Development in the Arctic: Economic opportunities, environmental and cultural challenges - Page 1

The wilderness of the Arctic has not remained intact this long due to strong legislation and good spatial planning practices- but rather because of its remoteness from industrial centres, inaccessibility, and the harsh climatic conditions of this region, protected primarily by the pack ice during winter. These conditions are now changing. Infrastructure is moving in, investments are being made in extractive industries, and global warming is opening up sea routes to previously inaccessible areas. Arctic spaces and ecosystems are thus no longer protected by nature and geography as they were in the past.

The Arctic holds large reserves of hydrocarbons and minerals (Ivanov 1999). Today oil and gas exploitation development is the keystone to many northern economies.

Oil and gas development is accelerating other development in the Arctic through the creation of roads, economic activity and new settlements. Two corridors of development in particular will carry major influence on the future of many Arctic indigenous peoples, 1) The Beaufort-Mackenzie-North Slope corridor which is associated with gas and oil and also increased mining; and 2) the Barents Sea-Pechora basin oil and gas fields. Both projects bring new economic activity and development into vulnerable regions with traditional caribou hunting or reindeer herding and many sensitive coastal and marine habitats.

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