Grigory Pasko: The Conservationist Struggle for Lake Baikal

baikal1021010.jpgThe wonderful poet and writer Sasha Raduzhkevich, who left life early, once called everything taking place in Russia «the struggle of a struggle with a struggle».

Indeed, in our country everything is a struggle: from evicting militants from the hideouts long inhabited by them to evicting the summer cottagers of the settlement of «Rechnik».  And that’s not even mentioning the struggle with drunkenness, corruption, «enemies of the people», dissident thought, the opposition…

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The struggle with something has the peculiarity of repeating itself with maniacal cyclicism. It seems that not very long ago at all Russians were already struggling for the saving of Lake Baikal, yet already once again, literally since the beginning of the new year of 2010, we are forced to write letters to the address of the latest president. Greenpeace writes:

Esteemed Dmitry Anatolievich!

On 13 January of the year 2010, issued by the Government of the Russian Federation

was decree N 1 “On the introduction of changes in the list of kinds of activity prohibited in the central ecological zone of the Baikal natural territory”, by which is repealed the prohibition on “the production of pulp, paper, cardboard and articles made from them without the use of zero-discharge systems of water-use for production needs”, as well as on the stockpiling, burial andincineration of dangerous wastes.

This decree creates a legalfoundation for the implementation by the Baikal pulp and paper combine(BCBK) of the discharge of untreated waste waters into lake Baikal – aUNESCO World Heritage Site, without any restrictions whatsoever with respect to terms, volumes or content. Besides this on the shores of the unique lake is possible the stockpiling of wastes of all classes of hazardness and their incineration. The given decree is a violation of the current legislation of the Russian Federation and the international obligations of Russia…”

You can continue reading the full text of Greenpeace’s letter to the president right here.


Personally, I think that they had already reported earlier to thepresident and personally to premier Putin, who signed decree № 1, aboutBaikal and the threat to its existence. That is, one group of peoplehad reported that Baikal – is our everything. And another group – abouthow the owner of the BCBK, the oligarch Deripaska – are also, as itwere, not unfamiliar subjects to either the country or to Putin withMedvedev.

And there is also the favourite state child – the army. They say itneeds «military» pulp. For example, for the production of «Topol»missiles (there, they say, is needed specifically bleached pulp -feedstock for the fabrication of the materials from which they make the nozzles of the engines and the heat-shielding units of the “Topol-M” and “Bulava” missiles).

Dmitry Anatolievich and Vladimir Vladimirovich – are state people.These aren’t ecologists, after all – some kind of fringe “marginals”.Of course, they could, if they so desired, manage to shed a tear onaccount of the saving of “our everything”. But – the security of theMotherland for them – above everything!

(In so doing, I suspect that in their state brains the words«Motherland» and «Baikal», apparently, in no way intersect. They’re notmutually interrelated there.)

Of course, there are certain personalities, not well versed inmatters of state security, who propose creating in Baikalsk a center oftourism, as well as including it together with other tracts of Slyudyansky Rayon in a special tourist and economic zone. Also they, these funny people, areproposing instead of the BCBK to open a plant for the production ofdrinking
butylated water from the lake. Can you imagine: instead of missiles – drinking water!

Although one could combine, after all: discharge wastes into thelake, and then pour these same wastes into bottles. And on the labeladvertise «Topols» (also, after all, «our nearly everything»).

The struggle for Baikal seems to me to be a prolonged one. Thedefenders of state security and the BCBK assert that the treatmentfacilities of the combine do not have analogues in the world, and overthe 40 years of the work of the enterprise not one ecological balance of Baikal has been disrupted. (It’s musthave been just this undisrupted balance that the premier of Russia sawlast year, when he descended to the bottom of Baikal).

Ecologists are convinced that this is not so and that the governmentdecree gives the Baikal combine all legal grounds for the discharge ofuntreated waste waters into Baikal without any restrictions withrespect to terms, volumes and content.

One nuance: the ecologists are calling upon Medvedev to repealPutin’s decree. It seems to me that it won’t be repealed for thisreason as well. Because Medvedev – is Putin’s placeman, his paleshadow. A shadow can not repeal the one who is casting it.

So the «struggle of a struggle …» will continue. Some people feel sorryfor the lake, others for Deripaska with the «Topols». It’s not hard toguess who will win in this struggle.

Photos of lake Baikal by Grigory Pasko