Russia’s ‘garbage’ protests
Activists in the Arkhangelsk region in the north of Russia are demanding that construction of a landfill site be stopped.
According to the plan, garbage from Moscow will be brought to this landfill. Protesters claim that the new landfill is not only environmentally dangerous, but also completely disadvantageous from an economic point of view.
The protests have been going on for six months already, and have attracted demonstrators from across Russia.
Dozens of activists every day come from different cities of Russia to a tent camp at the Shies railway station in the Arkhangelsk region to relieve those who have already been on watch. Participants of the protest rally are observed day and night by a police detachment.
No one lives in the village of Shies (stress on the first syllable): the area is completely remote, surrounded by forests, small rivers and swamps. It was the swamps that became one of the main reasons why people oppose the landfill.
People say the decomposed waste and gasses will poison local water systems.
“According to the law, landfills cannot be placed on marshland”, explains Dmitry Sekushin, a frequenter of the tent camp from Arkhangelsk.
“For Muscovites, swamps are just swamps. For northerners, this is what feeds us: [they give us] berries, mushrooms. And the main thing is they are a source of water.”
Residents of the Russian North learned in August last year that a landfill would be built for Moscow garbage in Shies.
In November, it turned out that the regional governor, Igor Orlov, had agreed to accept foreign garbage for less than 1/30 of the local budget – for three years Moscow pledged to pay Arkhangelsk six billion rubles [about $92 million]. In a pamphlet released by Moscow company Technopark, which is building the landfill, there is a lot of information about how carefully the company promises to protect the environment, what advanced technologies will be applied to this end and so on.
“If everything is so safe, then why not bury [the garbage] in Moscow?”, asks one of the protesters, a student named Dobrynya, who came to Shies from Moscow.
Arkhangelsk region could be one of the richest regions of Russia.
“We have wood, gas, oil, the whole periodic table. And there is still no gas in the villages”, says Polina, the mother of an eight-year-old girl with a disability who came to the camp from Syktyvkar.
Tanya, who came from the village of Kotlas, says that the dump will be 60 kilometers from her home. Almost all of her friends have bought their apartments with mortgages – now there will be a dump next to them, and they say they will not be able to sell the homes and pay off the mortgage. The local housing market will collapse.
Businessman Oleg Mandrykin studied documents on Shies and picked up a calculator. He calculated the costs of building a landfill and compared them with the costs of sorting garbage.
“It turned out that [it would be cheaper to have people sort garbage]. Why do they have money for the wages of workers, but for processing plants there is no money?”, says Oleg’s wife, Irina.
Activists say they do not intend to stop the protest.