Kuznetskaya Depression: Steppe remnants in peril
A.N. Kupriyanov, Yu.A. Manakov (NGO Irbis, Kemerovo, Russia)
Kemerovo region is becoming an absolute leader in coal production in Russia (2002 – 131.5 million tons, 2005 – 170 million tons, by 2010 – 210 million tons is planned). The major part is produced in steppes of Kuznetskaya Depression. Small tracts (mostly not larger then 1 ha) of native steppe vegetation (dominated with feather-grass, fescue, sagebrush; and petrophytous steppes as well) remain only on the territories unsuitable for tillage and yet to be excavated. There are only two large sites. They are the Baiatski Hills (120 ha) and the Karakanski Ridge (250,000 ha). In the near future annihilation threatens both them.
The Baiatski Hills is entirely situated inside the allocation for Bochatski open-pit mines. If its dumps increase, the natural vegetation will be destroyed. Legally the land is possesed by the Teleuts – small native people living in a settlement Bekovo and nearby villages. The Kusbass Botanic Garden and Teleut’s NGO “Nabat” repeatedly try to establish a nature monument “Baiatski Hills” on the site, but regional administration has not considered the proposal yet.
Mining industry is the main threat for steppes on the Karakan Ridge as well. There are five coalmines, including some large ones (as Karakanski and Mayski open-pits), and road gravel extraction. The Karakan Ridge can be protected only in case a nature refuge will be established here.
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