Sunday, 19 June 2011

BORIS AND THE BEAR

There is an energy rush going on in Siberia as billions of dollars are being invested in new hydro-power dams in remotest parts of Siberia. This rush is to cash in on the export of electricity to the power hungry Peoples Republic of China. Siberia one of the world more environmentally sensitive green lungs is remote and rich in minerals and the potential of renewable energy - but how these riches are exploited has repercussions for the people on the ground and in the way.

The Angara river, which is the only river that flows out of Lake Baikal and a main tributary of the Yenisei river, which flows to the Arctic ocean has already been dammed three times, at Irkutsk, Bratsk and Ust-Ilimsk. A fourth hydro-electric dam is close to completion at Boguchanskaya, near Kodinsk, and is due to start generating power in April 2012. Many more dams are planned for the Eastern Siberian wilderness to feed the demands of electricity-hungry China.

Burning Houses in Siberia
The local people are paying this price for the energy rush as the small picture-postcard villages made up of traditional wooden houses that have grown up on its banks over the last 300 years are all being burned, so that after the area is flooded, the debris does not clog up the new dam. There have been problems with the compensation scheme, delays in payments and problems with getting new accommodation elsewhere for local people, some people are concerned that the compensation scheme is cheating people out of their land.

Russian and Siberian Environmental groups are also concerned about the impact of other dams on the river system, noting that some parts of the river have turned to swamp, buried trees have rotted and changed the chemistry of the water. Alexander Kolotov, of Rivers International, said: "They say they are building new dams on Siberian rivers in order to save the planet from Chinese greenhouse gases. So of course the question is whether you are ready to destroy the Siberian environment, kill great Siberian rivers, and flood vast forests, in order to save the world from Chinese emissions."

We in Wales, have been no stranger in recent centuries to the exploitation of our mineral (and other) resources and have had (so far) little in put either way into how they have been developed and received scant long term benefits. This has to change, whether it comes to exploitation and development of our nations energy potential, be it on or off-shore or the use of our rich water resources, the people of Wales should be fully involved in any decisions made and our wishes should be respected rather than overridden.

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