KRASNODAR, Russia, February 3, 2012 (ENS) - The Russian government is preparing to allow construction of a cluster of ski resorts and roads in the Caucasus region that will alter one of Europe's few untouched mountain wilderness areas. The development is expected to impact two biosphere nature reserves, two national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and a World Heritage Site.
Previously, the construction of tourist infrastructure in protected areas has been either illegal or restricted by Russian federal environmental laws.
"Russian nature resources and environment ministry recently gave the Russian government a list of construction projects currently allowed to be placed in nature reserves," says Suren Gazaryan of the nonprofit Environmental Watch on North Caucasus.
Gazaryan expects that a decree formally authorizing this list will soon be signed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. By doing so, Putin will be signing "a death warrant" for Russia's Western Caucasus World Heritage Site, said the conservationist.
Also, "This will allow construction of ski lifts and slopes, as well as road and engineering infrastructure, to be built on the territory of two biosphere nature reserves, Kavkazsky and Teberdinsky, in the Russian Caucasus," Gazaryan says.
Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999, the Western Caucasus site has what the UN agency calls "a remarkable diversity of geology, ecosystems and species. It is of global significance as a centre of plant diversity ... containing extensive tracts of undisturbed mountain forests unique on the European scale."
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