| 29.06.2009 08:26

Open Letter to Vinci

An open letter to VINCI Company

 

 Illegal project of Mocow-St.Petersburg highway threats Khimki Forest Park ecosystem

 

 

We, environmental activists protecting Khimki Forest, got known that your company is playing a crucial role in the “North-West investment company” consortium that is planning to sign an agreement on building of the Moscow-St.-Petersburg commercial highway (segment from 15 to 58 km).

Therefore, we have to make the following statement.

There is little doubt that only extremely favorite terms ensured by Russian side made you to turn blind eye to obvious signs of corruption  surrounding this project. For example, there are four road interchanges in the 15-19 km segment. The admissible number for international highways (expressways) of such class is 1 (one) interchange for 20-30 km. It is especially true for the road conceived as a part of international North-South highway corridor and pan-Europ highway corridor #9.

But the main problem is that the project you are going to participate in breaches severely Russian laws, human rights as well as international environmental norms.

 It is known that the planned arrangement for the segment of the road from 15 to 58 km was first revealed in 2004 by State Customer “FGU DOROGI ROSSII” (State company “Roads of Russia”)- see http://www.mintrans.ru/pressa/Round_Table/bistrov%20rus.pdf . This arrangement included the planned highway passage through the territories of both Moscow and City District of Khimki. Quick view to the attached plan shows that throughout Moscow the road passes in a common transport corridor with existing Oktyabrskaya railroad.  But, this direction changes between Moscow and Khimki, where the road turns abruptly to the right (after Businovo interchange). Then it passes through Levoberezhny district of Khimki (just near residential buildings, by Sovkhoznaya str). It should be noted that even here the road is placed in very environment unfriendly way destroying a narrow forest strip separating the residential buildings from a giant landfill. Then, after crossing Moscow-Volga channel, the road enters  Khimki Forest Park.  Please note that the passage of the road was already revealed in 2004. Moreover, according to later official statements of the Federal Road Agency of Russia (Rosavtodor), this variant was chosen from few other variants.

It remains quite unclear who, when and how made that choice. No public discussion or even mere access to the information was available.

We have strong evidence that there was not any formal procedure of choice at all. The need to “legitimize” that decision was the main reason behind the procedure of  “preliminary” choice of the variant that was played on the local (Khimki’s) level a year later, in 2005.  But even then, Mr. Alimusaev, Director of Krasnogorsky Spetzleskhoz (local forestry), refused to sign a protocol on the choice result.  

Moreover, in 2008   Mayor of Khimki canceled his acceptance of the road passage which was based on that “choice”.  

We must also specially mention the answer of the Chief of Moscow City Forest Department (see Appendix) who was then a special governmental body responsible for use, conservation and protection of city’s forests including in forest park protective belt around Moscow (Krasnogorsky forestry was then a subordinate of  that Department): “Analysis of the chosen way through the forest shows that authors of the decision  on  road’s placement have even not tried to minimize assumed damage to the forest park. Therefore, the Department refuses to agree the presented variant of the road passage. (We note these circumstances to show that public statements of the State Customer and project office that decision making procedure was in full compliance with law in case of Khimki Forest are completely false. Not mention the procedure of latter “public hearing” that was a sheer falsification).    

It was after the decision about the road passage was taken in so doubtful way (i.e., completely ignoring opinion of the appropriate governmental body) that a kind of legal ground was attempted to put behind it.  Namely, a Ruling # 358/16 on “Measures for constriction of highway Moscow-St.Petersburg and development of adjacent regions of Moscow District” was issued on April,28 2006. From basic statements of this ruling one can deduce that the true reason behind the choice of the road through the forest was a “legal” possibility to convert forest’s land into other land categories to use it as a construction ground for various commercial and capital buildings. Indeed, according to the Ruling (as shown on a plan in its Appendix), about 2/3 of the forest territory included into zone for transport infrastructure and capital buildings (approx. 600 hectares).  

The signing of the Ruling has shown not only predatory attitude of state bureaucrats toward vital natural resources. It has also shown that functional capability of the new highway is also out of consideration since such “infrastructure” would inevitably slow traffic down. Our opinion is that all these circumstances point clearly that the true objective of the affaire is not a highway itself but maximum criminal income for a small group of bureaucrats capable to arrange pseudo-tenders for distribution and further commercial use of forest land. Such affairs were already reported in many minor cases throughout Moscow district.      

We have official references of state bodies and government officials (not involved in lobbying interests of the affair’s beneficiaries) about environmental danger and illegality of the project. Some of them are quoted in Appendix, other are available at www.ecmo.ru (in Russian).     

In the present state, building of the road is impossible because to the prohibition imposed according to Russian Forest Code (article 105 paragraph 5 part 3) which doesn’t allow any capital construction work within protective forests having “Forest Park Zone” (before 17.03.09 – “Forest Park”) category.

Even in case the corrupted bureaucracy would succeed in changing boundaries of the forest park zone (that possibility was successfully lobbied in the new edition of the Forest Code) ,  the chosen variant remains  illegal. Indeed, Article 11 of Federal Law #172-FZ on “Conversion of lands or estates from one category to another”) allows conversion of protective forests into another category for construction of any object only in case no other variant of object’s placement is available. But, according to official statements of Rosavtodor and other bodies responsible for the highway project other variants were available but refused (see our leaflet “Khimkinskaya Pravda Zhiva” at http://narod.ru/disk/8689396000/Himk%20pravda%20jiva.pdf in Russian).   Therefore, all works linked to the project became illegal since 01/01/07 when the mentioned law came into force.

Moreover, destruction of Khimki Forest Park according to the project and Gromov’s ruling violates Constitutional right of every citizen to favorable environment. Indeed, residents of Moscow and Khimki will be deprived from use of Khimki Forest Park as it is intended by law “to completely meet citizens’ sanitary, hygienic and aesthetic needs” (Paragraph 1.1.3 of Moscow District Forest Plan). 

On the basis of the above, we propose Vinci Company to keep voluntarily from taking part in the project. We must ensure you that real risks for your company are much higher than it was perhaps presented in the Concurs Documentation. Moreover, participation in the project would inevitably undermine your company’s reputation.   

We hope our statement would be promptly considered and answered. Nevertheless, we are ready to take additional efforts in order to deliver all the necessary information directly to the company’s management.   

 

Appendix

Statements of Governmental  bodies and State officials on the  character and consequences of the highway passage through Khimki Forest

Document type and identification

Body and officer

Quote

Response  20.04.2006 # 313 to request of FGU “Dorogi Rossii”

Head of

Moscow City’s Forest Department

Kuznetsova A.V.

I have to inform you about results of our investigation of your request concerning planned passage of Moscow-St. Petersburg road.

The road’s placement is developed with maximum use of forest lands. The planned road severely cuts the bulk of Khimki’s Forest Park through the quarters 2, 4, 5, 10, 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, 23.

If implemented according to the proposed plan, the project would inflict huge damage to the Forest Park not only because to the large cleared area. It would separate the forest array into parts that leads to disruption and degradation of forest vegetation on both sides of the highway  /…/

On the basis of the above, the Department strongly refuses to approve the proposed variant of the road’s passage.   

Reference to General Prosecutor office of Russia  15.09.2007 # ОМ-93-28/9201

Federal body for monitoring of natural resources use (“Rosprirodnadzor”)

Vice-Head

Mitvol O. L.  

According to the Ruling of Moscow District Governor Mr. Gromov B.V. #358/16В 28.04.2006, territories for construction of the highway Moscow-St.Petersburg as well as for construction of adjacent objects of transport infrastructure and capital building were reserved.  

It that case… a strip 3000 m width from each side of the highway is reserved. In these circumstances, the variant passing through the Khimki Forest Park territory was chosen among the other variants of the road passage.

Therefore, realization of the plan… would lead to destruction of natural system of Khimki Forest Park, harsh violation of  Himki District residents’ right to favorable environment. Legal status of Khimki Forest Park which belongs to protective forest does not allow using it for the mentioned purpose.   

On the basis of the above, and taking into account Article 23 of Federal Law # 2202-17.01.1992 “On the Prosecutor Office of Russian Federation” I ask you to protest Ruling #358/16 28.04.2006 in part concerning passage of the road through Khimki Forest Park.

Petition to Head of Russian Government Putin V.V.  16.07.2008 # 8

Moscow City Duma (Parliament of Moscow)

Chairman

Platonov V.M.

According to the project of commercial highway that will pass through Khimki Forest Park territory (from Businovo interchange to Sheremetyevo-1 airport) large forest areas would be cleared, and the bulk of the forest territory would be divided into parts.  Moreover, placement of objects of transport infrastructure and capital building is also planed on Khimki Forest Park territory.  

Citizens of Moscow and Moscow District are outraged by the fact that the relic oak grooves unique for the Moscow District can be destroyed in spite of availability of other variant for the road placement.  . /…/

According to this,  Moscow City Duma asks you … about revision of the project of commercial highway Moscow-St.Petersburg so that it would not pass through the territory of Khimki Forest Park.

Response  to the request of a Khimki resident (Chernyshova A.N. )  # 19885-DA/02 12.08.2008 

Ministry for  Region Development  of Russian Federation Vice-Minister Aratsky D.B.

According to Article 105 of the Forest Code of Russian Federation, it is prohibited to place objects of capital building and to perform total clearance of vegetation. 

A large-scale clearance of the Khimki Forest must be considered as inadmissible violation of human rights as well as of legislation as a whole.    

Response to the request of Moscow City Duma member

Nikitin S.V.

# 3-6-3237860/9 19.03.2009 

Department for Natural Resource Use and Conservation

Head of Department

Bochin L.Yu.   

Moscow Department for Natural Resource Use and Conservation objects to any construction works within  Khimki Forest Park territory, that can inflict damage to natural systems as well as to vegetation and animals. It leads to disintegration and destruction of the Khimki Forest Park areas near the highway and worsens environmental situation in Moscow District.