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Environmentalists insist on moving oil pipeline away from Baikal

MOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti) - Environmentalists have been insisting that the Eastern Siberia-Pacific oil pipeline be moved away from Lake Baikal, southern Siberia, the director of Greenpeace Baikal said Wednesday.

"We are not against the very idea of the oil pipeline," Roman Vazhenkov said. The oil route should bypass Baikal, the world's deepest freshwater lake and a World Heritage Site, and the wildlife area around it, he said, otherwise Russia would mar its image and the diplomatic consequences would be severe.

But, environmentalist Vadim Postnikov claims there is a definite danger of oil transportation failure because of the region's specific nature and weather conditions. "The pipeline will run through perpetually frozen soil and could be unstable when snow melts," he said. In addition, there have been no precautions taken against seismic hazards or mud streams that frequently occur in the region.

Igor Chestin, director of the World Wildlife Fund-Russia, said some Russian government officials had claimed the pipeline project of Transneft, Russia's oil pipeline monopoly, was impossible back in September.

Environmentalists involved say changing the pipeline route would not cost much and that Transneft could then gain easier access to oil fields in Eastern Siberia.

The Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline will transport up to 80 million metric tons a year from Taishet, the Irkutsk Region, to Perevoznaya Bay, the Maritime Territory, via Skovorodino, the Amurskaya Region. Estimated at $11.5 billion, the pipeline could also supply oil to the Asia-Pacific region.

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