Let's Save Baikal Together!

Feature story - 20 January, 2010
Greenpeace Russia has prepared the open appeal to the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev that is devoted to the adoption of the Governmental Decision which allows to re-start the work of the Baikalsk Pulp & Paper Mill and to discharge the poisonous waste waters into the Baikal Lake.

Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM)

The organizations and separate citizens can join this letter. 

The organizations can send their agreement to the next address: . In you message please mark the name of your organization, the name of a contact person and your e-mail address. 

Separate citizens can fill this form on the RF Presidential web-site. Please copy paste there the text of the appeal:

Dear Mr. President,

On January 13th this year the Russian Government approved Decree №1 "On changes to the list of activities prohibited in the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Natural Territory."

This Decree terminates the ban on the "production of pulp, paper, carton and items made from them without the use of a closed-loop water system for production purposes" without any limitations as to time, volume or concentrations of substances. It also radically alters two other paragraphs relating to stockpiling, landfill disposal and incineration of dangerous waste on the shores of Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

We are convinced that this decision has been taken to satisfy the short-term interests of the owners of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM). Any other explanation cannot withstand criticism, as can be seen from the following:

    * Despite the fact that the BPPM still has the status of "enterprise forming a company town,"  the town of Baikalsk in actual fact has no need of it. Regular delays in payment of wages and salaries, the constant threat of closure for economic and environmental reasons, the development of alternative production and the creation of new jobs has forced people to look for alternative ways of making a living. Most people have found employment. For this reason, the social turmoil predicted by the mill's owners to blackmail the authorities did not occur, and so will not occur;

    * Now the future of Baikalsk is seen as being in the development of tourism and alternative forms of production including use of the rich natural resources. The area provides all possibilities for the development of tourism: a mountain skiing resort - "Gora Sobolinaya," the unique natural environment, established infrastructure, Baikalsk is conveniently situated 2-3 hours journey by road from Irkutsk's international airport, and much more. The alternative development of Baikalsk has been evaluated by experts of the Higher School of Economics and the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS) and it shows good potential even in the present crisis conditions. A Baikalsk Investment Club has been established by people of business willing to invest in the town's development. However, as soon as plans for the re-launching of the mill were announced a considerable number of these investors gave up their plans;

    * The re-launching of the BPPM demands its modernization that could cost as much as the building of a new mill as its equipment is worn to the limits. It follows that renewal of production is fraught with danger, especially during winter. This is confirmed by the fact that one of the mill's production vessels exploded on December 24th 2009, however, by good fortune, no one suffered as a result. Apart from this, in 2008 south Baikal underwent a serious earthquake the consequences of which could not but have had an impact on the BPPM. Characteristically the mill's management refused to allow specialists from the Institute of the Earth's Crust (SB RAS), whose job it was to evaluate the residual seismic stability of mill, to enter its grounds. 

On top of everything enumerated above, renewal of operations at the BPPM runs counter to the requirements of Russian and international law, in particular laws "On the protection of Lake Baikal," "On International Laws of the Russian Federation," the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and the international Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

We believe it is inadmissible to renew operations at the BPPM in these circumstances, all the more so with an open wastewater discharge system, and insist on an immediate and independent assessment of the technological condition and economic efficiency of the mill. 

We appeal to you to direct government efforts towards real projects for the alternative socio-economic development of Baikalsk, for which all conditions exist. The state can and must make a choice in people's interests.

By way of a first step, we demand that Decree №1 "On changes to the list of activities prohibited in the central ecological zone of the Baikal Natural Territory" be rescinded.

Respectfully, 

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