SaveBaikal: How The New Bill Threatens The Russian Lake

A life 2023

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SaveBaikal: How The New Bill Threatens The Russian Lake
SaveBaikal: How The New Bill Threatens The Russian Lake
Video: SaveBaikal: How The New Bill Threatens The Russian Lake
Video: Ocean Me x Ome beats - Save Baikal (Official video) 2023, February

Alexandra Savina

On July 31, Vladimir Putin signed the law "On the specifics of regulation of certain relations in order to modernize and expand the main infrastructure and on amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation." It is notable for the fact that it removes construction on the territories near Lake Baikal immediately from under several environmental restrictions for the next three and a half years. For example, it allows clear felling of forests on Lake Baikal for the expansion of the Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian mainlines (clear felling is called a situation when more than 70% of the wood in a plantation is cut down).

The law makes it possible to transfer forest lands during construction to lands of other categories - and, as a result, the ability to cut down as much forest as required. Infrastructure objects for which clear felling can be carried out are established by the government (however, it is forbidden to include those intended for housing (permanent or temporary), as well as objects that are not related to the functioning of the BAM and Transsib).


In addition, according to the new document, by the end of 2024, decisions on the boundaries of specially protected natural areas are made by regional authorities and local governments. Simply put, if land is required for the construction of the BAM and Transsib, local authorities will be able to exclude them from these special zones. Also, the new law abolishes the state environmental expertise during the construction of facilities necessary for the modernization and expansion of the main infrastructure in specially protected natural areas - it leaves only the state expertise of project documentation. This is not only about the BAM and Transsib: the objects of modernization can also be highways, bridges, sea and river ports, tunnels.

At the end of July, commenting on a bill that was then adopted by the State Duma, Dmitry Peskov noted that the protection of Lake Baikal and other special natural areas is important for the Russian authorities, but it should not interfere with the country's economic development. According to the presidential press secretary, the new law helps to find a "golden mean" in the issue - to preserve the ecosystem, but to develop the region's infrastructure and economy. Environmentalists and activists disagree with this point of view: they fear that the new law and intensive construction will negatively affect the ecological situation on Lake Baikal.

The law abolishes environmental expertise - according to experts, the only form of environmental assessment of a facility under construction is enshrined in legislation

Mikhail Kreindlin, a specialist in environmental legislation and Greenpeace expert, sees the danger in the fact that the law abolishes environmental expertise - in his words, the only form of environmental assessment of an object under construction enshrined in legislation. In addition, in his opinion, the expertise gave the residents of the regions the opportunity to influence what was happening next to them - they knew and understood what was happening in this or that territory. Margarita Kaurova, an urban ecologist and volunteer of environmental NGOs, agrees with this point of view: she considers the state ecological expertise to be the only remaining tool that somehow regulates such projects and gives the public an opportunity to discuss them. “Now, on the reserved lands, you can do what the eco-expertise would never have approved,” she is sure.

“Any anthropogenic influence on the territory of Lake Baikal is destructive. This is a communicating ecosystem, where interference with one element will entail changes at both the micro- and macro-level of the ecosystem, - says Margarita Kaurova.- UNESCO wants to add Lake Baikal to the list of natural heritage under threat of destruction - because Russia violates all obligations to UNESCO on Lake Baikal.

Kaurova compares the situation with the possible deforestation for infrastructure facilities on Lake Baikal with what happened in Sochi before the Olympics - then, during the construction of infrastructure for the event, forests were massively cut down, and valuable boxwood trees suffered from infectious diseases due to the deteriorating environmental situation.


Another frequent fear is that the new law will actually make it possible to build a wide variety of facilities, not only highways and the corresponding infrastructure. “Deforestation was previously assumed within the framework of modern legislation, that is, with the implementation of the state ecological expertise, with a clear allocation of these lands. And now a kind of carte blanche has been given, so it is impossible to say unequivocally where they will now cut the forest when their hands are untied and they can declare the infrastructure associated with the highway, and therefore does not require any licensing procedures. And practically everything can be “connected” with the main railways of Siberia,”says Evgeny Simonov, coordinator of the environmental coalition“Rivers without Borders”. The innovations are also associated with opportunities for the growth of export of minerals abroad, primarily coal.

Mikhail Kreindlin notes that clearcuts near Lake Baikal, which do not take into account the peculiarities of the territory, can lead to an increase in forest fires and pollution of the lake. Kreindlin believes there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the already existing difficulties with financing, because of them, in a situation of clearcutting of forests, protection from fires may not be given enough attention. According to the expert, the law can also be used as a means for the commercial use of forests - the harvesting of valuable species of wood, which often causes fires. Secondly, according to Kreindlin, clearcutting leads to rapid soil erosion - in the case of the Baikal territories, this can lead to pollution of the lake itself and the rivers flowing into it. In addition, the expert believes that the law leaves room for a variety of construction in valuable natural areas.

In the summer of 2017, the Ministry of Natural Resources proposed to reduce the water protection zone of Lake Baikal tenfold

Flash mobs in defense of the Baikal forests - #SaveBaikal and #SaveBaikal - began in social networks. In addition, eco-activists oppose the draft resolution of a new list of activities prohibited in the central ecological zone of the Baikal natural territory, which the Ministry of Natural Resources published for public discussion. Today public discussion of the project has ended: twenty-two people voted for it, more than eleven thousand against. This is not the first loud discussion related to the ecological situation of Lake Baikal. In the summer of 2017, the Ministry of Natural Resources proposed to reduce the water protection zone of Lake Baikal tenfold - from 57 to 5.9 thousand square kilometers, despite the protests of environmentalists and activists.

Yesterday Vladimir Putin instructed Russian Railways and the government of the Irkutsk region to propose additional measures to protect the ecosystem during the development of the Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian railways. The assignment also invites environmentalists, other scientists and activists to participate in the development. How formal this requirement is will become clear later.

Photos: saiko3p -, irimeiff -, Vitaliy Kaplin -

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