Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems
06 February 2010
Despite a recent visit by the United Nations Environment Programme, preparations for the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are failing to meet proper environmental standards, according to WWF.
Russian Caucasas. © WWF-Russia / Sergey Trepet
On Jan. 28-30, a UNEP mission visited Sochi to assess environmental impact of preparation for the Games. UNEP representative Theodore Oben “expressed his satisfaction with the steps taken by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee to fulfil its environmental commitments in venues construction.”
However, WWF and other NGOs, who have been monitoring the environmental damage in Sochi created by construction in anticipation of the Games, were expecting a different outcome from UNEP’s assessment.
Sochi-2014 organizers admitted the poor quality of environmental impact assessments for Olympic facilities as early as on 25 Jan. 2009, but still failed to allocate funding to carry out a survey of those impacts, which means that crucial field data is still lacking, according to WWF. This could lead to serious damage to the Caucasus, a region with the highest level of biological diversity in Russia.
During the visit, WWF and other NGOs also called UNEP’s attention to regular breach of laws for the sake of Olympic construction.
In December 2009, they registered two such breaches: The Russian registration service – without any official government decision or a public discussion – changed the borders of the Caucasian biosphere reserve, a World Heritage site, to allow the building of public road to a resort, and Parliament approved an amendment to the Forest Code, allowing for the cutting of endangered species of trees and shrubs for construction of the Olympic facilities.
“Summing up, we believe that for the time being preparation for the Olympics is out of control, construction is of poor quality, vast damage to the environment has already been made, and NGOs are deprived of the ability to provide independent advice,” said Igor Chestin, WWF-Russia CEO.
WWF is aksing UNEP and other international institutions to publicly withdraw from the process as further involvement would be seen as blessing for the environmentally and socially unacceptable practices.