legislative level. According to the authors of the document, enterprises should join the document voluntarily during the first stage.

According to Vladimir Kotelnikov, head of the Research and Innovation Department of the Kola Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who led the group of the authors of the document, the standard contains information about the territories covered by it, the regulatory framework, examples of effective practices in the sphere of environmental protection, nine principles of the standard and the eligibility criteria. Kotelnikov stressed that these principles take into account the interests of the indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North.

"The standard is a sort of a social contract which makes it possible to provide practically any company, regardless of its sphere of activity, with the principles required to organize its own work in the sphere of environmental protection and environmental safety," Kotelnikov said.

The need to adapt businesses and state enterprises to the standard as well as the interaction of government, business and science caused lively discussion during the presentation of the document.

"First, we introduce it as a moral obligation. Later, after the standard shows its effectiveness, it can be made part of the law. It is certainly a voluntary thing," Kotelnikov said adding that the companies will be interested in joining, since they care about their reputation.

A congress of the Association of Polar Explorers took place at the end of the forum, where heads of the organization's regional branches reported on their progress achieved in four years: development of the extractive industry in the Arctic zone, import substitution, and the need to create comfortable living conditions in the North, to name a few.

The meeting participants elected the president of the association. All 19 regional organizations nominated current President Artur Chilingarov for this position. The decision to appoint him for a new term was taken by the delegates unanimously. Arthur Chilingarov thanked his colleagues for putting their trust in him.