Small business saves the Caspian Sea for money from the EU

On December 01, 2006, a concluding conference was conducted in the city of Elista (Republic of Kalmykia) dedicated to the international programme “Sustainable development of Caspian communities”. The programme has been financed by the European Commission and implemented during three past years in four littoral Caspian states: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia (Astrakhan, Dagestan, Kalmykia) and Turkmenistan. In Russia this programme has been coordinated by the Russian Regional Environmental Centre (RREC).

The main objective of the Programme is to mitigate negative impacts on the natural resources of the Caspian Sea through financing of projects aimed at creating alternative and environmentally more acceptable sources of subsistence for local communities in the coastal zone of the Caspian Sea. In total, 36 projects have been supported under this Programme; those projects were initiated by the residents of 16 rural areas. Most of the financed projects are associated with manufacture of consumer goods, aquiculture, environmental education and environmental tourism, livestock breeding, several projects providing consulting and social services, horticulture, poultry breeding, use of water resources and waste management.

The Conference was attended by the grantees of the Programme and representatives of authorities from three member territories of the Russian Federation covered by the Programme. Based on the results of the Conference, proposals have been prepared with the purpose to elaborate new projects for foreign assistance to be implemented in the Caspian region.

In the Republic of Dagestan, grants from the European Union were used to support people resettled from other regions. Jobs were provided for former unemployed residents; they were involved in manufacture of construction materials, broiler breeding, and manufacture of shoes; some of them were trained in the show-making profession. With the aid of a small grant, Zapir Ibragimov from the town of Kaspiysk started a profitable business producing craft objects made of metal. He also converted his smith forge from coal to gas fuel, reducing substantially air pollution.

In the Republic of Kalmykia, in addition to grants for development of traditional pasture livestock breeding, manufacture of heat insulating slabs made of reed and manufacture of clay brick from local law materials was financed. This permitted the local communities to resolve two important issues: clean up about 30 hectares of the coastal zone of the Caspian Sea and over 20 km of river banks of vegetation and ensured free migration of fish; reed was used as inexpensive and environmentally sound construction materials.

In the Astrakhan region, the Programme supported several innovative projects, including a project for breeding of plant-eating fish (carp) and frogs in a polyculture, as well as restoration of a population of a fish species (inconnu salmon) endemic in the Caspian region. The resources of this fish species have been completely exhausted and fishing prohibited; it has been included in the Red Data Book of Astrakhan Oblast as an endangered species.

“It is just excellent that the EU countries have demonstrated their good will and helped people in other countries start a new life. Moreover, new businesses were initiated without any harm to the nature, which means that this has a double benefit for both the people of the present generation and for their children and grandchildren”, - said Lia Sandanova, grant manager of the RREC.

Programmes similar to the small grant programme for the Caspian region provide assistance to local communities in reducing overexploitation of natural resources and achieving the main objective of the international Caspian Environmental Programme (CEP), i.e. conservation of the environmental integrity of the Caspian region for future generations.

You can obtain more detailed information from the following persons:
Dzabruyeva Larisa Vladimirovna, Programme Coordinator in the Republic of Kalmykia,
Phone: 8 927 2835392
Sandanova Lia Tagmitovna, Grant Manager of RREC, Phone 8 916 9299927
Yelena Surovikina, Press Secretary of RREC, Phone: 8 903 1294649

Additional Information
The length of the Caspian coastline in Russia is approximately 1,500 km. The zone covered by the programme of small grants includes coastal communities in 25 administrative districts in three member territories of the Russian Federation. All three regions differ significantly from each other and have different religious traditions (Buddhism, Russian Orthodox and Islam) and diverse styles of life; the local residents are involved in different types of traditional occupations: from fish and livestock breeding to crafts.

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