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 user 2006-04-27 at 11:28:00 am Views: 36
  • #14995

    Putin orders oil pipeline shifted

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the route of a controversial
    new oil pipeline should be altered to avoid the world’s deepest
    freshwater lake.

    Mr Putin said the route, which would have passed close to Lake Baikal, should move 40km (25 miles) north.

    Environmentalists who feared the eastern pipeline would pose a risk to
    Lake Baikal’s unique biodiversity say the decision is a campaign

    The pipeline will link the Siberian oil fields and the Pacific coast.

    Lake Baikal, designated a World heritage site by Unesco, is home to
    hundreds of unique species and the region includes the last remaining
    wild habitat of Russia’s Amur leopard.

    It is the first time that such a positive environmental decision has been taken in a long time

    Andrey Petrov

    The area is also prone to seismic activity and campaigners feared
    earthquakes could disrupt the pipeline, causing an oil spill and
    irreversible damage to the wildlife.

    The state-backed pipeline monopoly Transneft has in the
    past said that rerouting the 1.6 million-barrel-a-day pipeline from the
    proposed path along the shores of Lake Baikal would cost up to a
    billion dollars.

    Final agreement

    Mr Putin’s orders go against recommendations from the state environment watchdog, which had backed Transneft’s plans.

    But during a meeting on Siberian development, which included Transneft
    directors, Mr Putin supported recommendations from the deputy head of
    Russia’s Academy of Sciences, Nikolai Laverov, that the route be

    Mr Putin said construction could start at either end to give time for
    studies to be carried out to decide on a new route north of Lake
    Baikal, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

    “The route should go north of the area that Laverov has named,” Mr Putin insisted.

    “In this way we are significantly reducing the ecological risks before
    construction begins. We can consider this agreement final.”

    Greenpeace Russia, which has led demonstrations against Transneft’s proposed route, has welcomed Mr Putin’s decision.

    Spokesman Andrey Petrov said: “It is victory for the whole of civil society in Russia, not just the ecological movement.”

    He said environmental considerations would still have to be taken into
    account when the new route was planned, but moving it from the shore of
    Lake Baikal had been a key issue.