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City news
Fradkov Gives $17M for Dam
08.10.2004 11:23

st_petersburg_dam ST PETERSBURG TIMES

By Sophia Kornienko


Photo by Alexander Belenky / SPT

The federal government will allocate 500 million rubles ($17 million) to resume the construction of the St. Petersburg dam after a 17-year break, the government's press service reported Friday.

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov decided to reanimate the city's flood protection project as part of the government's corrections to the state capital investments planned in this year's federal budget.

The measure is also meant to reassure the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, or EBRD that promised to provide a loan of $240 million for the dam construction. EBRD had to delay the loan twice due to the government's inability to confirm their share in financing the project.

The first money transfers from the EBRD were expected in the autumn of 2003, given that the federal center would finance the project at par. However, in the light of little activity on behalf of the federal government, the EBRD gave the dam only $3 million in 2003. This year's estimated tranche of $40 million from the EBRD remains yet to be made.

The Northwestern division of the State Committee on Construction and Architecture, or Gosstroi, had originally requested 600 million rubles ($20.5 million) from the federal budget this year, but 500 million will be enough to cover the main works scheduled for 2004, Kommersant wrote Monday.

In the opinion of Kommersant's analysts, what matters most is that federal support will help return the loyalty of the project's Western creditors.

No comments were available from the EBRD's divisions in Russia and the U.K. on Monday, as most of the authorized staff were out of office.

Meanwhile, Gosstroi Northwest is planning to request 900 million rubles from the federal budget for next year's works at the dam construction site.

The list of works to be commissioned using the money received this year and the call for tenders will be announced within ten days, general director of Gosstroi Northwest, Boris Paikin told Kommersant.

The idea to build a dam was first voiced in 1955, after the city was severely flooded earlier that year. The dam was engineered in 1968-1977, and the project has undergone no serious changes since - a 26-kilometer dam is supposed to cover the narrowest part of the Neva Bay.

Dam construction started in 1980 and was expected to be completed within a decade, but met with protests from the city's public organizations. Ecologists wrote a letter to the president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, saying the dam had a negative affect on the environment of the Gulf of Finland. Due to the public pressure works were stopped in 1987. By then the dam was more than half-finished.

In 2001, the damage that the operating dam was going to cause to the local environment was calculated by the Transboundary and Environmental News bulletin . The dam's share in the pollution of the general reservoir, including both the Gulf of Finland and the Neva Bay, was estimated at 0.6 percent, the bulletin reported .

According to specialists from several countries, the bulletin said, the unfinished dam was going to harm the environment to a much greater extent, as in the case of another flood, it would create much debris. In the absence of the dam, a flood can bring the waters polluted with city waste into the gulf, it said.

After the economic crisis in the beginning of the 1990s, Gosstroi had little hope of resuming the construction. Meanwhile, up to 150 million rubles ($5 million) was being annually allocated from the federal budget for the maintenance of the constructed part of the dam.

The State Duma first approved the plan to obtain a loan from a Western bank to partially finance the project in 2001. The total cost of the project is estimated at $420 million, Kommersant said.

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