How necessary are these changes today and are concerns about possible damage to the environment justified? One of the authors of the law, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, member of the Federation Council from 2013 to 2017, honorary scientist of the Russian Federation Arnold Tulokhonov told RG about this.
Arnold Kirillovich, what are the prerequisites for the adoption of amendments to the law on the protection of Lake Baikal?
Arnold Tulokhonov: In this case, there are two key points. The first is expressed in concentration in the sentence: “First of all, it is necessary to protect not the trees that will grow anyway, but the people.” The second point is that it is necessary to comply with the Constitution of Russia. In its second article it is said that “a person, his rights and freedoms are the highest value. The recognition, observance and protection of human and civil rights and freedoms shall be the duty of the State.” And in the ninth article it is written: “Land and other natural resources are protected and used in the Russian Federation as a basis for the life and activities of peoples living in the relevant territory.” And nowhere is there a provision indicating that environmental restrictions may infringe on the interests of local people.
Today, there are restrictions on agricultural activities on the shores of Lake Baikal, grazing, harvesting firewood, collecting wild plants and even protecting houses from forest fires.
People cannot be held hostage by any protected area, be it Baikal or the Amazon. It is important to understand that without logging it is impossible to build roads, develop tourism, form communal infrastructure and allocate places for burial.
Statistics show that the population of Baikal’s coastal municipalities is declining the most, where more restrictions on economic activity have been introduced. At the same time, most often people leave the settlements located directly on the shore of the great lake. Only from the territory of the Central Ecological Zone in Buryatia in the past ten years, 7823 people, or 8.69 percent, have decreased. That is, almost one in ten residents left their homes.
The population of Baikal’s coastal municipalities is declining the most, where there are more restrictions on economic activity
Meanwhile, the state plans to expand tourist activities on Lake Baikal, build hotels and campsites. Is this realistic under the conditions of prohibitions and restrictions?
What impact will logging have on the ecosystem in Lake Baikal? Is it possible to do this without harming nature?
Arnold Tulokhonov: There will be no negative impact, as logging is due to clear conditions and can only be done to ensure people’s lives and create infrastructure.
What area will be logged?
Arnold Tulokhonov: The law defines specific areas, everything is justified and calculated in such a way that it does not harm nature. Let me give you a concrete example: when building a road with a length of about 30 kilometers, it is necessary to cut down 550 trees. Here is the price of the problem.
And today it happens like this: there are settlements that are in the forest bottom, and if even a tree is cut there, the environmental prosecutor will come and impose a fine. And everyone is afraid of him. In fact, the hands of local authorities are tied. The amendments to the law are designed to change this situation.
I repeat: people must have the opportunity to solve their life problems: fishing, harvesting firewood, going for berries, protecting their homes from fires. Speaking of this, I speak in three ways: as an academic who knows the scientific basis, as a senator who created the law and made changes, and as a citizen, a resident of this territory.
Will logging affect the territories of nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries?
Arnold Tulokhonov: In no case will special protected areas remain intact. In addition, the new version of the law clearly states that for every tree felled you must plant five new ones. This is a prerequisite.
I would also like to point out that all changes and amendments to the draft law under discussion in accordance with article 72 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation are under the joint jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and its constituent entities and should therefore beTirse , including at the level of regional authorities. In addition, I consider it appropriate to use the experience of specialized institutes and experts of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Buryatian academic community is professionally aware of the environmental situation on Lake Baikal. We are not against reasonable economic restrictions, but provided that they do not affect the interests of local residents, they do not infringe on their constitutional rights.