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Grigory Pasko: Traveling the Nord Stream, Part V

40% Satisfaction, Babayevo Style By Grigory Pasko, journalist The little town of Babayevo, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday, is nestled on the shore of a small river, the Kolp. Everything is small in this town – the houses, the monuments, even (or so it seemed to me) the people. There is something big here too. But it’s not visible – three huge line gas pipelines, buried at a depth of one meter. In fact, Babayevo is famous for its railway junction – through which long trains pass carrying the people’s wealth (timber, coal, oil) to the west of Russia and beyond its borders – and its gas pipelines. Compressor station -2 in Babayevo is a structural unit of the Sheksninsky line production administration of trunk gas pipelines. Babayevo is also famous because the welding of the first joint of the Russian land portion of the North European Gas Pipeline took place here in December 2005. Taking part in this grandiose, in the words of eyewitnesses, undertaking were prime-minister of Russia Mikhail Fradkov, minister of economics of Germany Michael Glos, chairman of the management board of OAO «Gazprom» Alexey Miller, chairman of the management board of «BASF AG» Jürgen Hambrecht, and chairman of the management board of «E.ON AG» Wulf Bernotat.

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Photo of inscription on a memorial stele by Grigory Pasko. It reads “First weld. December of the year 2005. North European Gas Pipeline. Greifswald-Vyborg-Gryazovets. e.on, Gazprom, BASF”

It is known that for work on the sea portion of the NEGP project, the North European Gas Pipeline Company joint venture, registered in the canton of Zug (Switzerland), was created on 30 November 2005. In the capital of the JV, 51% belongs to «Gazprom», while 24.5% each belongs to «BASF AG» and «E.ON AG». At the first weld ceremony, Miller spoke truthfully: “This project is calculated for the long-term perspective and is aimed at satisfaction of the growing needs of a united Europe for Russian gas”. That is, right from the very start, there was never mention about providing Russian residents with gas. Of course, far from all the inhabitants of Babayevo heard Miller’s words. Which is why, when talking with me, they kept asking me when they, too, would at last be able to consume natural gas at a low price, instead of propane in tanks at a high price – 275 rubles per 50 liter tank (21 kilograms of liquefied gas). When Babayevo was having its 100th anniversary celebrations, the then head of the Rayon, Anatoly Svatkovsky, summed things up: enterprises of the housing-and-public-utilities complex are funded at only 30% of the required amount. The debts of the Rayon for electric power comprise 2.5 mln rubles, for heat energy – 9 mln rubles. “However”, said he, “into the future we look with optimism.” I met with the current head of the Rayon, Oleg Tishin. It turned out that he is looking at the present without optimism, let alone the future. Thus, in part, Oleg Tishin told the following:

“Yet another gas branch is being built. The people continue to live as they have always lived – no worse, but no better either. Of course, the construction gave some an opportunity to find a job, organizations that fill our budget have appeared. But we had really hoped that the gas pipeline – and we’ve already got three branches of them – would give gas to the homes of all the citizens, and not just 40 percent of them. The town has had gas for more than 20 years already. But in the villages of the Rayon they don’t see it at all, only delivered in tanks. tishin0618.jpg Photo of Rayon head Oleg Tishin by Grigory Pasko “The gasmen promised to help build a road to Siuch. They didn’t. Inside the town, the roads are bad – the gasmen have refused to help build them. But they use them for their needs, too, after all. “The gasmen promised to help with the construction of a household solid waste (HSW) facility. They didn’t. Although this item is even in our joint agreements and in the obligations of the gasmen before the territory. By the way, the findings of the environmental impact study are positive for them. “There are other claims with respect to the environment. For example, after pressure testing the pipes, where do they dump the water? Most likely into the river. But the nature-protection procuracy has no claims against them. But it does have claims against us – for not having an HSW facility. svalka0618.jpg Photo of garbage being burned by the side of the road in Babayevo, which can’t afford a town dump, by Grigory Pasko. The sign reads “Esteemed drivers and passengers! Please, do not throw garbage on the road! Respect the labor of road workers!” “My variant of gasification? You’ve got to allocate money. Otherwise we have a paradox: we’re sitting on three branches, but don’t have any gas ourselves. “The construction project is big, the finances are big… Why not make provision for putting money into your own populated centers?”

After talking with Rayon head Tishin, I went to one of the districts of the town – it’s called the Ustyuzhensky Tract over here. This district is on the other side of the railway tracks. There is no pedestrian bridge to there, so the inhabitants have to run across the tracks at their own risk and peril. Some, as they say, die under the trains. There isn’t any money for the construction of an overpass, either.

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Photo of the Ustyuzhensky Tract by Grigory Pasko

Not only little old ladies live in this district, but also perfectly young people. Many of them work at the Babayevo compressor station KS-2. They, like all the inhabitants of the district, buy their gas in tanks. Galina Nikolayeva has been working at KS-2 for 21 years. And her husband Nikolai works there too. Margarita Kuropatkina is retired. But she’s got two sons working at KS-2. She, like her neighbor Galina, doesn’t have a gas line connected to her home. They’re among the unlucky ones who didn’t get a piece of Babayevo’s 40% gas pie.

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Photo of Babayevo residents Margarita and Galina by Grigory Pasko

How many Russians haven’t gotten a piece of the national wealth pie? But it looks like the people have gotten used to this. They don’t complain. Why bother? We’re not living in the Arab Emirates, after all, to be expecting a piece of the national pie…