Baikal Is Held Hostage Of Transneft
The plans for construction of the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil-pipe line not only threaten the existence of the last population of the Far Eastern leopard but also Lake Baikal. According to the latest project, the oil-pipe line will go along the route of the Baikal-Amur trank line, less than a kilometer from the northern extremity of the Lake –the town of Severobaikalsk.
“According to the designers’ estimates, in case of an emergency in the pipe line, up to four thousand tons of oil will get into Baikal within 20 minutes!” comments Mikhail Kreidlin, Greenpeace expert. Lake Baikal is registered in the List of UNESCO World Heritage, which Russia has always been proud of. That is why now, if the plans of Transneft do not change, the UNESCO experts who have visited the locations of prospective construction will recommend including Baikal in the “List of the World Heritage in Danger”. And in the future, if the Russian authorities do not undertake specific steps to preserve the lake, Baikal may even be excluded from the List! That will be national disgrace for Russia, as there have never been such precedents in the world.
“This variant of the project is even worse than the previous one, under which the route used to be placed closer to the north – in the territory of Yakutia, - says Mikhail Kreidlin. Besides its vicinity to Baikal, according to the current version the route will run for 70 kilometers along the intense seismic load zone, more than 9 to 10 on Richter scale.” On top of that, the oil-pipe line will go directly through the “Barsovy (Ounce)” game reserve.
This is what deals with the route of the prospective oil-pipe line. However, the major disagreement is caused by the location assigned for the oil-loading terminal construction – Pervoznaya Bay in the Amur Gulf. From the point of view of environmental safety and from the economic and social viewpoint, this option is the worst of all possible ones as it is stated in the report produced by the WWF Russia, Greenpeace and the International Foundation for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Strong winds and fogs are typical of the Amur Gulf, this is a large, open and rather shallow gulf with multiple sandbanks and islands that would impede the tankers travel. Pervoznaya Bay – is a clean virgin seacoast with sand beaches that are popular as a resting place for natives and tourists. In immediate proximity to the prospective terminal is the “Kedrovaya Pad’ (Cedar Fold)” biosphere reserve, the reserve being under the UNESCO protection, and the only in Russia marine reserve is located near Pervoznaya Bay. The town of Vladivostok is opposite it.
Along with that, there exist seven other variants – other bays for terminal placement in addition to Pervoznaya Bay. And most importantly, there exists the town of Nakhodka – the major seaport where oil terminals and finished infrastructure are already available and can be used for construction of one more terminal.
“The south of the Far East – is one of the three major locations in terms of bio-diversity resources in the entire non-tropical Eurasia, - says Evgeny Shvartz, Director of Conservation Policy, WWF Russia. It is the only place inhabited by the Far-Eastern leopard – the most rare cat in the world, it population including only about 30 remaining individuals. The leopard – is a banner, as this predator is on top of the pyramid of numbers, and if we preserve leopards that means that we preserve the entire valid Far-Eastern ecosystem where the leopard is able to exist. This is really a unique ecosystem, where species from the tropics and from Northern Yakut taiga are neighbors.”
Environmental public organizations’ viewpoint is shared by scientists including Academician Yu. S. Osipov, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The same standpoint is also upheld by Academician P.Ya. Baklanov, Director of the Pacific Institute of Geography, and Academician Yu. N. Zhuravlev, Director of the Institute of Biology and Soil, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, and it was defended by Corresponding Member V.L. Kasianov, Director of the Institute of Marine Biology (Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences) recently deceased under mysterious circumstances. But nobody considers the opinion of the scholars of authority.
Transneft – is a public company, but nevertheless the Russian legislation is violated, as inviolability of protected natural territories of federal importance can be infringed in no circumstances. “It is odd how the company is going to get foreign credits with such attitude towards environmental responsibility," says Evgeny Shvartz. For a public company, the state interests should be foremost in any case.
Sergey Komarov | alfa