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Oil and gas exploration in the Eastern Caspian – a blessing or a threat? Launch of ENVSEC assessment report

A new report by the Environment and Security Initiative states that the rapid development and exploration of oil and gas in the Eastern Caspian region poses a potential threat to both environment and security.

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The Eastern Caspian region is changing and undergoing fast development linked in particular to increased oil and gas exploration in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Historically, The Caspian Sea region has produced oil and natural gas, but the region is considered to have large resources of oil and gas capable of much greater production. The geopolitical centre of gravity has shifted east, and the sleepy provinces along the Eastern Caspian shoreline are waking up to a new dawn, new opportunities and new risks.

What are the impacts of these tremendous dynamics on the environment? Can environmental issues such as pollution on land and sea, desertification, species extinction be a threat to security?

In a context where fossil fuels are of paramount importance for the global economy, energy policy is a key area in which stakes for both the environment and security are very high. Stable energy supply becomes a matter of national security and the centre of geopolitical interests. The drive towards energy security and away from extreme energy dependence can have both positive and negative local and global environmental effects depending on which resources, solutions and technologies are prioritized.

The report considers the role and impact of environmental factors in securing human safety and sustained development of the eastern Caspian Sea region, including the parts of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan opening onto the Caspian Sea. Furthermore, the analysis introduces a security perspective as it seeks to identify those environmental, socio-economic and political issues that are profoundly affecting the livelihoods of the populations and could lead to social tensions and instability.

Environmental issues on sea and land can grow into real security threats. People depending on nature for their livelihoods, in particular fisheries, but to a large extent also agriculture, are directly affected by increased exploration. In addition, there is a concrete health threat of people exposed to contamination both from industrial-military legacies and accumulation of waste and current activities.

The report also looks into the potential impacts of climate change on the vulnerable ecosystem of the Caspian Sea and on the region’s potential for tourism as a growing and real opportunity for sustainable development of the coastal zone.

Wednesday 12 Nov 2008
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