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2009.07.20
Bikin River Basin

What is Bikin River basin and the forested area along Bikin River?

Bikin River, which originates from Sikhote-Alin along coastal Russia (total length 580km), flows at around a northern latitude of 46 degrees towards the West into the Ussuri River (the Ussuri flows into Amur River, which eventually flows into Okhotsk).  Along the Bikin River is a rare forested area, and it has been compared to Gros Morne National Park and Olympic National Park.  (Gros Morne has an area of 1,805 km2, and is a habitat for lynx.  It has been listed as a World Natural Heritage site since 1987.  The Olympic National Park has an area of 3,734 km2, and is a habitat for puma.  It has been listed as a World Natural Heritage Site since 1981.)

Along the Bikin River, the temperature varies significantly, from around minus 40 degrees Celsius in the winter to 30 degrees Celcius in the summer.  The area around the Upper Bikin consists mainly of conifers (larch and Ezo spruce), and is a habitat for moose and wolves.  The area is designated as a wildlife protection area by the local government (total area: 7,464km2).  The “Ussuri Taiga”, located around the Middle Bikin consists of a mixture of conifers (silveray and Ezo spruce) and deciduous broad-leaves (walnut and oak).  The area provides a habitat for red deer, wild boar, Siberian tiger and lynx, as well as Eurasian otter and Blakiston’s fish owl.  It is designated as “natural territory for traditional use” for indigenous people by the local government (total area: 7,464 km2).

The threat faced by the Taiga in the Bikin River basin in 1992, and actions taken by the Udege

In 1992, “Svetlaya”, a joint venture company between Russia and South Korea, made a logging plan that included the Taiga of the upper Bikin River.  The company intended to export timber to Japan and South Korea.  The logging began with the Taiga on the side of the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea), proceeding beyond the Mountain Range and nearly reaching the source of the Bikin River.

A group of Udege volunteers, who felt threatened by this logging activity, lobbied against the plan and demonstrated by sitting at the logging site.  There was a severe conflict between the Governor who supported the logging plan and the local assembly that supported Udege.

In the same year, the Governor and the local assembly brought the lawsuit to the Russian Supreme Court, which in turn ordered the reduction of the logging operation.  The Taiga in the Bikin River basin was therefore protected against the logging by this company.  However, there are new development plans proposed by logging companies every few years.  Every time a new proposal is made, Udege lobbies against it, by sending a sign-on letters to the President, Prime Minister, Parliament, Governor and local assembly.  They have worked with environmental NGOs to appeal the threat they are facing to protect the Taiga from logging operations.

Bikin River Basin: Why is World Heritage listing put on hold, and what are the conditions for the re-application and re-assessment for the listing?

The Government of Russia has applied for the World Heritage listing of upper – middle Bikin River basin (115,000 km2=1150,000 ha, approximately the side of the Metropolitan Tokyo) to UNESCO in the past.  UNESCO, which received the application and conducted the assessment, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) acknowledged that the Bikin River basin is worth granting the World Heritage listing for its importance as a habitat for endangered Siberian tigers.  However, the listing is pending since they considered that the management system by the Government of Russia is insufficient.  UNESCO and IUCN recommended that the Government of Russia reapply after developing an effective management system by obtaining the “full participation” of the local indigenous people, the Udege.  The recommendation was made during the 25th session of the World Heritage Committee in 2010.

Also, Shikhote-Alini National Natural Protection Area (a habitat for Siberian tigers) was listed as the World Natural Heritage site in the name of “central Shikhote-Alini”.  When the Bikin River basin is listed in the future, it will be as the expansion of “central Shikhote-Alini”.

Back to Bacic Information on Taiga and Bikin River


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