Russia: Lake Baikal destruction ends because of a failed economic plan

The global financial crisis has shut down the mill, a feat that
ecologists, trying to preserve Lake Baikal from pollution, had been
unable to accomplish.The mill closure threatens to drive this lonesome
town, clinging to the southern shore of Lake Baikal in the great
wastes of Siberia, to extinction. ”

It seems to me this will soon be a
dead town,” said Alexander Shendrik, head of the mill’s union. By now,
most of the 2,280 millworkers have been told they are redundant, as
the lingo goes, and put on forced leave until early February. They
were supposed to draw a percentage of their salaries until then —
average pay is just over $500 a month — but have been warned not to
expect any money in December. “Everybody depends upon the plant.”
Built by communism and imperiled by capitalism, the town was founded
by Communist Party volunteers who constructed the mill amid the rich
timber forest. The pollution-generating factory chugged for decades
alongside the oldest, deepest lake on the planet, a vast ecological
gem nicknamed the Galapagos of Russia for the rare species it
contains. Through the years, the volunteers started families and
meshed into a close-knit working-class community. The mill was
privatized with the fall of the Soviet Union, but the lifestyle was
little changed. Children went to the plant’s kindergarten; some
families lived in factory housing. Even today, the town is run by
former Communist Party leaders. But the mill has long been criticized
by both Russian and foreign environmentalists as a dangerous
anachronism, a remnant from the days when the Soviet Union rushed to
create industry at any cost. A battle has raged for years over whether
to shutter the mill to preserve the lake, a UNESCO World Heritage
Site. Because of environmental concerns, the mill had already been
forced to adopt a cleaner but costlier mode of production. This was a
wan victory for environmentalists, who had wanted to shut the plant
altogether, and a blow to workers, who believe their livelihood was
put at risk for an abstract ecological threat they consider

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Comments (1)

RainMay 7th, 2009 at 7:26 pm

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