Petition update

#Kushtau #SaveShikhans

Artur Bikbaev
Ufa, Russia

Aug 13, 2020 — 

The public movement "Save the shikhans of Toratau, Yuraktau and Kushtau" asks you to help to preserve the unique natural complex of 3 mountains-shikhans: Toratau, Kushtau, Yuraktau. These mountains are located compactly in Russia, the Republic of Bashkortostan, at a distance of 20 km from each other. The natural complex is threatened by the destruction of one of the elements – mount Kushtau for the extraction of limestone for the needs of the Bashkir soda company and the Heidelbergcement company.

The geological value of these shikhans is of worldwide significance and is recognized by the European Association for the protection of geoheritage ProGEO. Each Shikhan has a unique identity, so it is an integral part of a single natural complex. The geological features of the mountains have become a condition for the formation of a special flora and fauna, so that hundreds of rare species of plants and animals grow and live on the mountains. The species composition on each shikhan is different. The mountains are also part of the cultural heritage of the peoples living on the territory of Bashkortostan. Shikhan Toratau and Yuraktau have the state nature protection status, and shikhan Kushtau is included in the List of objects of geological heritage of the Russian Federation of world and national significance that do not have the status of protected areas and are under threat of destruction.

During the period from 1950 to 2020, soda and cement production has already destroyed the largest shikhan Shakhtau mountain, which was in the same chain with Toratau, Kushtau and Yuraktau. The threat of losing the second mountain of world significance worries scientists and ordinary citizens. Destroying an object of the highest value for the needs of industry is an unacceptable barbarity. Government plans to create the "Toratau" Geopark on the territory of shikhans Toratau and Yuraktau and to get UNESCO status for it. The Geopark project does not include shikhan Kushtau.

According to the Charter of the international program on Geosciences and geoparks, UNESCO global geoparks are created in the interests of promoting Geosciences and applying a sustainable approach to the development of such territories, they should be used as a means of promoting the protection of the geological heritage. However, the creation of the "Toratau" Geopark to preserve two shikhans (Toratau and Yuraktau) and destruction of the third shikhan (Kushtau) will be an example of cynicism and indifference. This is contrary to the values proclaimed by the International Geosciences and geoparks program.

It is worth noting that shikhan Kushtau is located between the shikhans Toratau and Yuraktau. Also nearby is the quarry from destroyed shikhan Shakhtau. Extraction of natural resources from Kushtau mountain and Shakhtau quarry will reduce the aesthetic value of the Geopark and cause indignation among visitors of the Geopark. The Toratau Geopark in the form it is proposed to be created now risks becoming a clear example of the savagery of modern capitalism.

We support the values of preserving and promoting geoheritage, the sustainable use of the Earth's natural resources, and the empowerment of indigenous peoples. These values are proclaimed by UNESCO.

It is important that in the soda production, limestone is burned to produce carbon dioxide (CO2), which is used in the main technological process. So, unique mountains are destroyed in order to get gas, which excess amount in the atmosphere led to a global climate crisis. The absurdity of the situation is due to the fact that the production uses outdated technology of 1861. In addition, when using this technology for 1 ton of soda, 12 tons of waste are obtained, which are stored in slime storage tanks near the city ("White seas") and are clearly visible from the shikhans by tourists. The industrial use of limestone from mountains of global significance is an example of unreasonable use of natural resources and contradicts the principles of sustainable use of the Earth's natural resources.

We believe that the problem the mount Kushtau’s future may have a negative impact on the prospects for the development of the geopark and the reputation of the UNESCO international geosciences and geoparks program. In connection with your planned participation in the international forum of urbanism, which will be held in the Republic of Bashkortostan on June 30, we ask you to promote the preservation of a single geological complex of 3 preserved shikhans, including Kushtau. Please take into account the threat of destruction of shikhan Kushtau when discussing the project of the "Toratau" Geopark.

The Russian Federation has a number of unique geological objects of global importance. These include, in particular, Sterlitamak shikhans Tratau, Yuraktau and Kushtau (Republic of Bashkortostan). These objects are picturesque mountains-remnants, they are important for the development of geological science, represent the lower Permian reef massifs of the pre-Ural reef system.

Shikhans have been and remain the subject of study of many researchers since the 19th century and to the present time. The sections of the lower Permian deposits of the shikhans are stratotypic, i.e. standard for certain stratigraphic subdivisions, namely for the Shikhan and Sterlitamak horizons of the Assel and Sakmar tiers.

Shikhans are composed of limestone containing numerous remains of diverse marine reef fauna and described in a number of scientific publications, including tutorials on geology. The well-preserved and diverse fauna of the shikhans is represented by calcareous algae (35 species), foraminifera (more than 100 species), mosses (more than 80 species), brachiopods (more than 150 species), colonial and solitary corals, etc.

The shikhans have been the target of numerous international excursions: XVII and XXVII sessions of the International Geological Congress in 1937 and 1984, III Lithological and paleontological session in 1965, VIII International Congress on stratigraphy and geology of Carboniferous in 1975, VII all-Union paleoecological and lithological session in 1989, the international Perm Congress in 1991., X international Congress on fossil corals and sponges in 2007.

The absolute uniqueness and enduring scientific value of shikhans were evaluated in the Republic of Bashkortostan: two of them, the mountains Tratau and Yuraktau, received the official status of natural monuments of national importance. In addition, according to the Resolution of the government of the Republic of Bashkortostan dated August 5, 2015 № 289, mount Kushtau was included to the list of projected protected areas of the Republic of Bashkortostan and is classified as natural monuments. Until not long ago, this testified to the conscious responsibility of the government of the Republic of Bashkortostan for shikhans protection and instilled confidence that the integrity of any shikhan will not be violated as a result of economic activity of this intensively developing industrial area of the Republic.

However, the world scientific geological community became aware that despite many years of efforts of environmental organizations and geologists, as well as the activities of regional authorities to preserve the Kushtau mountain by creating a protected area on it, a license was obtained for the subsoil use of the Kushtau for geological exploration and extraction of limestone as a raw material for the production of soda. Mining will destroy the mountain, and humanity will lose a unique geological object, the value of which can not be compared with the cost of all the soda that will to produced from this shikhan.

Meanwhile, there are limestone deposits in the region. The use of these deposits will not lead to the destruction of world-important geological objects. The economic feasibility of mining these deposits was justified by the calculations of the Institute of strategic researches of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Bashkortostan in a report to the human rights Council under the Head of the Republic of Bashkortostan. The need to use other deposits and the transition to technology without limestone use for soda production were also recommended by the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for the development of civil society and human rights.

Kushtau is included to the List of geological heritage sites of the world, Federal, regional and local importance, which does not have the status of a specially protected natural area, compiled in the FSBI “VSEGEI”.

In this regard, we urge you to support the preservation of the Kushtau as a valuable natural object not only for Russia but for the whole world, and establish natural reserve of regional and Federal importance within its territory. In particular, Kushtau is already included to the list of projected protected areas of the Republic of Bashkortostan, we also consider it extremely necessary to reserve land on the territory of Kushtau for the creation of protected areas to prevent the conduct of economic activities that can have a harmful effect on shikhan or destroy it before assigning it environmental status.

Each of the Shikhans has a striking originality, which does not allow us to talk about their interchangeability and makes them interrelated and necessary for further study of the geological and biological diversity of the Earth. In our opinion, the area of Sterlitamak shikhans has a high scientific-geological and aesthetic value and it is advisable to consider the creation of a National Park in this area, which will preserve the world-important geological objects. At the same time, the National Park should include all three preserved shikhans – Tratau, Yuraktau and Kushtau as integral elements of a single natural complex of sterlitamak Shikhans.

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