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Eco Projects 2021: Helping Rare Bird Species and Bison Resettlement

Date of publication: 2 December 2021

In the age of high technologies, environmental problems are coming to the frontlines. Fortunately, environmentalists along with specialised government agencies and large corporations have consistently been fighting against air pollution, tree felling and the reduction of endangered wildlife species, as they demonstrate a responsible approach and care for nature. One of them is Transneft Upper Volga. The Company, whose facilities are located in Nizhny Novgorod Region and 13 other regions of Russia, apart from backing industrial eco-safety, also implements important projects to save forests, birds, fish and animals. Irina Chernyaeva, Head of the Environmental Safety and Rational Nature Management Section at Transneft Upper Volga, spoke about what has been done this year in the live air of RadioLA 96.4 FM in Nizhny Novgorod.

Clean Water and Reduced Emissions

Environmental safety is a major focus in the operations of Transneft Upper Volga. The Company operates hi-tech wastewater treatment plants. After treatment, the water is dumped into water bodies and is suitable for river life sustenance. In order to reduce polluting emissions, a programme is underway to convert boiler houses from boiler and furnace fuels into natural gas.

In addition, the Company's specialists have developed and successfully tested an environmentally friendly oil bio-sorbent to cleanse water and soil from oil contamination in winter and summer periods, as well as in hard-to-reach wetlands.

The Company has three in-house laboratories that annually carry out several tens of thousands of tests to monitor the environmental situation at its operating facilities. Caring for safe oil and petroleum products transportation is the standard practice for Transneft Upper Volga, since the Company believes that more can and should be done for nature conservation than it is required by law.

The Story of Sanya

A few years ago, the Company launched a joint project with Nizhny Novgorod ornithologists to improve the nesting conditions of rare bird species. For owls and other birds of prey, artificial nesting platforms and nest boxes suitable for each species have been created. Overall, more than 80 such artificial nesting sites were set up, and a year later ornithologists checked each one and saw that the birds were using them and bring out their nestlings, which was the evidence that their population was growing.

This year, the Company decided to go further and, with expert support, set going the long-term monitoring of osprey nesting on an artificial platform. This large and beautiful bird, listed in the Red Books of Russia and Nizhny Novgorod Region, feeds on fish and lives near large bodies of water.

Unfortunately, there is a serious problem with the conservation of this species – a shortage of suitable nesting sites for this bird. It is the osprey enticement to artificial nesting platforms that helps restoring their numbers, and one such platform has appeared in a sparsely populated area of Nizhny Novgorod Region, not far from the oil pipeline. The Company funded the purchase of a webcam to monitor the birds, and when a chick hatched and grew up on the platform, ornithologists cautiously attached a GPS tracker to it. It can be used to track all movements of the feathered baby. Already in August, the chick named Sanya seemed bound for the South.

Sanya travelled along the Volga, crossed the Caucasus and Turkey and settled for the winter near Abu Simbel in Egypt, on the Nile's bank. And already next spring, specialists will trace its journey back to the North to determine whether it will return to the warmed nest or will be looking for a new home. According to Irina Chernyaeva, this project is of great importance, as no researcher based in Nizhny Novgorod has ever studied the seasonal migration of ospreys before. 

Helping the Bison

Transneft Upper Volga's environmental projects are implemented not only in Nizhny Novgorod Region, but also in other regions of the Company's operations. Surely, special attention is on our region, as this is where the Company's executive office and one of the largest RPDs (the Gorky RPD) are located. Yet there are territories and species in need of support in other regions as well.

For example, the population of the bison, a large wild bull, has been restored for many years in a row in Meshchera National Park, Vladimir Region. These giant animals once inhabited every European forest, but had been wiped out by poachers already by the beginning of the XX century. Only a few species remained in the zoo and these were used to launch a massive recovery of this species' population. Several animals were brought to Murom Wildlife Reserve where Transneft Upper Volga's pipelines are also laid. 

Since 2014, the Company has regularly been assisting with the bison population recovery, allocating funds for feeding and resettlement of these animals. At the moment, the bison numbers in Murom Wildlife Reserve exceeds a hundred species, which is enough for young animals to be resettled in new areas. A few years ago, with the Company's support, an enclosure for the bison was built in the Gus-Khrustalny District of Vladimir Region, with founders of the new herd settled there. Some other wild bulls were sent to Mordovia State Nature Reserve.

This year, Transneft Upper Volga's bison recruitment project was recognised as the best at the nationwide Reliable Partner – Ecology contest in the category "Best environmental project implemented as part of corporate social responsibility programmes".

Nine Million Fish Juveniles in 10 Years

We cannot overlook another large-scale project of the Company, which is the stocking of Russian rivers and reservoirs. This programme exists since 2011: the Company's specialists purchase and release juveniles of valuable fish species such as sterlet, wild carp, silver carp or pike into water bodies. For ten years of working in this area, nine million fish juveniles have been released into their natural habitat, courtesy of Transneft Upper Volga's effort!

Reforestation and Eco Saturday

Every enterprise carrying out work on forestry lands is legally obliged to make up for the forced felling of trees. It goes without saying that Transneft Upper Volga dutifully complies with this requirement, but goes a step further: not only does it replace trees cut down earlier; it also carries out additional landscaping. This year alone the Company’s employees have planted out 5,500 seedlings during environmental eco Saturdays.

The action called Eco Saturday has long become the Company’s tradition. Every spring, on the same day in all the communities where the Company’s facilities operate, a single clean-up day is held and employees come together with their families. Transneft Upper Volga’s partners are also invited to attend, as well as children from the children’s homes supervised by the Company. Up to 1,500 people simultaneously take part in the eco-action in all 14 regions of operation, picking up litter in the woodland, planting trees and shrubs.

In Nizhny Novgorod, new sites are constantly being found for the Eco-Saturday, depending on which areas are in need of the Company’s support. For several years in a row, the action has been held in Kulibin Park, not far from the administration building, and then on the site of the preserve museum on Schelokovsky Hamlet. Starting this year, the Company has commenced its collaboration with the Botanic Garden. During another Eco-Saturday last spring, the Company's employees cleaned up dry wood along the fence and rubbish in the adjacent areas.   

Not only does Transneft Upper Volga keep a close eye on compliance with the environmental legislation at its facilities; it is constantly looking for new ways to help nature. The year 2021 had plenty of environmental projects of all kinds for the Company. And next year the Company will build up its efforts in this area.

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