This blog supports and follows the work of Baikal Environmental Wave, an NGO based in Irkutsk, Siberia. Baikal Wave have been working to save Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake in the world, since 1990. See our recent posts for updates on their work.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Letter to the President of Russia on the question of the Baikalsk pulp and Paper Mill, 1st December 2010

Message to the President of the Russian Federation and the Minister of Natural Resources

On the question of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill

1st December 2010

We have learned from the media that, on the 30th July 2010, an announcement was made by representatives of the Russian Government at the 34th meeting of the UNESCO committee for World Heritage which stated that the problem relating to the pollution of Lake Baikal by discharges and emissions of the Baikalst Pulp and Paper Mill will be solved within 30 months. It was stated that a transfer of bleached pulp production will take place from the BPPM to another factory outside the Baikal area, and that BPPM will either be closed to allow for a re-profiling for alternative production, or have introduced a closed water circulation system. It was also reported that the federal target programme for the Protection of Lake Baikal will oversee the recycling and processing of the mill's accumulated industrial waste and the region’s alternative socio-economic development.

However, since that UNESCO meeting, Russian governmental officials have made a series of contradictory statements.

In October, following the course set out by UNESCO officials in Brazil, The Russian Prime Minister commissioned a study for 2011 on the question of transferring BPPM
to a closed-loop system of water circulation.

In November, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told the media during a visit to Baikalsk that the BPPM will be redeveloped and that production at the plant will cease not by January 2013, which would correspond to the 30-month period declared by government officials at the UNESCO meeting, but by January 2015.

On the 17th November, Yuri Trutnev, Minister of Natural
Resources and the Environment, declared that it is necessary to close the mill.

It is well-known that investigations by the prosecutor's office in conjunction with
authorized governmental organizations held in connection with the death of factory workers have revealed numerous violations of environmental and labour law at the factory. This indicates a high degree of environmental risk in Baikalsk, the development of which has begun to receive state support.

The proposed closure of the BPPM, as defined by Yuri Trutnev, would undoubtedly
reduce these risks. However, a long-term solution to the problem would involve not only closing the mill, but ensuring that it be done in an environmentally
secure way, meeting the requirements of the law. Public discourse on this issue would also have to take place at the earliest opportunity.

Please take all measures to ensure that such a project is developed, in order so that the most harmful elements of the BPPM are neutralised.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Rally held in defence of Baikal, Utrish and Khimki Forest

On the 6th November, a march and rally were held in Irkutsk as part of the all-russian campaign 'Support Baikal, Utrish and Khimki Forest! Save our nature!'. The main aim of the campaign is to stop the destruction of precious parts of Russia's nature, such as Baikal, the reserve of Utrish and the unique Khimki forest.

In total, over 500 people attended the event. It began at 14:20 at the intersection of Karl Marx street and Proletarskoi street, and participants marched from here to the town square just in front of the City circus, bearing banners and placards. It was here that the rally began, despite the poor weather and bitter cold. Environmental campaigners raised all kinds of issues at the event, ranging from local problems to concerns of national interest, such as the pollution of Baikal and the destruction of the nature reserve of Utrish.

Guests from Moscow were also present. Evgeny Usov of Greenpeace Russia passed on greetings and support from a Yuri Shevchuck, lead singer of DDT and resident of the town Baikalsk. Other notable participants included: Valentina S. Prosekina, chief of the movie theatre 'Dialog', artist Anatoliy Kostovski, Irkutsk poet Anatoliy Volchuk and Marina Rikhvanova, co-chair of 'Baikal Environmental Wave'.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

March and rally scheduled to take place in Irkutsk in defence of Baikal, Utrish and Khimki

On the 6th November in Irkutsk at 14:00 , a march and demonstration will take place as part of the nation-wide campaign ‘for Baikal, for Utrish, and for Khimki Forest! For our nature!’. The event was co-ordinated with the agreement of the city administration on the 26th October 2010. The route of the march has been shortened as a result of police demands to exclude Ulitskogo street.

Participants will assemble at the intersection of Karl Marx street and proletskoi street at 14:00. They will then procede towards the square in front of the city’s circus, where the rally will be held until 16:00. As well as addressing national issues, participants at the event will raise local environmental problems.

The event is being organised by the ‘Baikal movement’ and ‘Baikal Environmental Wave’.

Similar events have already taken place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, AnapŠ° (Krasnodar region) and other cities. This wave of demonstrations is related to the fact that, despite the rhetoric of the authorities on environmental modernization, beaurocrats at all levels have allied themselves with corrupt businesses that are continuing to destroy the most valuable parts of Russia's nature. A number of organizations have joined forces to hold these demonstrations and rallies. These include the following; The Baikal Movement, Baikal Environmental Wave, Greenpeace Russia, Northern Caucusus Environmental Watch, The 'We will save Utrish' movement, The movement to defend Khimki Forest, The Social-ecological Union and the environmental rights centre 'Belona'.


Decree № 1 from 13.01.2010 has allowed for the reopening of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, the main polluter of Lake Baikal. Conducted audits have shown that the plant dumps illegal hazardous substances (including organochlorines) into the lake. Because of obsolete equipment used by the Mill, accident are inevitable and people are likely to die. Nevertheless, the plant's work continues.


According to Govenment decree № 1436-r dated 2nd September 2010 to establish a nature reserve 'Utrish', the most valuable coastal areas of ancient forest can be withdrawn from the territory of the reserve and will lose its status as a regional nature reserve. This will allow for the implementation of plans to build a luxury sports and fitness complex in the area, and for the construction of a network of road which will penetrate the forest. The death of the unique landscape is inevitable.


Plans are afoot to build a toll-highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg, which will run through through the center of a unique forest close to Moscow, despite the fact that there are several other options. Construction of the road would destroy the forest as a single entity, and will dramatically worsen the living conditions in Khimki city area.

We demand the following;

+ that an immediate independent review is undertaken of the technological condition of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, and that steps are taken to safetly close the plant, in the process creating in alternative jobs.

+ the reversal the Government Decree № 1 dated January 13, 2010.

-to abandon all plans for the construction of recreational facilities and infrastructure in the reserve "Greater Utrish".

-The inclusion of coastal areas within the confines of the new nature reserve.

_the preservation of Khimki forest, and the consideration of building the road to bypass the Khimki woods.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Baikal Wave's new Interactive centre for sustainable development- some details!

Aim of the project - to promote ecological awareness and the ability to think critically, to motivate young people and adults to better understand the principles of the sustainable development of society and the development of "green habits" through discussion and discourse.

The Centre will build and develop awareness and educate through interactive displays, interactive activities, ie methods that draw on one's own personal experience and encourage visitors to derive one's own conclusions through observation, reflection and decision making, and evaluating one's own impact on the environment.

Permanent education programs for the public help fill the shortage of environmental information. which is mostly transmitted through "word of mouth". Such an approach will effectively influence the formation of an environmental culture in society and increase civic participation in environmental management.

Visitors to the center will be able to see green technologies and materials (energy-efficient LED lighting, computer, powered by solar energy, natural linoleum, and many others) first hand, as well as to test them in action!

Currently, active work is underway on the creation of the interactive center. We really need your help and support. You can help in the following ways:

- Input of original ideas
- Conducting of master classes, interactive lectures, seminars, excursions, etc.
- Designing of stands, models, posters, etc.
- Development of interactive models that demonstrate environmentally friendly technology
- Financial means to purchase materials and equipment for the Centre. Make a donation via:

YandexMoney 41001491567469
Web-money R290016470726

Police finally return illegally-seized computers to the Baikal Wave

Police have finally returned computer equipment to Baikal Environmental Wave, five and a half months after they were illegally seized by the authorities.

On the 28th January 2010, after a tip-off from an identified person, police seized system units and laptops from the office of Baikal Environmental Wave, and environmentalists were charged with using counterfeit software. Despite the fact that the software on every computer was in fact licensed, an attempt to initiate a criminal case against the environmentalists was made.

Although the investigation has failed to prove the existence of counterfeit software, the criminal case has not yet closed. The District Court has refused to consider a complaint made by the environmentalists with regard to improper conduct on the part of the police.

Meanwhile, according to confidential information from law enforcement agencies, the police actions were likely triggered by security forces of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM) and Irkutskenergo. Computers were confiscated from ecologists in the midst of demonstrations and actions against the measure taken by the Russian government to resume production at the BPPM and to resume the unregulated dumping of waste into Baikal. It was during this period that the leadership of the Mill began instigating provocation at mass rallies organized by the ecologists.

The wide international attention and intervention of UNESCO has put the Irkutsk police in an extremely awkward position. Even police officers who had nothing to do with the seizure of computers from the Baikal Wave believe the case was grossly falsified.

This is not the first such "attack" on the Baikal Wave. In 2002, at the initiative of the Yukos oil company, the FSB carried out searches and resided over a similar seizure of computer equipment.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

UNESCO appeals to Russian Government to protect Baikal

UNESCO has made an appeal to the Russian Government to take measures to ensure the protection of Lake Baikal, a World Heritage Site.

On Wednesday, representatives of the coalition 'For Baikal', a union of Russian non-governmental and environmental organizations, delivered an open letter in support of new measures to protect the lake to the headquarters of UNESCO. The letter contained signatures of over 125,000 people from 52 countries.

'UNESCO has grown concerned with the situation surrounding the world heritage site 'Lake Baikal, namely with the decision of the Russian government to allow the waste of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM) to pollute the Lake', declared Francesco Bandarin, General secretary of UNESCO at a meeting with coalition representatives. 'UNESCO's convention on the protection of World Cultural and natural heritage sites demands that the factory's work be conducted in a system of closed-water circulation.'

Bandarin promised the coalition that this issue will be discussed as a matter of urgency at the forthcoming forum on Worldwide heritage, which begins in 25 days.

'We will convey our views to the Russian government and hope that Russia will in good faith take measures to prevent the violation of Baikal as a result of pollution from the BPPM.'

As well as the declaration of the coalition, representatives of Greenpeace Russia and WWF Russia handed over to UNESCO documents which prove that the decision on the Paper Mill is inadequate and harms the region.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

English volunteers help at children's camp

Mark Johnson of Baikal Environmental Wave and Tom Weatherley of Great Baikal Trail spent four days in ‘camp Dobrograd’, giving presentations on ecological issues and volunteering and assisting with the work.

Built in the Soviet Union for the Pioneers (one of the Soviet Union’s youth groups), following the fall of the Soviet Union the camp has fallen into disrepair. Having not been used for years, and suffering from a lack of funding the camp site is overgrown, with wooden buildings slowly rotting and falling apart.

As part of an ongoing process, summer camps are clearing, renovating and improving the site. The children generally come from Svirsk, a small town which has several factories. There are some ecological issues in the town with waste and rubbish issue.

One of the aims, in addition to giving young people something to do during the holidays, is to alter young people’s attitudes to the environment and the world around them. Maria Alexandrovna, the leader of 'Dobrograd', explained her main motivation for volunteering two weeks of her time to participate in the organizing of camp, describing the renovation of the camp as something that can serve many future generations of Svirsk's youth.

Mark and Tom saw first hand the efforts to improve the conditions of the buildings and grounds at the camp, which is situated on the banks of the Angara about an hour from Svirsk. In doing so, this led to a greater understanding of the difficulties faced by youth groups, and the importance of volunteering at the grass roots.

Tasks this summer included building steps, clearing grass and weeds from the centre of the camp site, creating flower beds and helping with food preparation. Mark and Tom saw the opportunity to use an old swimming pool as a football pitch. Clearing away weeds and overgrowth from the bottom of the pool, with the help of many of the children. The makeshift pitch proved hugely popular.

The presentations, which were planned to include maximum participation from the children, tackled issues such as pollution, energy production and promoting green habits. The children designed posters on ecological issues, and planned an imaginary two-day volunteering project in the town, designing a T-shirt for their group.

In addition to the presentations and the tasks, the children took the opportunity to interact with the foreigners. After a slow start conversation became easier and enjoyable for both sides, with mutual teaching of phrases and sharing of experiences. Both Mark and Tom were sad to leave on the Sunday, especially having developed such good relationships with the children.

Mark said “it was a real pleasure to take part in this camp. The kids really exceeded my expectations in regards to their conduct and how they worked during the course of week. By the end of the week, the camp was starting to take shape, and that is mainly down to the kids' willingness to put the work in. What also struck me was the willingness of the other adult volunteers to dedicate so much of their time to this venture, being as it was off their own backs. I came away from the camp with nothing but good impressions.”

Tom said “I was really impressed with the way the kids worked in the camp. They didn’t work all the time, kids will be kids, but they generally found things to do and worked for the good of the camp. It’s especially impressive that some people are prepared to do work like this, and it’s a great shame that there isn’t more money given to things like this in Russia, especially given health and ecological issues that will continue to affect the country in the future.”