Kremlin fast-tracks lake pipeline despite protests of greens

Environmentalists have warned that an oil spill would pour 4,000 tons of oil into the lake - known as the Blue Eye of Siberia - in just 20 minutes, causing irreparable damage. But the Kremlin is impatient for construction to begin and has given green groups' concerns short shrift. Driven by the lucrative prospect of supplying Russian oil to China, Moscow appears to have put profit before the sanctity of a Unesco World Heritage Site.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered Transneft, the state-controlled pipeline company, to press ahead with construction, and the project has been taken under the personal control of the Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Fradkov.

This week Transneft approved a work schedule for the pipeline that envisages permits being granted by the end of this year so that work can start in 2006. The first stage of the pipeline is due to go online in 2008.

Russia's Natural Resources minister had objected to the plan because in places the pipeline would run within 800m of Lake Baikal. But under pressure from the Kremlin the ministry appears to have dropped all objections. Rinat Gizatulin, the ministry's spokesman, explained to the daily Kommersant: "We held consultations with Transneft and the ministry was satisfied with the measures which the company has promised to take for the protection of Baikal." He promised the ministry would keep a close watch on construction work to ensure that environmental legislation was not flouted.

Sergei Grigoriev, Transneft's vice-president, said the company had done all it could to meet ecologists' concerns. "We have proved that we have placed the pipeline as far away from Baikal as we could. To place it further away would not have made economic sense."

The £8.8bn pipeline will stretch from Taishet in eastern Siberia to the Sea of Japan, a distance of almost 2,600 miles. The project is modern Russia's most ambitious and is being built to supply oil to China, Japan and South Korea. When completed it will transport 80 million tons of oil a year and provide the Russian treasury with the equivalent of hundreds of millions of pounds in transfer fees.

It was decided to lay a stretch of the pipeline close to Lake Baikal in order to follow the Baikal-Amur railway line, which skirts the lake, making it cheaper to carry out construction and maintenance. But green groups have warned that this puts the lake's protected status at risk.

Roman Vazhenkov, coordinator of Greenpeace Russia's Baikal programme, believes the pipeline is a catastrophe waiting to happen. "One major accident will mean there will be no site left worth protecting," he said.

Baikal is the largest single source of unfrozen fresh water - holding 20 per cent of the planet's fresh water - and a rich store of biodiversity, with 1,340 animal species and 570 plant species, many of them endemic.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
tv

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
A Rutherford Raiders shirt with the PornHub sponsorship
football

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe gives a strong performance in Horns
film

Review: Alexandre Aja's film is a Twin Peaks-style mystery

News
Apple CEO Timothy Cook
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
film
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Financial Controller - Media, Hospitality / Events

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

Management Accountant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful events and hospital...

The benefits of Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Are you looking for a...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes