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, Anapа (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.”

Thursday, 10 June 2010

French and Irkutsk writers discuss Baikal's problems

On the 9th June in Irkutsk, a round table discussion took place in one of the city's main libraries on the theme 'Humanity. Literature. Ecology', which was attended by, amongst others, a group of well-known French writers who are taking part in a project with celebrates 2010 as the year of international friendship between Russian and France. The idea of the project is that 17 well-known French writers would embark on a trip from Moscow to Vladibostok on the fabled Trans-Siberian Railway, stopping off at seven important Russian Cities along the way.

The French delegration had already had the opportunity to visit Baikal and assess for themselves the Lake's overwhelming beauty before the meeting.

The opening words of Irina Tyabutova, Director of the Region's Youth Library and chairman of the discussion, firmly focussed on the main issue surrounding Baikal; that is to say, the relaunching of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill. Irkutsk writers presented their points of view on the problem of the Paper Mill, one of whom was the famous Siberian writer and renowned ecologist Semyon Ustinov. Leonid Borodin highlighted that 'the pollution of Baikal is a problem of the whole of human civilization which has chosen the technological route'.

The guests from France one by one expressed their view on the mutual connection between ecology and politics, not suggesting that there is anything disturbing in this- 'For me, responsibility for the environment should be, first and foremost, political' said writer Daniel Salnav, laureatte of a number of Prestigous literary awards. 'Ecology, if it exists seperately and independently from politics, resembles nothing more than praying to the heavens',

The discussion then moved on to more broader themes about the influence of humanity on nature, man's coexistence with nature, and also about Baikal itself and the writers' impressions of the Lake. On the whole, the french guests in one voice proclaimed that Baikal had come to summarize their experiences of travelling across Russia, realising in them all the different emotions they had felt thus far. In the evening, the delegation embarked on the next leg of their journey east. They will visit Ulan-Ude and Vladivostok.

You can learn more about the projject here: http://www.blaisecendrarexpress.com

Monday, 31 May 2010

Pulp production in Baikalsk begins anew, polluting Baikal in its wake

The Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill made a test batch of bleached pulp in a system of open-water circulation, according to a factory spokesmen. The representative of BPPM did not specify when the plant willl start to boil the bleached pulp on an industrial scale.

The Mayor of Baikalsk Valery Pintaev reported that production of bleached pulp, which is the main pollutant of Lake Baikal, should begin "either today or tomorrow."
Earlier it was reported that the mill will start producing bleached pulp from the 31st May. The company received the necessary permits for work using an open-water circulation system on May 21.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Medvedev calls for new approach to the environment

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, at a meeting with government officials and ecologists on Thursday, has demanded a fresh approach to the way the government and industry treat the environment, seemingly distancing himself from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"Ecology is moving to the bottom of the agenda. In a crisis you have to pay people. Who cares about ecology? This is our mental problem," Medvedev said. "The problem is the attitude of the leadership of the country to ecology."

Medvedev declared that Prime Minister Putin's decree no.1, which allows for the reopening of the polluting Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill on the shore of Lake Baikal, is not final, indicating that there may be hope for a reversal of a decision which has outraged ecologists and Baikal residents alike. He also rejected any suggestion that criticism of Putin's decision was taboo, indicating that the issue is far from settled.

He also called for legislation on the environment to be tougher, and demanded transparency of businesses in regards to industrial waste and pollution.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

New SOLAR POWERED interactive centre takes shape at Baikal Wave

Work has already begun to convert the Baikal Wave's former library into an interactive centre on renewable energy, which will be powered by Solar energy.

Upon completion, the centre will provide a valuable resource for the community. As a long standing supporter and advocate of the international Eco-Schools program, Baikal Wave hopes that there will be many school trips to the centre in order to enthuse the next generation to take steps to ensure a healthy and sustainable future.

As aforementioned, the centre will be powered by solar panels, which have been installed just below the office's balcony, and will feed the suns energy into an accumulator, which will be clearly visible in the centre. Amongst many other interactive activities, there will be a stand where visitors will be encouraged to create their own energy using a specially formulated bicycle.

(Solar panels)


Monday, 24 May 2010

New rally for the defense of Baikal takes place in Irkutsk, 21st May 2010

"Together for a clean Baikal!" - It was under this slogan that a rally was held on the 21st May in Irkutsk. Around a thousand people gathered on Square Kirova to express their concern about the environmental problems facing Lake Baikal.

The aim of the meeting was to draw attention to the threat of pollution to the world's 'fresh water well', as Baikal is often referred to. Participants explained that the relaunch of the Pulp and Paper mill, which will start anew the dumping of toxic waste into the lake, exists as the biggest problem facing Baikal.

The main demand made by the assembled to the president was the abolition of order № 1, passed in on the 13th January 2010, which lifted the ban on the dumping of hazardous waste of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill into Lake Baikal. Irkutsk residents also addressed the Regional Governor and urged him to fulfill his duty to the people of the region and prevent the re-launch of dangerous industry.

The Governor of the Irkutsk Region and the mayor of Irkutsk were invited to the rally. The organizers offered them the opportunity to come and express their position on one of the most acute problems of the region. However, no representatives of the authorities turned up.

Participants declared that the demands of the various rallies in defense of Lake Baikal which have been held in different Russian have being ignored. However, they will continue their struggle for the purity of the unique lake.

There was also good news. The day before the rally, news arrived of a similar situation in St. Petersburg, where the authorities were planning to build a huge skyscraper in the historical part of the city, contrary to will of citizens and violating the Convention on the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. President D, Medvedev took the side of the public and demanded strict observance of Russia's international obligations, and to prevent harming Russia's reputation. Environmentalists have expressed the hope that the same position will be taken in respect to Lake Baikal as a World Natural Heritage site.

At the rally, a new song 'My Lake Baikal' by Irkutsk authors was presented. There was also a small performances involving a huge man with bloodied hands, symbolizing the greed of businessmen, and environmentalists, who beat the anti-hero.

Organisers decided not to hold the planned march, so as not to block roadways in downtown Irkutsk.

Instead, the protesters passed a banner around the circle and joined hands to symbolize that they would be ready to protect the lake using a human wall.

Videos of the rally can be viewed HERE:

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Flash mob takes place in defense of Baikal

On the 7th of May, a flashmob appeared in Irkutsk in defense of Lake Baikal. A group of young people, assembled on Karl Marx Street in the city centre, symbolically offered passers-by the chance to drink the 'pure water' of Baikal containing traces from the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM).

All passersby, refusing to drink the water, were given small leaflets which explained that the main source of pollution of Baikal is the BPPM.

Despite the fact that the water was simulated and coloured with harmless, drinkable dye, no-one agreed to drink it. However, everyone willingly took the leaflets, of which around 200 were handed out in total.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

In Irkutsk, the event "Lend your hand to the protection of Lake Baikal!" was held to coincide with the International Day of World Heritage

On the 18th of April in Irkutsk, from 14:00 to 17:00 on the Embankment near the monument of to Yuri Gagarin, an exhibition-competition of art called "lend your a hand to the protection of Lake Baikal!" took place, organized by the Baikal Movement. The event was timed to coincide with the UNESCO International Day of World Heritage. The meaning of еvent was to show how the large and diverse reservoir of creativity and artistic people in the Irkutsk region can manifest itself in
the protection of such a unique natural phenomenon as Lake Baikal.

Overall, around 30 works were presented at the event, from photos to posters, some dating from as far back as the late 80s. Children and their parents also took part, painting the entire ground by the embankment with various drawings of Baikal, as well as calls to protect the unique natural phenomenon from industrial encroachment, especially from the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill.

On this day, over a hundred locals and guests lent their hands to the defense of Lake Baikal, literally leaving the silhouettes of their palms on the pavement by the enbankment, circled in chalk.

All participants were presented with small gifts in the form of blue ribbons, badges and postcards. The event also gathered signatures addressed the President of Russia and the Director General of UNESCO.

Recall that the main aim of the action is to draw attention to the problem of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM) which, after the acceptance of order no. 1 of the Russian Government on the 13th January 2010, is allowed to dispose of its waste from pulp and paper production directy into the lake, as well as to burn hazardous waste. This is at a time when there is demand for social support of the inhabitants of Baikalsk and the immediate adoption of institutional measures to create new jobs in the form of tourism development.

For more information, please call:
(3952) 52-58-70, 8904-12-00-24-8 - NGO "Baikal Environmental Wave"

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Elite scientists' open letter to Prime Minister Putin in regards to the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill

Russian Academy of Sciences Office of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Siberian Branch Buryat Scientific Centre
Irkutsk Scientific Centre Siberian Branch RAS

05.04.2010 г. № 15701-2115.1/39

Prime Minister
Russian Federation

Dear Prime Minister,

In connection with the Decree of the Russian Federation of 13th January 2010 #1 “On amendments to the list of activities banned in the Central Ecological Zone of the Lake Baikal Natural Territory” a situation has been created allowing for the renewal of pulp production with the discharge of waste waters into Lake Baikal and the accumulation of waste of all categories of danger on the shore of this unique lake. The Decree is aimed at the renewal of operations at the Baikalsk Pulp Mill and use of 40 year old production technology that fails to satisfy present day requirements and allows for the emission of ill-smelling and harmful substances into the atmosphere that can be detected at distances of up to 70 kilometres and are an obstacle to the development of tourism in the area.

From the very beginning of its operation the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM) has been a cause of discord between the government and society. It was the Baikalsk Mill that stimulated the development of the environmental movement in our country and today it remains a catastrophic threat not only to the lake but to the whole world.

The renewal of pulp production at the Baikalsk Pulp Mill with wastewater discharge violates Russia’s obligations concerning the protection of a common human value: the World Natural Heritage Site Lake Baikal, and also contravenes the requirements of the Russian Federal law “On the protection of Lake Baikal”, and prevents the development of really economically sound and environmentally acceptable projects for the development of the town of Baikalsk on the basis of Lake Baikal’s natural potential: tourism and recreation, bottled water production and so on.

It seems to us that the funds that are planned to subsidise the renewal of pulp production at BPPM would most likely be more wisely directed towards support for former mill personnel and on re-profiling production in the town of Baikalsk. More specifically, the transformation of the town into a tourist centre could solve many questions relating to local employment. Apart from that, it would be possible to develop the production of medicinal products from Siberian larch, manufacture of silicon solar panels and modules, and other kinds of production that are planned for Irkutsk Oblast in the near future.

Finally, the production of bottled Baikal water, so urgently required in Asia cannot be a profitable concern while the Mill continues to operate.

It should be remembered that when Baikal received the status of World Natural Heritage Site, Russia guaranteed that the BPPM would be converted. Now this promise has been forgotten and this has caused a negative reaction in the world community.

Prime Minister, we recall with gratitude your decision to remove the East-Siberian-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline from the shores of Baikal. For this reason we are addressing you with the request to be consistent in the matter of Baikal’s conservation: to ban pulp production in the Central Ecological Zone of Lake Baikal and preserve the “planet’s well” for the welfare of Russia.

Please find attached to this letter an analysis of the ecological consequences that could come about as a result of renewal of pulp production at BPPM with the discharge of waste waters into Baikal.

B.V.Bazarov – Chairman of the Presidium of the Office of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Buryat Scientific Centre of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Corresponding member of RAS.
I.V.Bychkov – Chairman of the Presidium, Irkutsk Scientific Centre SB RAS, corresponding member of RAS.
V.I.Voronin – Deputy Director of the Office of the Russian Academy of Sciences of the Siberian Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry SB RAS, Ph.D.
M.I.Kuzmin – Chairman of the Scientific Council SB RAS on questions concerning Lake Baikal, Deputy Chair of the Presidium of the Office of the Russian Academy of Sciences of Irkutsk Scientific Centre SB RAS, Academician.
V.M.Pliusnin – Acting Director of the Office of the Russian Academy of Sciences of the V.B.Sochava Institute of Geography SB RAS, Ph.D.
V.S.Rukavishnikov – Deputy Chair of the Presidium East Siberian Scientific Centre SB RA of Medical Sciences, Acting Director of the East Siberian Scientific Centre of Human Ecology SB RAMS, Director of the Scientific Research Institute of Occupational Medicine and Human Ecology, Corresponding member of RAMS.
G.I.Tatkov – Director of the Institute of Geology SB RAS, Ph.D.
B.A.Trofimov – Director of the Office of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk Favorskii Institute of Chemistry, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Academician.
A.K.Tulokhonov – Director of the Baikal Institute of Natural Resource Use, SB RAS, corresponding member, RAS.
L.L.Ubugunov - Director of the Institute of General and Experimental Biology, SB RAS, PhD. Professor.

for decision-making on BPPM & the town of Baikalsk

Lake Baikal is a unique natural phenomenon, source of more than 20% of the planet’s surface fresh water. On inclusion of Lake Baikal into the list of World Natural Heritage Sites, the government of the Russian Federation was given special recommendations by the UNESCO Committee: 1) irrevocable passing of a Federal Law on Lake Baikal; 2) conversion of the Baikalsk PPM in such a way as to liquidate it as a source of pollution; 3) reduction of the discharge of pollutants into the river Selenga; 4) increase the resource capacity of protected national parks and nature reserves adjacent to the lake; 5) continuation of and further support to scientific research and monitoring at Lake Baikal.

The peculiarity of the situation in the town of Baikalsk is not only the severe economic condition that came about as a result of the ineffective management of the Mill and its closure at the decision of its managing company “Continental Management”, but also the considerable environmental problems. In the present case, it is just as important to take into account environmental factors in the knot of problems of the town, as it is to consider the economic and social aspects.

The Russian Federal Decree № 1 “On amendments to the list of activities banned in the Central Ecological Zone of the Lake Baikal Natural Territory,” of 13th January 2010, has created a situation that permits the renewal of pulp production with the discharge of waste waters into Lake Baikal and the accumulation of all classes of dangerous waste on the shores of this unique lake.

It is quite clear that any decision on the operations of the BPPM must be accompanied by plans for the future of the town of Baikalsk. Failure to take a decision on the future of the town is as inadmissible as it is to make ill-considered and scientifically unsound decisions. In accordance with the obligations taken on itself by the Government of the Russian Federation, it is necessary to convert the Baikalsk Mill so that it ceases to be a source of pollution to Lake Baikal.

The words of Academician Nigmatulin, in Irkutsk in the summer of 2009, were incorrectly interpreted as being an opinion as to the absence of negative impact of the Baikalsk Mill on the ecosystem of Lake Baikal and its surrounding territories. In actual fact, scientists of the Russian Academy of Sciences, first and foremost the Siberian Branch of RAS, have been undertaking research for over 40 years that gives witness to the fact of the anthropogenic impact of the Baikalsk PPM, gives grounds for middle-range and long-term forecasts of the consequences of this impact, and also indicates the considerable ecological risks of pulp and paper production.

The Chairman of the Scientific Council SB RAS on problems relating to Lake Baikal, Academician Mikhail Kuzmin, spoke of the necessity for conversion of the BPPM at a meeting with you on August 1st 2009 and also in a letter sent to you on 16th December 2009 in which it was said that it is inadmissible to re-launch the Mill with the discharge of wastewaters into the lake.

The discharge of wastewaters into Baikal is necessary for the Mill in order to produce bleached pulp using chlorine bleaching, i.e. with the production cycle designed by the Mill. As a result of the operations of pulp and paper mills with chlorine bleaching, dioxins and chlorinated furans are formed as by-products. Their composition in BPPM wastewaters bears a considerable likeness to the composition of dioxins and chlorinated furans found in soils and sediments, and zooplankton collected near the BPPM. Dioxins have also been found in a number of Baikal fauna. When these are a regular part of people’s diet, the risk of cancer amongst the local population increases, as has been found along the shores of water bodies where chlorine bleaching is used at local pulp mills. In the light of this, the scientific community is categorically against the re-launching of the Baikalsk Mill with the discharge of its wastewaters directly into Baikal. Similar pulp mills abroad are going over to pulp bleaching with hydrogen peroxide and ozone.

Conversion to such a technology is problematic for the BPPM and the mill operates with a technology that was designed at the beginning of the 1960s. The Mill’s main technological equipment, the pulping process, flushing, bleaching, lime regeneration and timber preparation has hardly been changed for more than 40 years. BPPM’s output is small by comparison with that of the best Russian and foreign enterprises. With its present capacity BPPM competes badly on the world and domestic markets.

Higher concentrations of phenol than are permissible for water bodies are found in the Mill’s wastewaters; the same is true for chloride and sulfate ions. Elevated concentrations of PCBs, whose origins are as yet unclear, have been noted. Most importantly, the atmosphere around the Mill is polluted by foul-smelling compounds of bivalent sulfur, hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulfide and methyl disulfide. The smells of mercaptan can be sensed distinctly over distances of up to 70 kilometres. The mill releases a tonne of ill-smelling substances into the atmosphere every day. Concentrations of mercaptan exceeding those permitted by 10 or more times have been registered in the residential part of the town of Baikalsk. This is of considerable discomfort to people in the town and its environs.

As indicated in the State Report “On the state of Lake Baikal and measures for its protection, 2007,” (Ministry for Natural Resources and the Environment of the Russian Federation, Moscow, 2008, Table, in the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Natural Territory, BPPM contributes 51% of emissions into the atmosphere from all sources (including enterprises, organisations, residential etc.), discharges 86% of wastewaters entering the lake, and creates 42% of the solid waste.

The considerable emissions of methyl mercaptan, dimethyl sulfide and methyl disulfide have an adverse effect on human health. The combined impact of these compounds gives rise to irritation of the respiratory system, depresses oxidation-reduction processes, causes irregularities of carbohydrate metabolism, and has a negative impact on the state of human protein molecules. Investigations have shown the adverse impact of these compounds on female reproductive functions. Staff of the Scientific Research Institute of Occupational Medicine and Human Ecology, East Siberian Scientific Centre SB RAS, have determined that a high frequency of complications during pregnancy and childbirth can be observed in women of child-bearing age that have been exposed to methyl sulphurous compounds. Such abnormalities as placental pathology, threat of miscarriage, and possibility of miscarriage have been registered (with a risk of 54-76%).

The Mill is situated in an area of high seismic activity with the possibility of earthquakes of up to 9-11 degrees on the 12-point Richter scale. Thus, in the case of an earthquake, reagents and waste could find their way into Baikal from broken vessels and reservoirs. When considering possible risks, it is essential to bear in mind the possible leakage of liquid chlorine and the rupture of vessels containing white and black sulphite liquors, oil products and sulphuric acid, also the rupture of protective structures and influx of the accumulated waste after wastewater treatment from sludge ponds into the lake. Other serious environmental consequences are possible.

It is appropriate to recollect President Vladimir Putin’s words when he made the decision to re-route the oil pipeline far to the north. “If there is even a tiny risk of danger from pollution to Baikal, then we, thinking of future generations, must do everything in order not to minimize this danger, but to eliminate it.”

It should be noted that, as mentioned in the letter of the Director of the Department for Timber and Light Industry of the Russian Ministry for Trade and Industry, M.I.Klinov, to Academician Mikhail Kuzmin (19.01.2010), pulp production at the Baikalsk Mill was unprofitable. Before the Mill was closed in October 2008, according to Klinov’s data, the enterprise was making monthly losses of up to 80 million roubles. In view of this, there is little hope that the BPPM can make an income for the town’s and oblast’s budgets.

We understand that those who were left unemployed in Baikalsk must be supported till the beginning of operations of new enterprises in the town. Funds that are planned to subsidise the renewal of pulp production at BPPM, would most likely be more wisely directed towards support for former mill personnel and on re-profiling production in the town of Baikalsk. More specifically, the transformation of the town into a tourist centre could solve many questions relating to local employment. Apart from that, it would be possible to develop the production of medicinal products from Siberian larch, the manufacture of silicon solar panels and modules, and other kinds of production, planned for development in Irkutsk Oblast in the near future, in Baikalsk. Finally, the production of bottled Baikal water, so urgently required in Asia cannot be properly established while the Mill continues to operate. The same is true for the creation of an attractive tourist and recreational zone in the town.

We hope that the facts cited in this note will help in the making of a correct decision for the town of Baikalsk and its inhabitants.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Rallies in defense of Lake Baikal appear all over Russia

On the 27th and 28th March, rallies in defense of Baikal were held in various cities all over Russia.

At 20:30 on the 27th March in Irkutsk, a flash mob showing their support for the defense of Baikal was organised to coincide with the 'Earth Hour'. A group of approximately 40 young people laid burning decorative candles in the shape of Lake Baikal on the alsphalt floor, then doing the same to form a figure 60. This thus expressed support for the rallies and actions taking place throughout the country in defense of Baikal and against the water pollution of the Lake by the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM).

On the 28th March, a trek across the frozen surface of Baikal took place under the slogan "Baikal without the BPPM". Around 200 Irkutsk residents of various ages, both young to old, travelled the 13km distance from Old Angasolka to Slyudyanka across the ice of Lake Baikal. The crossing took place without incident, and as a sign of protecting Lake Baikal protesters held up flags bearing the event's slogan and blue ribbons. The event was organized by the Baikal movement.

In Ulan Ude on the 27th March, a rally was held which combined formal presentations with artistic, creative and entertaining numbers. For example, participants actively expressed their emotions using marker pens on a "Wailing Wall' and shared a pie called "Assets of the BPPM", which was laid out and given to children at the event. At the end of the rally, participants held Chinese lanterns bearing candles and the symbol of Baikal - an Apple. During the rally, 500 signatures were collected in an appeal to UNESCO, the Government and the President, supporting the adopted resolution of the activists.

On the 27th March, 800 people gathered at a rally in St. Petersburg. The event opened with the words of Vladimir Putin: "If there is even the slightest chance of contaminating Lake Baikal, we must do everything possible not to simply minimize this danger, but to remove it altogether". These were the words uttered in 2006 by the then President, who at the time decided to relocate a planned oil pipeline away from the shore of Baikal. Four years later, in January 2010, Putin signed a decree authorizing the discharge of waste water of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill into the Lake. At the rally, toilet paper was collected, symbolising that with which the authories wish to destroy Lake Baikal. Petersburgers sacrificed around 200 rolls of toilet paper in total. The collection of rolls was intended by the organizers to be sent to Vladimir Putin, the author of the decree which allows the discharge of sewage into Baikal.

On the 28th of March, a large rally-concert was organised in Moscow by the coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations "For Baikal!", which brought together several hundred residents in the capital. Similar actions were held in Petrazavodsk, Chelyabinsk and Barnaul.

Calls to protect the lake were also supported by the actor Lev Prygunov and Viktor Bychkov, the writer Valentin Rasputin, music critic Artem Troitsky, leader of the group DDT Yuri Shevchuk, Ilya "Devil" (of the band "Pilot") and Michael Nowicki (of the group 'SP Babai'). As well as this, over the past two weeks a petition for the defense of Baikal as been sent to the Director General of UNESCO Irina Side, and has been signed by more than 15,000 Russians.

It is worth recalling that on the January 13, 2010, Vladimir Putin signed Decree No.1 of the Russian Government, which allowed for the dumping of waste from pulp and paper production directly into Lake Baikal. The decree also allowed for the building of new pulp and paper mills and the burning of hazardous waste on the shores of Lake Baikal.

You can find more information about the environmental risks associated with the BPPM, the social and economic situation in the region, and other information about Lake Baikal at the following sites (All in russian);

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Link to Moscow Times article, MUST READ!

Here is a link to an excellent article by Vladimir Ryzhkov posted on the Moscow Times website, explaining why the decision to re-open the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill was a lesson in complete political incompetence.


Monday, 22 March 2010

Mass demonstration in support of the closure of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill takes place in Irkutsk, 20th March

On 20th March in Irkutsk, a rally was held in defense of Lake Baikal, organised by members of the Baikal Movement together with representatives of Public Control and the union of motorists. The

rally was held on one of the main city squares under the banner "Saving Baikal, we will save Russia!", and it is estimated that more than 2000 people gathered for the event, all of whom are concerned about the fate of the Lake and the residents of Baikalsk. Speaking from the rostrum of the Worker's Sport's Stadium, representatives of different public organizations in Irkutsk,
residents of Baikalsk and visitors from other regions all expressed their opposition to the reopening of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM), which exists as an unprofitable, dilapidated and bankrupted enterprise.

As was the case at the previous rally, held in Irkutsk on the 13th February, citizens demanded the abolition of the Russian Government's Decree No. 01, signed by Prime Minister Putin on the 13th January 2010, which allows for pulp mills on the shores of Baikal to discharge sewage directly into the Lake, which contains more than 80% of Russia's clean freshwater and more than 20% of the entire planet's supply. This decree also allows for the storage and incineration of waste on the shore of Baikal, which is an acute environmental threat to the Lake. Those who spoke at the rally demanded that the owners of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill — the Government and the oligarch Oleg Deripaska - eliminate the environmental and social effects of the plant's long years of past activity. Protesters also demanded the adoption and implementation of programs to create additional jobs in Baikalsk which are not linked to environmentally harmful industry.

At the beginning of the rally Maksim Vorontsov, a member of the Baikal Movement, expressed his gratitude to other Russian cities that had held solidarity rallies in support of Baikal. Also making an appearance at the rally was Boris Nemtsov, leader of the democratic movement "Solidarity", who said the following- 'Earlier this year, Putin signed a criminal decree which allows for dirty industrial enterprises to pollute Baikal, and allows for the storage of radioactive waste on the shores of the Lake. We must put a stop to this." Whilst Nemtsov was speaking at the event, several young men appeared in amongst the crowd of peaceful protesters, and endevoured to tear up posters bearing the name of Deripaska, and even threatened one woman with physical violence. Claiming to represent those Baikalsk residents in need of work, the men shouted "Putin gave us a job!" and declared the rally a provocation against the people of Baikalsk. They also unsuccessfully attempted to drown out the voice of Marina Richvanova, co-chair of the Irkutsk NGO "Baikal Environmental Wave", during her address to the crowd.

However, the provocation proved to be unsuccessful, with Irkutsk police eventually thwarting this attempt to disrupt the rally, and the hooligans were detained. Four of the detainees were brought to trial on charges of debauchery and hooliganism the following day, where it was revealed that the provocateurs had arrived from Moscow and St. Petersburg and are believed to be employees of the company Basic Element, which is owned by Oleg Deripaska. Unfortunately, the magistrate of the 119th district of the Kirov region of Irkutsk Anna Barskaya ordered a minimum fine of 500 rubles to be issued to three of the detainees, and dismissed the fourth without punishment, despite the fact that the actions of the hooligans were clearly visible on a videotapes made available to the court. In court, the detainees, who numbered brothers Sergei and Alexei Petrov (Moscow), Vladimir Shupov (Moscow) and Andrei Petrov (St. Petersburg), accused witnesses of slander and lies.

Despite this attempt to break up the rally and the fact that the administration of the Worker's stadium cut the electricity supply to the speakers' microphone, participants at the protest, including young children and pensioners, remained on the square for more than two hours. Residents of Baikalsk also spoke about the urgency of closing the plant and creating alternative jobs and enterprises for the residents of Baikalsk.

"I am a resident of Baikalsk. Even sealing the doors and windows of our houses doesn't save us from the terrible stench coming from the Mill.", said one of the participants at the event. In her speech, Marina Rihvanova explained that the problems connected with the paper mill affect every inhabitant of Irkutsk and the wider region. "380 million roubles has been spent from the regional budget on the construction of sewage treatment plants in the town of Baikalsk, which the paper mill wants to close. As well as this, 80 million roubles was spent by Irkutskenergo on the construction and conservation of a new heat source for Baikal, which will be included in the electricity rates for the local population."

Irkutsk resident Vladimir Naumov, Chairman of the Humanitarian Fund "Baikal. The Third Millennium", quoting Solzhenitsyn and Article 2 of the Constitution of Russia, called on citizens to take responsibility for Baikal themselves. "We must announce this to everyone- "Baikal is ours! ". Only we can take responsibility for it!".

Participants at the rally signed a petition to the government of Russia, demanding the repeal of Decree No.1. Participants also signed their names under an open letter addressed to I. Bokovoi, the Secretary General of UNESCO, demanding that the organization does everything possible to save Baikal, a unique natural landmark of world heritage status.

The resolution of the protesters expressed outrage at the disregard shown by public authorities at the resolution set forth at the last rally "Save Baikal, save Baikalsk", held on the 13th February 2010, which demanded that the Great Lake be saved from pollution of the BPPM, which serves only the immediate interests of oligarchic companies. At the conclusion of the rally, participants released sky blue coloured balloons into the air, symbolizing a pure Baikal.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Baikal Wave harassed by Center 'E' for protesting

Irkutsk Ecologists Harassed by Center “E” for Protesting
March 1st, 2010

An organization of Russian ecologists in the Siberian city of Irkutsk is being pressured by police for their criticism of the reopening of a paper mill that would dump tons of toxic waste into nearby Lake Baikal, Kasparov.ru reports.

In a press release issued on Monday, ecologists at the Baikal Environmental Wave expressed concern that police officers had been visiting the homes and places of work of members of the organization. Among those officers were agents from the notoriously brutal Center for Extremism Prevention, commonly known as Center “E” and accused by Amnesty International of torturing detainees.

Over the course of “discussion” with ecologists’ relatives, says the statement, officers made disparaging remarks about the Baikal Environmental Wave and co-leader Marina Rikhvanova.

Rikhvanova told Kasparov.ru that the police most likely obtained the ecologists’ home addresses from computers confiscated from the organization at the end of January, supposedly for using unlicensed software.

The ecologists believe that the police visits and confiscations are a direct result of the organization’s protest against the reopening of the infamous Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill. In particular, Rikhvanova was critical of a notification from the city sanitation department, which claimed that the mill would clean its sewage before dumping it into Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“But nobody knows how they’re going to clean it, or if they’re going to clean it at all, because all of the cleaning equipment is kept out under the open sky and, as the mill’s management said earlier, a minimum of three months of above-freezing temperatures are required to start it up,” Rikhvanova explained.

The organization is planning to hold a rally in defense of the lake on March 20.

After decades of protests, the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill was closed in October 2008 due to environmental concerns regarding the mill’s discharge of toxic waste into Lake Baikal: Over the course of 40 years of operation, toxic discharge created dead zone in the lake of more than 12 square miles. Hundreds of tons of waste stored in open-air pits have created more air pollution than almost anywhere else in Russia.

Despite this, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a decree in mid-January to change the environmental laws previously prohibiting waste from being dumped into the lake, thus allowing the mill to resume operations. Approximately two thousand people gathered in protest on February 13, demanding that the mill be closed, that mill owner and oligarch Oleg Deripaska be held accountable, and that Prime Minister Putin resign. Police responded to the protest with greatly excessive measures, calling out armored vehicles and a small tank to flank the demonstrators.

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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

BPPM prepares lawsuit against Baikal Environmental Wave


Lawyers of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM) have prepared material for a lawsuit in regards to the spreading of 'false information' about an accident which allegedly occurred at the plant in late December 2009, according to the press office of the the BPPM.

The Irkutsk regional association of trade unions, with reference to the trade union of BPPM, claimed that "on the 24th December, with production already having begun in the evaporation section in the BPPM, a 20 cubic metre condensation tank exploded.

Prosecutors of the Slyudyanka district conducted an audit and found no evidence of an explosion at the mill, according to the press service of the BPPM. "Nevertheless, representatives of environmental organizations, knowing the test results, continue to use this fact when dealing with their audiences" - says the official report of the plant. The plant has also expressed its anger at the local NGO "Baikal Environmental Wave" (BEV), who have been reporting about the conditions of the waste treatment facilities at the factory.

In response, the Co-Chair of "BEV" Marina Rikhvanova said: "it would be beneficial if all of these arguments would be heard in court."

'This is the first time that I've heard that he plant is preparing documents for a lawsuit. However, the information that we have and which we use in our speeches is not false. By spreading information about the accident, we relied on the contents of a letter composed by the union of the mill, which we trust, - explained Marina Rikhvanova.

After receiving information about the explosion, environmentalists send inquiries to the supervisory authorities, but answers have not been forthcoming.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Relaunch of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill resumes the dumping of industrial waste into Baikal


The relaunch of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill resumes the dumping of industrial waste into Lake Baikal

Yesterday, on the 18th February, colleagues of the Regional Non-Governmental Organisation ‘Baikal Environmental Wave’ were in the town of Baikalsk to visit the site of a pool-aerator, which is discharging pollutants into Lake Baikal, and which contains deposits of waste from the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill. According to received information, we are able to state that the mill is allowing for its industrial waste to flow into Lake Baikal by filtration through the groundwater: stoppers, which have existed to prevent industrial waste entering the discharge system, have been removed, and we recorded an accumulation of fluid-like industrial waste in the pit located above the tube feeding industrial waste. Work is currently underway to effectively remove all of these stoppers, which exist to separate the plant’s industrial waste from general wastewater. This work is likely to be completed at the weekend.

There is reason to believe that the BPPM does not have all the required permits and documents for the relaunch and the resultant dumping of waste into Lake Baikal. We consulted with specialists from the Baikalsk municipal waste water facility, and found out the following ; whilst BPPM was transferring to a closed sytem of water circulation, one pipe for waste water, a pond aerator and a system for the deep draining of sewage into Baikal were rented out to sewage treatment facilities in Baikalsk. Though the BPPM has informed the waste-water facility about the termination of the lease on 1st March, Irkutskenergo has informed that it will cut off the urban heat supply to waste-water facilities from March 1 as a result of debt amounting to 600 thousand roubles. At the same time, the BPPM is 2 million rubles in debt to these very same waste water facilities.

Thus, in order for the plant to be relaunched, it is possible that the new municipal sewage treatment facility in Baikalsk will be closed, despite the fact that it was created using funds from the federal and regional budgets directed towards various programs aimed at the transformation of the BPPM, and is responsible for effectively clearing the municipal waste water of Baikalsk’s inhabitants. It is also completely self-sustainable (operating without state subsidies) and employs 70 Baikalsk residents. Such developments will allow the Baikalsk Plant to operate indefinitely, and will again make local residents completely dependent upon the Mill.

Irkutsk Regional Non-Governenmental Organisation ‘Baikal Environmental Wave’ press service, 19/02/10
Contact numbers:
(3952) 52-58-70