Krasnodar, 18 September. The recent fire in the National Reserve Utrish brought to the surface a longstanding problem whose scale is probably much larger than just the area of the valuable trees that had burnt out in late August.
Environmentalists are indignant at the fact that during the last few years the reserve was transformed into a kind of ‘hall of residence’ with all concomitants. It was announced that Utrish had become a shelter for some former criminals released from prison, and members of various subcultures that professed a specific way of life.
The recent fire was just an extremely negative but not the only consequence of the mess in the protected area. If a natural reserve is not on fire, it does not mean that all is all right there. Numerous studies of the latest decade have stated that places with a strong recreational load due to the tourists are losing the upper soil layer, and the very depth of the soil is reducing, and at the same time the contents of humus, phosphor, and other nutrients is reducing by three times.
Svetlana Litvinskaya, Chair of the Environmental Commission in South Russia and science editor of the Endangered Species List of Krasnodar krai, said that in Utrish “age-old trees are being cut for bonfires and barbeques. And a great many of juniper trunks were destroyed to make pillows that are selling at markets of the seaside resorts.”
The environmentalist is confident that the main cause of the fire was not merely a violation of the conservation regime but that global phenomenon when commercial interests subdue everything else, including the legacy that Nature will not be able to reproduce.
Ms. Litvinskaya added that such popular phenomenon as ‘environmental tourism’ should mainly be treated simply as a nice name. In fact, it is a pretext for human deeper penetrating into the protected wild. The main idea of environmental tourism should be its learning and inclusive character, without doing harm to the environment. However, as the things are now, the idea of environmental tourism is used as a permit to enter a protected natural reserve rather than to consider all possible risks and consequences.
As a matter of fact, not only tourism but any economic activity is detrimental for the reserve.
“The main negative impact is being made by felling juniper and pistachio trees, fires, lending the coastal stripe of the reserve to individuals, unjustified intensive construction of resort facilities and residential houses, unorganised tourism, jeeping, household pollutions, and high density of population,” Svetlana Litvinskaya states. “The long human impact has led to transformations of nearly all Mediterranean environmental systems. The landscapes of the Russian Mediterranean belt in Krasnodar krai are being ruthlessly destroyed. In fact, it is impossible to halt this process.”
Svetlana Mishulina, leading researcher of the Laboratory of Regional Economy of the Subtropical Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Science, stated that “the rules must be single for all: the tourist industry, tourists, local people, and governmental structures. In global sense, if it is the state that breaks the law by taking decisions on broad economic use of wildlife conservation areas, then local people would be also treating Nature irresponsibly. If it was decided to lay a motor road to the alpine Lake Kardyvach, it would entail development of tourist infrastructure.”