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10/31/2013

Of waste, illegal landfills & water contamination in Sochi

Sochi

Excavators move earth at a quarry near Akhshtyr village in Sochi on Oct. 24, 2013. (AP photo)

Sochi is 99 days away, let the controversies begin. (To be fair, they began a long time ago with Russia’s new anti-gay laws.)

The new one is about how the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, are falling short of what originally was a clean, green pitch. 

The Associated Press is reporting that Russia’s state-owned rail monopoly is dumping tons of construction waste into illegal landfills. The landfills are in an area classified as a water protection zone, says AP. The dumping may lead to contamination of the groundwater supply for all of Sochi.

(Incidentally, Russia had promised not to add to landfills.)   

Landfills remain in the spotlight because they are the single greatest source of anthropogenic methane, a powerful greenhouse gas with about 30 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

The Sochi waste is coming from Russian Railways construction of a 58-kilomtre highway and railroad to link the airport and Alpine Olympic venues. It has already cost more than $8 billion, the AP reports.  

Rashid Alimov, coordinator of the toxic waste program at Greenpeace Russia, told the A.P. that “the Zero Waste program is not being implemented in Sochi.” He said Sochi authorities are interpreting “Zero Waste” to mean getting and keeping waste out of sight.

This new report is not the first time that Russia has been accused of not living up to its clean, green Olympic promises.

Environmental Watch on North Caucasus has earlier reported that the Mzymta River valley has been deforested and toxic waste dumped into the river. Territories of the Western Caucasus UNESCO World Heritage site have been removed from World Heritage protection, natural heritage sites are being destroyed, and crushed-stone quarries are being mined in the reserve areas of the Sochi National Park.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

Comments

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This has been a story for a while. And what which Canadian company is involved? SNC Lavalin (they have a major infrastructure contract related to the Games). Russia's own environmental ministry has basically been shut out by Putin and Co. They in turn went to SNC and asked how if it was their policy to ignore governmental environmental regulations in the places they work. Their response was they work within the confines of government regulations. A total cop-out answer since in this case, the major player in Moscow have essentially said do whatever it takes to get Sochi up and running, environmental concerns be damned.

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