United Russia sold Baikal

Dputats from the United Russia have canceled the conservation status of the territories around the lake.
State Duma deputies adopted a number of laws concerning the Baikal natural territory. In particular, on July 15, in the third reading, the draft law "On the specifics of regulation of certain relations in order to modernize and expand the main infrastructure and on amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation" was adopted, which will allow until December 31, 2024 not to conduct a state environmental impact assessment for all facilities related to the modernization of transport infrastructure. Also, according to the bill, activities are allowed on the territory, allowing to increase the throughput of the Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian railways.

To put it more simply, now the law allows the transfer of forest lands to lands of other categories and, accordingly, cut down as much forest as it seems necessary.

"Construction, reconstruction of infrastructure facilities (objects not related to the creation of forest infrastructure) necessary to increase the throughput of the Baikal-Amur and Trans-Siberian railways on the lands of the forest fund are allowed with clear felling and the transfer of these lands to lands of other categories" - indicated in the bill.

According to Mikhail Kreindlin, a specialist in environmental legislation and an expert at Greenpeace Russia, this bill is dangerous precisely because it abolishes environmental expertise, which is the only legislatively enshrined form of environmental assessment of an infrastructure facility. The examination also ensured the rights of citizens to receive information about what is planned to be done on their territory, that is, the inhabitants of the country could influence the adoption of environmentally significant decisions.

Because of the bill, Baikal can now be built up without public hearings.

It is likely that the clause, in particular on the abolition of the examination, was lobbied, because officials themselves realize how deplorable the construction of transport facilities can become for Baikal, despite public statements that their construction will be controlled and will not cause serious harm.

Nikolai Nikolayev, chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, Property and Land Relations of the State Duma, explained the decision to cut down forests by the fact that ecology is a big policy today. According to him, BAM and Transsib will bring great benefits for Russia and China, since it will be possible to transport goods from China to Europe along the highways.

“To expand the BAM, you need to remove a strip of wood. I want to remind you that, according to the adopted law on compulsory reforestation, this strip must be planted on the territory of this region without fail. Initially, this railway was built as a highway that connects the Far East with Central Russia. And this is the only highway of its kind, ”said Nikolaev.

The bill does not provide for any restrictions on the size of a "strip" of forest.

Deputies N.N. are involved in the introduction of the bill "On the specifics of regulation of certain relations in order to modernize and expand the main infrastructure and on amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation" Gonchar ("ER"), I.V. Sapko ("ER"), R.V. Karmazin ("EP"), P.M. Fedyaev ("United Russia"), V.I. Afonskiy ("ER"), I.M. Guseva ("ER"), N.V. Malov ("EP"). However, Greenpeace Russia expert Mikhail Kreindlin assumes that the main lobbyists are the Ministry of Transport and Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Marat Khusnullin, who is responsible for the construction and development of infrastructure.

Also, the Ministry of Nature has submitted for discussion an updated list of activities that are prohibited in the central ecological zone of the Baikal natural territory. We would like to remind you that the Baikal natural territory is divided into three parts: central, buffer and zone of atmospheric influence. At the same time, the central one is a specially protected natural area, and its borders are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The new list from the Ministry of Natural Resources indicates that the previously existing ban on economic activities on the shores of Lake Baikal will no longer apply to investment projects implemented on the basis of acts of the federal government, and to decrees and orders of the President of Russia.

“This project is generally monstrous. For example, a hypothetical situation: some Chinese investor comes to the governor of Buryatia and says that he wants to build some kind of pulp and paper mill on Lake Baikal and cut down the entire remaining forest for this. The governor writes a letter to the president, the president appoints the consideration of this issue. This means that - that's it, it will be built, ”Mikhail Kreindlin explains the possible consequences of the new list from the Ministry of Natural Resources.

That is, the bills being discussed now literally free their hands for the construction of even the most dangerous objects near Lake Baikal.