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Grigory Pasko: Sochi Olympics Construction Threatens Boxwood Forest

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The construction of the facilities of the Sochi olympiad is picking up speed. So fast, indeed, that chips are beginning to fly. Together with forests, naturally. Forest preserves, ancient forests, eternally green… Incidentally, the only thing that can be eternal in our country is problems. And, as history from the times of the «best manager» of all times and peoples teaches us: no person (no forest, river, lake, birds, beasts – underline as appropriate) – no problem.

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In the dust of the Sochi constructions, it seems, there will soon be one forest less – this time a boxwood one.

Of all the boxwood groves, deserving of particular guardianship onthe part of the state is perhaps the Khostinskaya yew-and-boxwoodgrove. In October of the year 2009 in the administration of theCaucasian preserve there even took place a meeting on the inclusion ofthe grove in the programme of Olympic facilities – in the capacity ofan excursional complex.

This grove, it can be said, got lucky.

Other groves didn’t fare so well. Furthermore, one of them – that’sin the valley of the river Mzymta (right name – the Mzymtian bottomlandboxwood forest, the largest in Russia, and perhaps in the world, virginnatural complex of normal tertiary-ancient Colchisian forest), wassubjected to complete and total annihilation – along its territory mustpass the Adler-Krasnaya Polyana route. It goes without saying,ecologists from the very beginning protested against the clear-cuttingof the boxwood grove. But by the time the builders heard theecologists, tens of thousands of trees had been chopped down.

Recently it was reported with pomp that they’re going to alter thedesign for the construction of the Adler — Krasnaya Polyana combinedroad, so as to save the ancient boxwood forest. The cost of the road inso doing is going to increase by 183 mln rubles.

Interesting, did anybody count how much one boxwood tree costs? Inconsideration of the fact that it is, as an example, 300-400 years old.

The route of the road, as the builders say, can not be changed. First,they say, it is precisely this route that played a decisive role inSochi having won the right to conduct the games at a session of theInternational olympic committee in the year 2007 in Guatemala.

Second, the deadlines are getting tight – the road has to be ready bythe year 2013. By this deadline in the valley of the river Mzymta, inthe mountains, in the most complex geographical and geologicalconditions in prospect for the builders is the laying of 48 km of a newrailroad and 46 km of a modern auto trunk road, the building of 28bridges and 59 trestles with an overall spread of 37 km, the punchingthrough of 12 tunnels .. It’s an understandable business, some kind ofgrove is the last thing on their minds.

At OAO «RZhD» [Russian Railroads–Trans.] they’re asserting that allpossible measures are being undertaken to minimize the negative impactof the construction and the future completed entity on the surroundingenvironment.

As employee of Ekologicheskaya vakhta [Environmental watch–Trans.]of the North Caucasus Andrei Rudomakha told me, the truth, here is onlyin that a decision has indeed been adopted on the construction of anoverpass in the unique bottomland boxwood forest and that this isbetter than the complete annihilation of this forest, as had beenplanned earlier.

However, representing this technical decision, if it will berealized, as an ecological achievement of Olympiad-2014 will be a biglie. The positive is in one and only one thing – the variant ofbuilding a combined road is lesser. But it does not exclude large-scaleeconomic intrusion in the Mzymtian bottomland boxwood forest, thedestruction of a huge quantity of trees of boxwood and a significantquantity of old-age trees .

Yet another lie, in the opinion of Rudomakha, is that theconstruction of this overpass is the initiative of RZhD, whichsupposedly had not been brought about by the protests of the «greens».It is precisely the active protests of the «greens», who already inJune of this year raised the question of the necessity of preservingthis massif and then placed the struggle for its preservation at thehead of the whole campaign implemented by them for compliance withecological requirements during preparation for Olympiad-2014, thatbecame the reason for OAO «RZhD» not destroying this massif already inthe summer, as had been planned.

The common position of ecological organizations and experts consistsof: for the saving of the unique boxwood forest, the route of the roadmust go around it, for which it needs to be moved all of a hundredmeters to the side.

However, in the opinion of OAO «RZhD», there is already noopportunity for going around the boxwood forest, on which the «greens»are insisting.

In connection with this ecologists bring attention to the fact thatthe negligent attitude of the organizers of the olympiad in Sochitowards the surrounding environment undermines trust first and foremostin the International Olympic Committee as an ecologically responsibleinternational institution.

Apropos:

«The cost of one linear kilometre of road will comprise in excess of4. 8 billion rubles, or around 140 million dollars at the currentmarket rate! In the international practice of the construction ofroads, the maximum cost of construction – is 70 mln. dollars.

…The objective cost of installing the entire Adler-Krasnaya Polyanaroad should not exceed 4 bln. dollars. But it is planned in a sum of 7bln. dollars.

There is not even a need in principle for the Adler-Krasnaya Polyanaroad with its cosmic cost: there are other variants. For example,building a road from the edn of the Krasnodar bridge through Azhek andMedoveyevka to Krasnaya Polyana.

There are grounds to deem that the main motive for such actions[construction of the Ader-Krasnaya Polyana road along the current route- G.P.] are not so much the Olympiad or concern about the developmentof Sochi as the corruptional interests and desire of officials to earnon a project of incredible costliness».

B.Nemtsov, V.Milov, «Sochi i olimpiada» [Sochi and the olympiad], independent expert report. 2009.