Staunton, November 8 – Just as at the end of Soviet times, environmental protests in Russia today are becoming not only political in that they are causing those involved to ask larger questions about the system that is despoiling their land and water but also ethnic because so many of Russia’s natural resources are located in non-Russian areas.
The protests about the Moscow trash dump planned for Shiyes took on added urgency because that site adjoined the Komi Republic, and the demonstrations about plans to destroy a mountain in Bashkortostan in order to develop its soda reserves became ethnic from the beginning because of the symbolism of that place for the Bashkirs (
Now, yet another environmental protest is becoming both political and ethnic, this time in Karachayevo-Cherkessia where the Congress of the Karachay People has sent an open letter to Vladimir Putin demanding that the construction of a new mining and processing plant in that republic be stopped (zapravakbr.ru/index.php/30-uncategorised/1588-kongress-karachaevskogo-naroda-vystupaet-protiv-stroitelstva-novogo-gorno-obogatitelnogo-kombinata-v-kchr).
The letter says that the people of the KChR were “shocked” when they learned that the Kremlin leader had approved this project, and many in the population have expressed concerns that the use of explosives to develop the ore fields there will “wake up” the Elbrus volcano and that, as a result, this could become “a fraternal grave for the peoples of the Caucasus.”
While such fears are perhaps overblown, they reflect more serious fears about what such a plant will do and anger about how the project has proceeded in violation of Russian laws, concern for the population, and a rational approach to the development of the country’s natural resources, the letter continues.
First of all, it points out, the concentration of ore at the proposed site is so low as to make this project anything but profitable. Second, the project has gone this far without the corresponding environmental impact assessments needed because of its impact on rivers that flow into the Caspian and Black Seas and south Russia.
And third, the peoples of KChR instead of being consulted about something that will change and even threaten their lives and well-being have been excluded from any participation in this process. The letter asks that Putin intervene personally to address these shortcomings and put the project on hold until they are solved.
If that doesn’t happen, the authors of the letter imply, the peoples of KChR are going to protest openly, thereby creating yet another environmental and political hotspot on the territory of the Russian Federation.