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City news, 06.08.2007 16:48

Environmentalists Get on Their Bikes to Map Black Spots

Leningrad_Nuclear_Power_Station_(LAES) By Galina Stolyarova

Staff Writer

Members of local environmental groups have ridden bikes across the southern coast of the Finnish Gulf to help create a map of pollution black spots and campaign against environmental pollution resulting from industrial projects.

“The south coast has become a site of gigantic construction works including the Baltic Aluminium Plant, the Baltic Silicon Valley project and a center for the treatment of spent nuclear fuel from the Leningrad Nuclear Power Station (LAES),” said Oleg Bodrov, chairman of environmental group Green World, the rally’s organizer. “These projects, costing more than $20 billion, if fully implemented, are bound to destroy the coastline.”

Bodrov said genetic mutations have already been found in pine trees around the town of Sosnovy Bor where LAES is located, and environmentalists warn that risks for the ecology would immensely increase with the arrival of the new waste processing facility.

“Projects like this have to undergo an independent environmental assessment, but what we had in the case of the LAES’s waste treatment center was fictitious,” Bodrov said. “Vladimir Grachev, head of the State Duma’s Environmental Committee set up a special NGO, titled the Russian Ecological Movement for Concrete Activities which then carried out the assessments with predictably favorable results. No independent environmentalists had a say in the issue.”

Ecologists claim that chemical wastes and toxic industrial discharge dumped into the air and water by the enterprises will produce highly damaging combinations for the environment.

The bike ride’s participants sought to increase awareness of the risks the new industrial developments involve and the challenges they pose among local people. In addition to Sosnovy Bor, another black spot is the Lebyazhye settlement near Lomonosov.

Alexander Senotrusov, deputy head of municipal council of the Lebyazhye settlement, said the area is rapidly turning into a target for private construction initiatives. Recent amendments to Russian legislation have made it much easier for construction companies to take over valuable land.

“Back in the Soviet area, the coastline up to 100 meters from the water’s edge into the land was protected against any construction but now it has been reduced to 20 meters, and the results are devastating,” Senotrusov said.

“Beaches in the area stretching for 70 meters inland are left now almost entirely unprotected.”

The Lebyazhye area, inhabited by over 200 species registered in the Red Book of Nature, was a national reserve until the Russian government removed it from the list in 1999.

In the spring, following negative international reaction, the area regained its status but the territory of the national reserve has shrunk drastically.

“It lost two-thirds of the inland zone,” Senotrusov said. “The area is inhabited by swans during the spring and autumn migration [its name translates into English as “Swan’s Land”]. If it is heavily developed, the land will become unsuitable for swans.”

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