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.

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);

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