More than 25 pan-Russian, regional environmental organizations and public figures sent a collective letter to Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov. The lawsuit alleges violations of the law during the construction of a high-speed motorway through the Volga-Akhtuba unique natural flood park, which is part of UNESCO’s international biosphere reserve network, Russia’s Greenpeace said in a statement.
The Volga-Akhtuba floodplain park was established in 2000 in the northern part of the Volga-Akhtuba floodplain to preserve the unique natural landscape. In 2011, the floodplain became the first site in Russia to be included in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Register. A dry steppe zone starts around the floodplain and there are no oak forests for several hundred kilometers around, writes National Geographic Russia. Along the planned route, there are habitats for rare and endangered species of animals and plants, including the white-tailed eagle, which is listed in the Red Data Book of Russia.
At least 15,000 trees will be cut down to build the route, most of which are unique floodplains. The old type of oak flood forests are subject to logging, where the age of individual oaks reaches 120 years. In addition, more than 80 habitats and increases in special protection items – representatives of the flora and fauna mentioned in the Red Books – have been recorded on the construction site and in its zones of influence. The felling of oaks and the construction of the highway will cause irreparable damage to the ecosystem of the flood plain, environmentalists are convinced. If the route is implemented, many tens of thousands of trees will die, the hydrological regime will change and the unique floodplain ecosystem will be destroyed.
The construction area of the third start-up complex of the bridge along the Volga, which will be carried out in two stages, occupies 163.99 hectares, ie about 0.11% of the area of the entire natural park. The Volga-Caspiy news agency reports, citing data from the Volgograd Interregional Environmental Prosecutor’s Office. The areas of the forest fund within the limits of the future object are 53.21 hectares. In the first stage of construction, 25.17 hectares will be affected, in the second stage of construction of the third start-up complex – 28 hectares. Of these areas of the forest fund, 42.9 hectares are covered by forest vegetation, of which 22.2 hectares are occupied by oak forests.
In a letter to the Attorney General urging environmentalists to protect this unique natural object from destruction, the authors point out that the construction of the road, including deforestation and the destruction of the Red Book species habitat, violates the Red Book legislation. Forest Code, federal laws “On wildlife”, “On Environmental Protection”, “On Specially Protected Natural Soils”, Penal Code of the Russian Federation, etc.
The authors of the letter remind that there is an alternative version of the road that allows the preservation of the natural park, which was supported by Rosprirodnadzor and the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for the development of civil society and human rights. However, the Volga Interregional Environmental Prosecutor’s Office, to which residents and environmental organizations have repeatedly applied, does not take effective measures to limit violations.
It does not protect the interests of nature and the Ministry of Natural Resources: the department agreed on a new arrangement for the park, which allows the felling of acorns for road construction. The Volga Interregional Environmental Prosecutor’s Office refers to this decision. “For some reason, they forget that the regulation has maintained a ban on vegetation destruction, changes in the hydrological regime, breeding of the Red Book’s habitat for animals, plants and fungi,” said Mikhail Kreindlin, head of the Special protected natural areas of the Russian branch of Greenpeace.
The ecologists are asking the Attorney General to stop the construction, to bring to justice those responsible for violations of the law and to facilitate the examination of alternative options for the construction of the highway.
Among the signatories of the appeal are the environmental committee of the Russian Geographical Society, the Russian Social and Ecological Association, the Zapovedniki eco-center, the Center for Wildlife Protection, the ECA movement, the Russian branch of Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from various Russian organizations. Vladimir Morozov, chairman of the Federal Council of the Federal Forest Service, and Alexander Fedorov, a member of the Public Council of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, also signed the agreement. More than 50,000 people have already signed an application for conservation of the floodplain.