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Grigory Pasko: The Pollution of Lake Baikal

baikal052110.jpgThe Russian premier sure loves his idiomatic phrases. He has certainly made up a number of his very own, and when he can’t, he always manages to remember something suitable to the occasion. And so it was that he remembered a phrase from the immortal film «Brilliantovaya ruka» [The Diamond Arm], beloved by all Russians. True, he added his own little twist, but hey, he’s a newsmaker after all, he’s allowed to. The phrase from the film sounds like this: «I’m starting to act without noise and dust according to the newly confirmed plan! – Lelik». Our «Lelik», having recalled his confirmed plan for the pollution of Baikal, said: « “One must look at the entire problem as a whole, to study it. Everything needs to be looked at attentively, without any squealing, noise, state – like…»

In January, as is known, Vladimir Putin signed a decree, permitting the production of the output of the Baikal pulp and paper combine (BCBK) “without the useof discharge-free systems of water-use”. In such a manner, the BCBK was once againable to renew production, «state-like», that is, polluting the lake. Ecologists, it goes without saying, rose up against such a decision. Long before V.V.Putin, they had been proposing to «look at everything attentively», but nobody had heard them. Therefore they are once again forced to come out against the renewal of the work of the enterprise; they are writing letters and calls; appealing to UNESCO, under whose protection the unique lake is found…Putin himself didn’t comment on the situation with the BCBK for a long time. But suddenly it burst out. Evidently he was looking for the necessary phrase. He found it. And at a session of the geographical society of Russia he voiced it.What’s interesting to me is did the geographers say something to the premier in response or did they keep silent, swallowing the phrase?Just don’t tell me about how «you can’t forget about the development of the region and of the city of Baikalsk with a population in excess of 14 thousand people»! Better you should say why is it that it is in just this way, through one place, that these and other problems are resolved?While you’re at it, give me a literate and with reasoned critique of the position of the ecologists and all those who defend Baikal and propose alternative ways of development for the region and the city.Putin speaks about the «degradation of the socio-economic sphere». Surely he can’t be saying that Baikal, by its mere existence, has led to this degradation? Or the ecologists? And surely he can’t be saying that one needs to crawl out of this degradation at the cost of the cleanness of Baikal?Putin says that the emissions of the BCBK into Baikal and into the atmosphere are not the biggest ones – a mere 27.4 thousand metric tons of wastewater!Of course, for the BCBK this isn’t much. And from this Baikal is not going to disappear in a month. Or in a year. Or in ten. But in twenty – it will disappear. Or in thirty… Either Baikal , or something living in it.Mister Putin, name for us the term that you have allotted to Baikal! And also – the true reasons for which you have decided to forget that as far back as the year 2008 the nature-protection organs had forced the BCBK to switch over to a closed water circulation system, ruling out the discharge of wastewater into Baikal.No, mister Putin, let us at least in the case with Baikal discuss everything out loud and intelligibly, openly and honestly; expressing ourselves with your words, «with noise and with squealing». I understand that the words «openly» and «out loud» – are not from your lexicon and mentality, but still!Believe me, Baikal, just like Paris and the Mass, is well worth it!If you keep everything all hush-hush, you are certain to forget it.