Irkutsk region officials destroy unique national park for construction of camp sites and cottages

Municipal authorities unlawfully allocated part of the protected land on the island of Olkhon on Lake Baikal for the construction of tourist accommodation. The total area of ‚Äč‚Äčallocated land is 27 thousand square meters. Since May, the felling of the ancient Shaman forest began, a significant part of which has already been sold for the construction of tourist bases. However, now officials are trying to change local environmental legislation to legally justify the destruction of plants listed in the Red Book.

Olkhon Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations, both Russian and foreign. Over the past 10 years, the value of land there has jumped several times. On the island there is a territory not only of the local administration, but also of the Baikal National Park – therefore these lands have the status of double subordination. According to the law, the lease of such plots is impossible without agreement with the management of the park. However, this rule is violated.

The development of the tourism industry has caused a number of serious problems, including water supply and lack of roads. The residents of the island told the President during phone-in, asking the Head of state to change the status of the Olkhon water protection area. However, environmentalists and the public believe that such requests are lobbied by officials who are trying to get the opportunity to continue large-scale development. For this a change in the existing environmental legislation is necessary. In the Year of Ecology local authorities, referring to the “requests of the population”, initiated the process of weakening the environmental regime in the reserve.

Because of the activity of the administration, the ecological situation in the region is deteriorating: the number of forest fires, the amount of pollution, and the recreational load on protected areas is increasing.

State Duma deputy from the Irkutsk region Nikolay Nikolaev was outraged by the actions of Baikal officials. According to him, Rosprirodnadzor has already been informed about this situation. The parliamentarian stressed that the land can be returned to the state.

Local residents raised the issue of convening a referendum to prevent the weakening of environmental legislation and to prohibit the construction of coastal areas.