Caucasus Press Review (February 15-21)

Caucasus Press Review (February 15-21)

Russia and Azerbaijan have agreed to the introduction of tariffs for transportation of goods to India through the 'North-South' corridor – a multimodal rail route for the transportation of passengers and cargo from St. Petersburg to the Indian port of Mumbai, which is currently under construction. This project is designed to attract transit cargo flows from India, Iran and other Persian Gulf countries to the territory of Russia and on to Northern and Western Europe.

According to the newspaper 'Azerbaijan News', talks of the heads of the railway departments, held in December of 2015 in the Iranian city of Tabriz, as well as follow-up meetings of railwaymen and border officials in the Azerbaijani city of Astara, confirmed the readiness of the 'North-South' project participants to speed up the process of connecting the Iranian and Azerbaijani highways and the speedy commissioning of the transport corridor. In order to advance the process of formation of the infrastructure, at the end of last year Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev ordered to speed up work on the Azerbaijani section of the route. He instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and 'Azerbaijani Railways' to coordinate and submit a draft framework agreement on cooperation between Azerbaijan and Iran on coordinating the two countries' rail systems, as well as a bilateral agreement on financing the construction of a border railway bridge. 'Azerbaijani Railways' was instructed to build a section of the road with the length of 8.5 km from Astara station to the border with Iran, and build a 85-meter bridge over the border river of Astarachay, work on which has already begun. Over the past years, the Iranian railway department carried out the construction of the 375-kilometer section Qazvin-Rasht-Astara on its own. More than two-thirds of the construction work on the project has already been completed, it is expected to finish the remaining section and to dock rails in the border town of Astara very shortly.

It is expected that, with the commissioning of the 'North-South' route, at the first stage it will be possible to increase turnover volumes through the territory of Azerbaijan to 6 million tons, and in the future it can reach 15-20 million tons. In order to ensure the projected volume of transit, a few days ago the railway departments of Azerbaijan and Russia agreed to implement through fare to attract additional traffic by organizing cargo transportation in the direction of Iran and India, as well as reverse traffic. The cost of transportation of a 40-foot container from Mumbai to Moscow will not exceed three thousand dollars. And thanks to the combination of sea, rail and road cargo transportation, the delivery period could be more than halved from 40 to 14 days. It is planned to start transportation of cargo through this route by the end of March of 2016.

* * *

The South Ossetian leadership has set the aim of reducing the energy independence of the country. As the author of an article in the 'South Ossetia' newspaper notes, the potential of rivers in the republic is such that they are able to produce 5-6 times more power than is necessary for today's consumer. This means that by building mini-hydro power plants, the country will be able to generate electricity not only for its own needs, but also to sell, rather than buy energy resources, which are constantly growing in price.

The chairman of the Committee for Industry, Transport and Energy of the republic, Valery Dzaseyev, says that the issue of the energy independence of the republic has high priority in the investment program, because the consumption of electricity in South Ossetia requires a lot of budget funds. In 2012 it was decided to develop the design and assess the documentation for small hydroelectric power stations at the Zonkarsky reservoir, as well as complex examination of river basins to evaluate their energy potential. The scheme of optimal placement of small power facilities in the country was developed. In 2013, the design and estimate documentation for the construction of a small hydropower plant at the Zonkarsky reservoir was ready and passed all kinds of examinations.

Now, negotiations with Russian banks on the allocation of credit funds for the construction of this facility at the rate of no higher than 6% per annum for the period of 15 years are under way. An examination of financial studies of the project is being carried out, there is an exchange of technical documentation. After these procedures, the Committee of Industry, Transport and Energy of the republic of South Ossetia will sign a contract on the construction of this object. Its preliminary cost amounts to 500 million rubles.

According Dzaseev, the cost of the generated electricity, according to estimates, will amount to 15 kopecks per 1 kilowatt, but at first it will be sold by today's tariff, in other words 2.64 rubles per 1 kilowatt. The loan will be repaid from the difference in price. "As for ecology, the Zonkarsky reservoir was built 30 years ago for melioration. Even if the ecological balance has been disrupted during its construction, now, after so many years, the ecology has been restored, and the operation of the facility in the future will not affect it," the head of department expressed confidence.

* * *

According to the 'Ingushetia' newspaper, in 2015, 100 tourists travelled to the mountainous Dzheyrakhsky district of the republic. During the New Year holidays 2913 people visited the 'Armkhi' resort. Over 2015, in the framework of inter-regional routes, tourists regularly travelled to the cities of Nazran and Magas from Stavropol and Krasnodar Territories and other regions. Some events cause special interest of tourists, including the annual tournaments of MMA M-1 'Battle in Mountains', the Festival of BASE jumping 'Battle of Narts' and others. During the January meeting in Sochi it was decided to subsidize a number of federal tourist routes, including the route through the Caucasus section of the Great Silk Road, through which the railway cruise 'Tea Express' was launched in April of 2015. Financing from the federal budget of over 220 million rubles was additionally envisaged for the construction of the tourist infrastructure cluster 'Ingushetia' for 2017-2018. Full documentation of the projected year-round tourist and recreational complex 'Armkhi', which includes the project of its territory planning, a project of land survey of its territory, a plan of development and material and technical equipment, awaits approval in the Ministry of Economic Development.

According to the chairman of the Republican Committee for Tourism, Stanislav Aristov, despite the abundance of historical and cultural monuments, most of them aren’t ready to be shown for tourists. Monuments and adjacent territories require to be restored and improved.

There is an urgent need to improve tourist routes and create new viewing platforms, campsites and places for travelers’ leisure.

* * *

The Karachay-Cherkessian newspaper Republic Day informs that the Ministry of Construction and Housing of Karachay-Cherkessia has developed a unified concept of development on the territory adjacent to the all-season tourist and recreational complex (VTRK) Arkhyz. There is a set of proposals for the arrangement of land, allocation of capital buildings, non-capital temporary structures and unsteady facilities. The developers of the concept have paid special attention to the style of the facilities of the resort and its recognizable features, as well as the surrounding area that corresponds to its style. The authors insist that the ethnic style of the area to be taken into account at the time of decorative design of buildings and its landscaping elements, as well as a variety of ornamental motifs, patterns that reflect the culture and customs of the peoples living here. This is particularly important because, despite being just two years old, the resort is becoming very popular so quickly and it is already known beyond the resort’s region. According to the newspaper, during the Christmas holidays it was visited by about 30,000 people.

"Work on the creation of the concept lasted about two months," the Deputy Minister Inessa Reznikov, one of the developers of the document, noted. Experts have examined the project at meetings of the Greater Urban Council. The personnel of a number of national agencies, such as Rospotrebnadzor, Rosprirodnadzor, Rostekhnadzor and the Forestry Administration of added their amendments to the proposal. The final version of the concept was worked out taking these amendments into account. After a legal examination, it was approved and adopted by the government of Karachay-Cherkessia.

One of the most important and primarily emphasized requirements for the building of forest areas was that natural landscapes, fauna and flora, and water bodies are subject to preservation.

The discharge of untreated wastewater into surface waters and surrounding areas, as well as a devices for absorbing wells are not allowed. Water supply and sewerage conditions should be determined for objects of the small retail trade network in addition to the design stage.

The Ministry of Construction of the republic believes that the need to implement these identified conditions won’t bring developers any difficulties. Monitoring compliance with the requirements of the concept will be carried out starting from the pre-project stage up to realization.

* * *

A regime is to be introduced in Abkhazia from April 1st for citizens of states without signed intergovernmental agreements on mutual visa-free travels. These are all the countries except for Russia, Nicaragua, Tuvalu and South Ossetia. The continuous presence of citizens of the afore-mentioned foreign countries without a visa on the territory of the Republic of Abkhazia is allowed for 90 days. In addition, foreign citizens may be on the territory of the Republic without a visa for 72 hours as passengers on board vessels.

Officials in Abkhazia don’t consider that the adoption of the law 'On procedure of exit from the Republic of Abkhazia and entry into the Republic of Abkhazia' may lead to a reduction of the tourist flow of citizens from the CIS countries. "We don’t expect any negative effects from the introduction of this legislation,"the head of the State Legal Department of the Presidential Administration David Sangulia said in an interview for Sputnik-Abkhazia. We should organize work in the way to get rid of queues at checkpoints." We must equip checkpoints across the state border with the corresponding equipment and train appropriate personnel," he said.

David Sangulia said "the provisions stipulated in the law will allow to keep records and monitoring of people who cross the state border, and visas will allow to receive more additional information about the foreign citizens who are going to enter. He also noted that the visa regime is a source of revenue. I agree with him and the deputy of the National Assembly of the republic Dmitry Gunba." The main effect that we can expect from the law is improvement of the system. Legal work in this sphere still hasn’t been worked out, David Sangulia said. He also stressed the importance of the introduction of the migration card in 2018 to accommodate people arriving in the country. The list of documents required to obtain a visa can be found on the official Abkhazian MFA website in the section "Entry to Abkhazia."