Fern’s new report Slow Death in Siberia reveals in stark detail how coal mining in the Kuzbass area of southern Siberia has destroyed villages and forests, while strangling the livelihoods and culture of the indigenous Shor people. For the climate this represents a ‘double whammy’, with emissions released from both deforestation and burning coal.
The report also shows the grave dangers that those opposing the expansion of mines in Kuzbass face. Last month one of the indigenous activists interviewed in the report, Yana Tannagacheva, was forced to flee Russia with her husband and young children. They are currently seeking asylum in an EU country.
In November 2016, Tannagacheva spoke about the Shors’ plight before the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The following year CERD issued a series of recommendations regarding the Shors’ treatment.
Despite this, since the turn of the year, the threats against Tannagacheva and her family have escalated. Her children were followed on their way to school and to their music lessons. As a result, they have left Kuzbass and are seeking asylum in an EU country.
“When the coal men started to focus their intimidation on our children, we decided to flee our homeland. It’s very difficult for our family. Police keep on visiting them looking for us … Now we want to go public with our story and continue to help our people,” she said in a phone interview.
The dangers that Tannagacheva, her family and others resisting coal mining in Kuzbass face are echoed around the world. According to Global Witness, in 2017 alone, 197 environmental defenders were killed. In April 2018, Saw O Moo, an indigenous rights and conservation activist in Myanmar, was shot dead by soldiers; in the same month one of the 2018 Goldman Prize winners, Afro-Colombian community leader Francia Márquez, revealed the constant death threats confronting her and others fighting for a healthier planet.