On the 6th November, a march and rally were held in Irkutsk as part of the all-russian campaign 'Support Baikal, Utrish and Khimki Forest! Save our nature!'. The main aim of the campaign is to stop the destruction of precious parts of Russia's nature, such as Baikal, the reserve of Utrish and the unique Khimki forest.
In total, over 500 people attended the event. It began at 14:20 at the intersection of Karl Marx street and Proletarskoi street, and participants marched from here to the town square just in front of the City circus, bearing banners and placards. It was here that the rally began, despite the poor weather and bitter cold. Environmental campaigners raised all kinds of issues at the event, ranging from local problems to concerns of national interest, such as the pollution of Baikal and the destruction of the nature reserve of Utrish.
Guests from Moscow were also present. Evgeny Usov of Greenpeace Russia passed on greetings and support from a Yuri Shevchuck, lead singer of DDT and resident of the town Baikalsk. Other notable participants included: Valentina S. Prosekina, chief of the movie theatre 'Dialog', artist Anatoliy Kostovski, Irkutsk poet Anatoliy Volchuk and Marina Rikhvanova, co-chair of 'Baikal Environmental Wave'.
Similar events have already taken place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Anapа (Krasnodar region) and other cities. This wave of demonstrations is related to the fact that, despite the rhetoric of the authorities on environmental modernization, beaurocrats at all levels have allied themselves with corrupt businesses that are continuing to destroy the most valuable parts of Russia's nature. A number of organizations have joined forces to hold these demonstrations and rallies. These include the following; The Baikal Movement, Baikal Environmental Wave, Greenpeace Russia, Northern Caucusus Environmental Watch, The 'We will save Utrish' movement, The movement to defend Khimki Forest, The Social-ecological Union and the environmental rights centre 'Belona'.
Baikal: Decree № 1 from 13.01.2010 has allowed for the reopening of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, the main polluter of Lake Baikal. Conducted audits have shown that the plant dumps illegal hazardous substances (including organochlorines) into the lake. Because of obsolete equipment used by the Mill, accident are inevitable and people are likely to die. Nevertheless, the plant's work continues.
Utrish: According to Govenment decree № 1436-r dated 2nd September 2010 to establish a nature reserve 'Utrish', the most valuable coastal areas of ancient forest can be withdrawn from the territory of the reserve and will lose its status as a regional nature reserve. This will allow for the implementation of plans to build a luxury sports and fitness complex in the area, and for the construction of a network of road which will penetrate the forest. The death of the unique landscape is inevitable.
Khimki: Plans are afoot to build a toll-highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg, which will run through through the center of a unique forest close to Moscow, despite the fact that there are several other options. Construction of the road would destroy the forest as a single entity, and will dramatically worsen the living conditions in Khimki city area.
The Russian groups demand the following:
- that an immediate independent review is undertaken of the technological condition of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, and that steps are taken to safetly close the plant, in the process creating in alternative jobs.
- the reversal the Government Decree № 1 dated January 13, 2010.
- to abandon all plans for the construction of recreational facilities and infrastructure in the reserve "Greater Utrish".
- The inclusion of coastal areas within the confines of the new nature reserve.
the preservation of Khimki forest, and the consideration of building the road to bypass the Khimki woods.