Baikal – New Hope

Press release - 2006-04-26
Greenpeace Russia hails the president’s statement about necessity to remove the oil pipeline (East Siberia – Pacific Ocean) outside the borders of the Baikal’s drainage area and hopes that real steps will be taken to fulfill the recommendation.

Meeting in defense of Baikal in Moscow. 21 April 2006.

The president's statement proves that protests of hundreds of thousands of people both in Russia and other countries had their effect. Despite the massive pressure by large extractive companies, the government listened to the opinion of the public, scientists, and experts.

40 years ago an attempt to stop the dangerous project of construction of the pulp and paper mill at the Baikal shore failed. Fortunately, this time the government paid attention to the public opinion.

Demonstrations and protests to protect Lake Baikal were organized in many Russian cities: Irkutsk, Severobaikalsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Saint Petersburg, Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg, Rostov-on-Don, Angarsk and many others. This means that the civil society still exists in our country.

The threat to the "sacred sea" united people from many Russian regions. At the regional Irkutsk website almost 27.000 people have so far voted against the oil pipeline. Hundreds of people sent their photos of themselves with banners "Better Baikal than oil", "Live Baikal" and others to the website Activists from Belarus, Germany, Ukraine send their letters of support. Hundreds of artists and scientists, teachers and politicians addressed the president with the appeal. About 100.000 signatures were collected in different regions of the country. Popular stars also addressed Vladimir Putin with the request to protect Baikal.

Unfortunately, all these facts were deliberately neglected by the central mass media. Moreover, many of them had publications and programmes where Baikal activists were described as agents of western intelligence services and transnational corporations. Now these very media support the necessity to remove the pipeline to the north and greet the president's decision.

According to Putin's statement, construction of the pipeline should be carried out from two ends: from East and from West so that two sections are joined later. The Baikal section will be the last to be constructed. Thus, according to Transneft, the company will have time to further develop necessary documentation for this section. However, an opportunity exists that the stage of further development might be skipped. The company might just wait for the public protests to settle down and then keep to the old project and construct the pipeline in 800 meters from Baikal.

In order to avoid this scenario, Greenpeace and other non-governmental organizations will follow closely the situation and they are going to campaign for removal of the oil pipeline out of the borders of the Baikal drainage area.