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.