Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the participants of the upcoming environmental expedition to the Franz Josef Archipelago during a trip to the Arkhangelsk Region on Monday.
The expeditionary ship Polaris, which will depart from the port of Archangelsk to the island of Alexandra Land in the next few days, will carry 90 crew members and take part in an Arctic clean-up operation announced by Putin in September 2010.
Russia is ready to increase funding for environmental clean-up programs in the Arctic, Putin said.
“A total of 2.3 billion rubles ($70 million) has been earmarked for that over the next three years, 2012 through 2014,” he said, adding that spending levels could be raised if necessary.
The expedition, initiated by Putin and organized by the Russian Geographical Society together with the Natural Resources Ministry, the Sevmorgeo Monitoring Center and the Polar Foundation, will start in early August and last through October.
The president confirmed that Russia has wide-ranging plans to develop the arctic region, describing the upcoming expedition as a “landmark event.”
“This [expedition] is part of our intensifying activity in the Arctic. We’re going to step up our efforts here along multiple lines – developing new deposits, building infrastructure, primarily ports, roads, and bridges,” he said.
“Naturally we’ll also beef up our military component here.”
He stressed that in developing the Arctic it was “necessary to strike a balance between development and conservation of nature.”
The expedition will focus on clearing heaps of garbage believed to have accumulated on the islands from the 1930s to the 1990s. The expedition is expected to eliminate up to 8,000 tons of waste, including 70,000 barrels of fuel and about 3,000 tons of lubricants, at an estimated cost of 637 million rubles ($19.8 million).
The participants are supposed to deploy a workstation for cleaning up barrels of fuel, scrap metal and waste recycling. The waste will be stored in special areas and later transported to the mainland.
Work on the island could run until the end of October. But next year, the expedition will turn its attention to the islands of Graham Bell, Heiss and Rudolf in the Arctic.