Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Monday, 22 March 2010
Mass demonstration in support of the closure of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill takes place in Irkutsk, 20th March
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
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
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
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