Greenpeace refers to Baltic Sea Forum

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Feature story - 8 April, 2013
The Conference of the Heads of the Baltic Sea states on environmental protection (Baltic Sea Forum) will take place in St. Petersburg on the 5-6 of April. The forum opening almost coincided with the launching of the project on pipeline construction through the protected areas of the Leningradskaya oblast.

According to Greenpeace, Nord Stream AG (whose main shareholder is Gazprom) favors the scenario which will lay the pipeline through the Kurgalsky reserve. This unique area is protected by the international Ramsar Convention and the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea.

Plans to construct the pipeline on the Kurgalsky reserve territory are evidenced by the map posted on the company's website and are confirmed by the analysis conducted by an NGO "Prozrachnyi Mir".

At the same time, project developers themselves acknowledge that even exploration works are dangerous and contradict Russian law. This was clearly stated in previously published materials on environmental impact assessment: "The presence of marine mammals in the areas of exploration is of temporary nature during feeding migrations, except for small numbers of gray seals and ringed seals who permanently live in coastal areas of exploration. If the animals appear in the area of exploration works, the noise and vibration of ships and drilling rigs will exert a deterrent effect on them, and will make them avoid the exploration area”. Such activities are in direct violation of the Federal Law "On Specially Protected Natural Areas".

However, on the 4 of April the Ministry of Natural Resources officially announced that the environmental impact assessment of the 3rd and 4th Nord Stream lines construction has started: “As the result of consultations initiated by Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Espoo Convention Secretariat, with the participation of representatives of the Russian Federation, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Nord Stream AG, in order to enhance the project’s reliability and reduce its negative impact on the environment, the company elaborated several itinerary options, adjusted for environmentally sensitive areas, cultural heritage objects, important shipping routes and other special zones important for economic or recreational purposes.

According to Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Mr. Rinat Gizatulin: “International environmental monitoring of construction and exploitation of the first two Nord Stream lines confirmed the absence of a significant impacts, including cross-border impacts, on all components of the Baltic Sea environment. I am confident that, together with Denmark, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Nord Stream AG, we can ensure that the best available technology and construction standards are implemented in order to ensure the absolute ecological safety of the Baltic environment".

 

Mr. Deputy Minister did not specify that one of itinerary options cuts through the Kurgalsky reserve, protected by two international conventions. Yet the Ministry of Natural Resources cannot be unaware of this fact. It turns out that the Ministry itself has adjusted the projects to lay the pipeline through the Kurgalsky reserve. In other words, the state agency responsible for environmental protection and, by the way, for the implementation of the state policy in the regard of protected areas, as well as Russia's compliance with international environmental conventions, actually approves of their violation as well as Russian law violation.

"Piter Gas", a company close to "Gazprom", has already announced the preparation of documents for marine exploration. Although the terms of reference clearly state that the exploration area covers protected areas, "Piter Gas" does not seem to undertake any impact assessment.
It is interesting that the neighboring Estonia refused to allow Nord Stream AG even to conduct exploration works in its economic zone. Apparently, our neighbors understand how high the environmental risk of the project is, and see the difference between promises and reality, which disagree just too often in such projects.

Greenpeace hopes that the Baltic Sea Forum participants, including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, would pay due attention to the problems of new Nord Stream lines construction. In their power is to achieve the rule of law and to protect the unique natural area of international importance.

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