Our colleagues at Global Response – Cultural Survival just announced a new campaign. Launched to coincide with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Ukok Plateau Campaign focuses on an issue that I have recently been learning more about – sacred natural sites. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature defines sacred natural sites as natural areas of special spiritual significance to peoples and communities. Many of these sites worldwide have been protected for hundreds of years, but perhaps have not been recognized for their contribution to conservation and biodiversity protection. The inter-weaving of the environmental and spiritual/cultural benefits of these sites creates a doubled call-to-action when threats arise. The sacred Ukok Plateau in Russia is surely such a place…
For at least 8,000 years, people have journeyed to the high Ukok Plateau to bury their dead with sacred ceremonies and give offerings to the spirits of the heavens, the mountains, and the waters. Today, the Telengit people carry out their ancient rituals on the Ukok amid the burial mounds, stone stellae, and petroglyphs of their ancestors in this mountainous borderland between Russia and China.
Through centuries of experience, the Telengit people learned the survival skills—herding, hunting, fishing— that sustain their clans and communities in this remote, arid, permafrost landscape. But now they are facing a new challenge: Russia and China are planning to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Siberia to China. The pipeline would bisect the sacred Ukok Plateau and the Golden Mountains of Altai UNESCO World Heritage Site in Russia, and the Kanas National Park in China, one of China’s last undeveloped wilderness areas. This remote mountain region is critical habitat for snow leopards, argali mountain sheep, and other endangered species.
The Telengit people and Russian environmental organizations are calling out to the international community for help to stop construction of this gas pipeline across the Ukok Plateau. Learn more about this campaign and get involved >