End of September 2011, representatives of Greenpeace Russia and the Save the Khimki Forest Movement as well as residents of Moscow and Khimki inspected the site in the Khimki Forest where construction work preparations for the Moscow - St. Petersburg toll road are in full swing.
Based on the findings of the inspection and the available satellite images, experts have come to the result that the main objective of the constructions in and near the Khimki Forest is to suppress civil society activities.
How did they get to this conclusion?
The technically most challenging sections of the future road, as it had been noted repeatedly by the planners themselves, include the so called Businov interchange, connecting the new road to the Moscow Ring Road (known as the MKAD), and a bridge over the Moscow Canal. Construction work on these two sections is estimated to take at least 36 months. Meanwhile, the section of the road that passes through the Khimki Forest is far simpler and would take less than 24 months to be build.
If construction works had started with the Businov interchange and the bridge over the Moscow Canal, there would have been at least one year for finding the optimal route for the road within the bounds of the Khimki municipal district, without destroying the forest or impacting the overall construction schedule in any way.
Yet, most of the work done by now has been carried out on illegally reallocated former park and forest conservation lands and at a site close to the Moscow Canal interchange, while there are no signs yet of construction on the Businov interchange and the bridge over the Canal. Construction efforts have focused on locking in the government’s decision, rather than on tackling the most complex parts of the project first.
Construction works in the Khimki Forest are proceeding at full tilt. Officials seem to lose no sleep over the fact that the Government’s decision runs counter to current legislation. Their statements about measures undertaken to protect adjoining forests and compensation by planting a new forest are divorced from reality.
The only possible explanation for this is that the Russian government is determined not to allow any precedent of a successful struggle of the Russian civil society, trying to protect their legitimate right for a healthy environment.
The original Russian blog of Alexey Yaroshenko can be found here.