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24 April 2006 @ 11:07 pm
Lake Baikal: Exercising our rights as sieged  
State company Transneft is planning to build an oil-pipe line along the coast of Great Lake Baikal, which is a storage of 20% of world’s fresh water of the highest quality. Lake Baikal existed million years before mankind and now the momentary chase of benefit can destroy the lake in a few precious days. Transneft insists on the project that guarantees annihilation of Lake Baikal despite the obvious contradiction with the tasks of environmental protection, execution of national and international laws, opinion of scientists and society and common sense.
By official estimations from 5 to 10 percents of oil escapes to the environment in Russia. Only one Transneft had about 10-15 accidents on its oil lines this year. The high seismicity of the region adds up to standard possible leaking. The area is one of the most seismically active in Siberia where earthquakes measuring 10 on the Richter scale occur – not a single oil-pipe line is going to bear this. And what is then going to be with Baikal?
A leakage from the pipeline that passes directly along the coast (as close at 800 meters at one point, and crossing 10 major rivers flowing into the lake) can occur due to a slightest crash. In case of such an accident within 20-40 minutes up to 40,000 tons of oil could enter the lake with catastrophic consequences. Academy of Sciences have warned that in this case some 10 thousand square kilometers of the lake (one third of it) would be covered by oil. Nothing alive is going to stay in the water, the surface of which is covered with oil film in 5-8 hours. No emergency service will be able to deal with this breakdown in that short time even if it will arrive on the place immediately.
Lake Baikal is the self-cleaning ecosystem unique by its potential and complexity. For many years it has been studied by limnologists, biologists, chemists and physicists. The scientists are far from understanding all details of the tremendous recreation capability of Baikal. But it is already clear that this capability is connected with an extremely subtle trimming of biochemical properties of endemic animals and bacterias with large masses of water physical properties on different depths – its specific transparency, temperature, salinity, quality of saluted oxygen and its geologic and climatic peculiarities.
The ruthful experience of Baikal Pulp And Paper Mill had shown that changes of the waters physical properties disrupts subtle trimming of chemical communication between Baikal inhabitants and leads to abrupt depopulation of endemic omul and freshwater Baikal seal. After all, Baikal Pulp And Paper Mill dumps “merely but” treated water!
As soon as amount of oil in Baikal will exceed the one that Baikal bacterias can recycle, the irreversible changes of water physical properties will arise. They will disrupt biochemical cycles of Baikal inhabitants, which will make changes of water physical properties even worse and lead to break-in of defense mechanism and death of Baikal – the lake will turn into a catch pit.
People of the Baikal region are trying to defend the lake. More than 60 thousand signatures against the pipe are collected to the moment. Two mass-meetings of many thousands took place in Irkutsk. Moreover, on 21st and 22nd of April meetings were held in Angarsk, Ulan-Ude, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhni Novgorod, Severobaikalsk, Rostov-on-Don and Kazan. Actions were dated to the International Earth Day.
But the government doesn’t want to hear anything about this. Public hearings on the project were held in secret. The state commission of ecologists defeated the bill, but the decision was reversed. The examination has been prolonged for a month, during which new 34 experts joined the commission. The new commission approved the project. Also on this occasion the actual water codex was edited so it won’t disturb the destruction of Lake Baikal.
A group of world’s heritage defenders is fighting with a government monster in isolation from the whole world.
Transneft and the head of the state are in the advantageous position in all spheres: economic, administrative (all state levels have proper instructions), legal (even if the laws have to be changed), informational (the informational blockade is organized well and the world hears only Vainstock and Putin). Vainstock blamed people that stand up for the Lake – people that gathered in one solid unselfish impulse – for anti-national activity. The central TV accused independent organizations of being sponsored by foreign intelligence.
The defenders ask international banks to stop financing Transneft projects and call people from all over the world to give us moral and informational help and support of any kind.
And if the laws can be rewritten for the pipe we head for involving the international human rights organizations. The defenders have no other way to fight except by means of information. The break-through of informational blockade is the necessary condition of victory.

It is the question of life and death of Great Lake, world’s heritage and the future of our children. It claims for drastic solution.