Broken Promises in Ravaged Sochi

There was a heartbreaking, albeit unsurprising, article in The Independent this weekend about the collapse of Russia’s Zero Waste Pledge for the Sochi Olympics.  You may remember that part of Russia’s initial bid for the Olympics back in 2007 was predicated on an outlandish pledge to leave behind ‘an incredible environmental legacy for future generations‘?  Well, it has succeeded.  Although not in the way it set out to.

The original plan was as follows:

According to the plan Sochi says there will be a 100 per cent treatment of the solid and biological waste products in the city of Sochi which should significantly improve the environment of the resort and promote the introduction of modern “green” technologies across Russia.

Alarm bells started ringing in 2010, when it was estimated that there would eventually be five million tonnes of construction waste to deal with. News that construction workers in the region were dumping waste in illegal landfills in neighbouring villages (such as Akhshtyr and Uch-Dere) started to emerge last year, and now Sochi residents are complaining of toxic water in the river, contaminated drinking water, fruit covered in limestone dust, dry wells, and devastated infrastructure.

[…] a 45km highway from the coastal cluster of Olympic venues to the mountain cluster built by Russian Railways at a cost of £4.8bn has isolated the village from Sochi. To reach their school, local children have to walk down a long barbed-wire-lined path, across the busy Olympic highway and across a hanging bridge.

“The Olympics are not bad, but they are violating the rights of the people who live here,” said Andrei Antonyan, who was picking his daughter up from her long trek home from school. “They didn’t build a connecting road, but instead cut us off.”

And what is Russia doing about the problem?  Are there plans to redress these heinous errors?  All that appears to be happening thus far are attempts to silence environmental activists by harassing and arresting them.