Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Russian-French PPP Threatens Moscow Forest: Protests Which Are a Lot Harder Than Pulling Weeds.

Yesterday the post was about citizen environmental action--pulling up ragweed before it gets to the point where the city would mow it--and today Radio Can had an interview with a Canadian journalist in Moscow whose been following citizen protests there about cutting down a forest. Talk about a much harder way to block development which is detrimental to the environment!

The story concerns a stretch of a new Moscow to St. Petersburg highway that would run through a forest on the outskirts of the Russian city. Although the Khimki Forest is supposed to be protected and no construction permits have been issued, workers began cutting down trees about 10 days ago.

Protesters have been camping out in the forest, despite the fact that several have been roughed up and arrested. Last week about 100 masked men reportedly invaded their encampment and threatened them with death. When police arrived they did nothing to the invaders, but detained a couple of dozen protesters as well as two journalists.

The whole highway will cost about 8 billion Euros, and will be financed in part of international agencies like the World Bank. A contract was signed July 27 with a consortium, including the French company Vinci Concessions, that would build the road in a private public partnership. Well, we all know how efficient those PPPs are turning out to be in Canada; that is, not all.

The watchdog group CEE Bankwatch, based in Prague, reports that "Groups argue that routing the motorway through the Khimki Forest, a popular respite area for local residents in the polluted and densely populated region and home to elks, boars and other animals, is unnecessary as a straighter route variant exists that would most likely cost less." And, not surprisingly, they caution that the whole situation is rife with opportunity for graft.

Here's the link to an on-line petition calling on international financial institutions to call the project to order. Seems to me this is the least those of us over here who question PPPs in our own bailwick and decry environmental destruction around us can do.

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